Under our state’s Public Record Act, the public has the right to look at the records public officials and public employees produce while doing their taxpayer-funded jobs.
I’ve been thinking about the final weeks of the recent legislative session, especially the last minute, bi-partisan public records bill. The swift public outcry (followed by the governor’s veto) shows that the citizens of this state have no tolerance for public employees hiding public business.
A couple of weeks ago, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese assessed penalties and costs against Pierce County for Mark Lindquist’s withholding of public records for several years. With the most recent $349,000 added on Friday, the total bill now comes to well over $1,000,000. Lindquist doesn’t pay that, the taxpayers do.
One million dollars: because Lindquist did not want to disclose nine text messages from his private phone.
When Lindquist finally released the records, he said they were trivial. To be sure, the messages were childish, unprofessional and petty, but the records do give some insight into how Lindquist interacts with some of his staff and how he conducted business on some important matters, such as reviewing applicants for employment.
People hire attorneys to get advice on how to avoid liability. The attorney for Pierce County just cost the county over $1 million by refusing to turn over public records that he said were trivial.
Let that sink in. Pierce County needs a new attorney.