The recent stance that Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown took on public records requests made by some inmates at the county jail is one that many in local and state governments share in general; a person’s right to seek access to any and all public records is a costly nuisance that agencies are forced to deal with. It’s a terribly polluted point of view for those in public service.
An ACLU lawyer contacted for the story, which appears on page 1, said the biased view on the legitimacy of some records request expressed by Brown is a clear example of why the standard for access is based in law created through a complicated legislative process before enactment, rather than the whim of an individual or group.
The Board of County Commissioners do employe a lobbyist to express their views on issues such as public records access in Olympia, but, for now, they have zero say in who gets which records or when they get them. The BOCC’s job is to allot resources that make access possible, which is understandably not an easy task during years of tight financial times. However, access is mandated and they must make it so without personal politics or expression of class issues.
As the county government moves to become more data driven in departments such as the sheriff’s office and planning, the more information they create and are therefore charged with the care and dissemination of. Nearly all of the information belongs to the public, including the dispersement of toilet paper and soap at the jail. Information is not the property of the government alone and all are welcome to it.
The more data produced, the more data the public is going to want access to it. As a result, more requests are going to come in. We believe that the government plays a substantial role in the increase of public records requested of it and should plan for such consequences when budgeting.
Public records are due the requester without prejudicial interference by those who would deny access to anyone deemed unworthy, regardless of the requester’s reason or motive.