"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

One way to avoid those payouts

Local governments in Washington have had, in the last few years, a rash of cases in which (a) someone has refused to provide a public record, or charged an inordinate price for it, (b) the refused party took the agency to court and (c) the aggrieved individual won, along with a big settlement costing the agency a pile of money.

Quite a bit, in fact. A report on KING-TV said that awards from lawsuits over public records over public records access went from $108,000 in 2006 to nearly $1.7 million in 2011. Your tax money at work.

What to do about this?

The Washington Legislature has been considering that question.

One idea, under consideration by the state attorney general’s office, is “co-mediation,” setting meetings with mediators for each party – as opposed to typical attorney advocates, but including people knowledgeable about public records. Sounds interesting and well-meaning, and maybe but presumably if that failed, court would still be a recourse. Sounds also a little convoluted.

There might be a simpler way: Turn over the records.

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