Office of Financial Management Fined for Withholding Public Documents

May 25, 2023

As initially reported by the Washington Policy Center, The Citizen Action Defense Fund (CADF) won a public records lawsuit against The Office of Financial Management (OFM).

OFM was withholding from a public records request contract negotiation documents between the state and public sector unions. As noted in the CADF request, the Public Records Act had no limitations on public records related to contract negotiations. A Thurston County Superior Court Judge agreed.

The amended penalty ruling issued 5/24/23 ordered OFM to pay attorneys’ fees in the amount of $32,115.13, costs of $1,057.38 for a total of $33,172.51. This does not include the statutory penalty of $6 per day which as of the court order was $1,104.00.

CADF’s director Jackson Maynard remarked:

“The court's final order holds the Governor’s Office of Financial Management accountable and demonstrates that he violated the letter and spirit of the Public Records Act. We look forward to receiving the check with our fees, costs, and penalties and as well as the records the court ruled were illegally withheld, but are prepared if the State decides to continue to contest this matter.”

OFM’s refusal to comply with the Public Records Act is now costing the taxpayers almost $35,000.

There are other examples of the state attempting to withhold records from public disclosure, and the legal challenges that have followed. As noted in the article there are a variety of benefits for increased public transparency and open government.

Additional proposals have been introduced to help citizens looking to access public records. WPC’s Jason Mercier provided insight into this legislation and why it is needed in a recent opinion editorial.  

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