Council President Richard Conlin
COUNCIL STREAMLINES GETTING RECORDS TO THE PUBLIC
Changes made respond to state audit of City’s public disclosure practices
SEATTLE – Council President Richard Conlin today announced changes to the City Council’s public records process. The Legislative Department, which includes the City Council and the City Clerk, will now provide even better service to members of the public who request public records. Council President Conlin said, “The Council is, once again, demonstrating its commitment to open government by providing better service for its constituents.”
Today’s announcement includes changes that have been in the works for the last year and some that have been made in response to an audit by the State Auditor of the City’s public records practices that was released last month. The changes include:
1. Any request for a document that is in the public domain and readily accessible does not have to enter the public disclosure process. Documents in the public domain include materials such as meeting agendas, memoranda, copies of legislation, and any other documents that have already been circulated.
2. The Department will provide responses to requests for information electronically whenever possible. This saves money, natural resources, and energy for both the government and the requestor. In the past, this has been a source of complaint, and some other agencies have been accused of insisting on providing written documents in order to discourage requests, since the requestor has to pay for copies.
3. It is not uncommon for the Council to receive requests for records that are not in the custody of the Legislative Department but rather held by Executive Departments like the Mayor’s Office or the Seattle Department of Transportation. Previously the Council would ask the requestor to submit a new request to the proper department. Now when the Council receives a “misdirected” request, the Council will forward that request directly to the Executive Department public disclosure officer—there are 52—most likely to hold responsive records. The Council will notify the requestor of the redirection, rather than asking the requestor to take on the task of making a new request. This change directly responds to the principal concern noted last month by State Auditor Brian Sonntag in his audit of the City’s public records practices. ,/p>
Council President Conlin said, “I want to thank the state auditor for his thoughtful review of our public records practices. The Council is dedicated to constantly improving its process of public disclosure.”
Council President Conlin’s letter to State Auditor Brian Sonntag