Does the governor have a right to secrecy?

September 20, 2012

Based on state law the answer is no but the state Supreme Court was asked today to decide if the governor has a constitutional right to secrecy via an executive privilege (a.k.a Richard Nixon's claim) to deny access to public records. The case being considered was brought against the Governor by the Freedom Foundation.

Under state law government records are presumed to be public unless an explicit exemption is provided. To withhold certain records Governor Gregoire has claimed executive privilege to deny public release instead of citing one of the hundreds of exemptions currently in law.

Both candidates for governor have stated they would not claim executive privilege to deny release of public records. Which leads to an interesting question based on one of the state's arguments today.  In a line of questioning by the justices the state appeared to argue that the next governor would have the authority to release the records in question even if the court grants the claim of executive privilege.

If that is true, would a Governor Inslee or McKenna release the records in question after taking office?

Additional Information
Freedom Foundation v. Christine Gregoire
Seattle Times: Don't let Gov. Chris Gregoire withhold public records

Columbian: People's right to know must be upheld by state Supreme Court

Spokesman Review: Expect more disclosure from next governor