It’s a little late in coming, but kudos go to Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose bill to strengthen Washington state’s open government laws by requiring training for public officials was signed into law on March 27 by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The “Open Government Trainings Act,” which takes effect on July 1, had strong bipartisan support — and it should. The law is designed to improve public disclosure practices and reduce lawsuits through mandatory training. But beyond that, we need our public officials to help citizens get access to information about what our government is doing and how it works. In a time and day when information carries more influence than ever, that power needs to remain with the people.
The law will require local and state records officers and elected officials to receive training on the Public Records Act and records retention requirements and require members of governing bodies to receive training on the Open Public Meetings Act.
Who is affected? The new law applies to elected and appointed members of school boards, library districts, fire protection districts, conservation districts, water districts, flood districts, transportation benefit districts, housing authorities and hospital districts as well as city councils and county commissions. The Attorney General’s Office estimates about 6,000 public officials across Washington will be required to take training.
Now, if we could just require the same for nonprofit boards …
Money in, money out
Congrats also go to Superior Court Administrator Lindy Clevenger, Clallam County Superior Court Administrator, for getting Clallam $500,000 of the $1.1 million the county spent on the prosecution and reconviction of Darold R. Stenson. Clevenger submitted the county’s application for compensation in December, a month after Stenson, 62, was convicted a second time for premeditated, aggravated murder in the March 25, 1993, shooting deaths of his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner.
The county spent $106,839 on the case in 2012 and $998,651 in 2013 but was eligible only for 2013 expenses, said Sophia Byrd McSherry, deputy director of the state Office of Public Defense. In 2013, the county’s cost for the Stenson case equaled 9 percent of the combined $11.2 million operating budgets for the four affected departments.
If I were being a buzzkill here, I’d note that while the recompense helps Clallam County, the money comes from the state’s supplemental budget passed by state Legislature and signed last Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee — which means state taxpayers still foot the bill, and that a true victory would be finding a way to rein in Stenson’s ridiculously expensive appeal costs … but I won’t.
We’ve understandably had our share of letters to the editor regarding the Sequim School District’s bond proposal and most have been civil. I did my best to make space each week for those letters in the hope that each viewpoint would come through and give voters good perspective before casting their April 22 ballot.
Tuesday morning’s ballot count is at 7,079 from the 21,578 voters in the district, a return rate of 32.81 percent. The tally has cleared the 4,943 votes needed to validate this election. Since our next edition is April 23, after election night, we’re done with printing letters for or against the school bond. Although, I’m sure we’ll receive plenty about the results …
Oddity of the week
A “Vote No” for the school bond sign near the corner of Fifth Avenue and Old Olympic Highway … with a note taped just below it reading: “I have your picture and will hunt down and hurt you.” There are reports of a second sign in the area with a similar note. I suppose my editorial about how civil this whole bond vote proposal’s been going can be safely returned to the “Never Mind” folder …
And finally …
Just in case folks were wondering why I was pulled over by a friendly Sequim Police officer next to the ballot box at Sequim Village Center after the Sequim School District public forum, no, it was not for voter’s fraud. I had a headlight out. But thanks for the concern.
Reach Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.