Governor loses lawsuit after being accused of ‘secret negotiations’
Apr 4, 2023, 8:36 AM | Updated: 9:11 am
The Citizen Action Defense Fund (CADF) won its lawsuit Monday against the Governor’s Office for refusing to hand over initial offers in collective bargaining negotiations even after the parties had signed agreements — a violation of the Public Records Act.
CADF, with a slogan defining itself as “your government watchdog,” is an independent, nonprofit organization based in Washington state that involves itself in litigation for cases to advance free markets, restrain government overreach, or defend constitutional rights.
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“I am very pleased at the court’s ruling today,” said Jackson Maynard, Executive Director of CADF, in a prepared statement. “As I argued to the judge, the Public Records Act is a cornerstone of representative government because it ensures that the people can hold their public officials and institutions accountable.”
Maynard served as counsel on the lawsuit.
The suit was initially filed last December against the Office of Financial Management (OFM) for failing to provide public records in connection with the governor’s “secret negotiations” with public sector employee unions last year, which led to nearly a billion-dollar increase in salary and benefits for state employees biennially.
The agreements were politically controversial as the unions made significant political donations to the governor in the months leading up to the 2022 elections, according to CADF.
On Oct. 20, 2022, CADF claimed OFM was refusing to provide copies of the state and unions’ original offers in the negotiations until after the Legislature approved the entire General Fund state budget during the current 2023 session.
OFM continued to withhold the documents after CADF submitted a new request pointing out that the Public Records Act has no such limitations on public records.
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“The governing majority in Olympia and Seattle has been called into question the last several months over the failure to retain and disclose public records to the press and the citizens of our state,” Maynard continued. “The court’s decision today is a win not only for CADF but also the effort to promote transparency, which is the hallmark of our democracy. OFM should not be able to rewrite the law to shield important information from taxpayers to suit the Governor’s political needs.”
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson will hand out the final monetary penalties on April 28.
KIRO Newsradio’s Matt Markovich contributed to this reporting