When government officials are doing the jobs they were elected or hired to do, it’s easy to get focused on the day-to-day tasks and lose sight that the work being done is for the people.
It is the people who fund government and it operates to do things that we, as individuals, can’t necessarily do for ourselves — from building roads to arresting criminals.
Therefore, it’s understandable officials make mistakes in not allowing people access to government information that is legally their information.
Many in government, particularly those who were just elected, are not familiar with Washington state’s Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act.
A proposal now in the Legislature would require public officials and employees to undergo open-government training.
It’s a terrific concept.
It should result in citizens having better access to information they are legally entitled to obtain. The more folks know about what their their government is doing, the better government will be. Transparency is essential.
The proposal could save government — taxpayers — a lot of money. The fewer infractions of the law, the fewer fines will be imposed that are ultimately paid by taxpayers. In 2011, according to KING5.com, public records-request violations resulted in $1.7 million in penalties in 2011.
In addition, requiring training sends a clear message that — as Toby Nixon, president of Washington Coalition for Open Government, points out — “accountability to the public is important, and they take it seriously.”
Nancy Krier, the assistant attorney general for open government, is developing the training that’s expected to be low- to no-cost for taxpayers, according to Christopher Lopaze, a reporter in the WNPA Olympia Bureau.
“The training we hope will help not only foster a culture of compliance, but we also hope to reduce payouts,” she said.
This piece of legislation is a win for all. The Legislature should approve it.