Welcome to the Open Government Training web page of the Office of the Attorney General.
State Laws. Washington’s open government requirements are in state law. Open public records laws are at RCW 42.56. Open public meetings laws are at RCW 42.30 and RCW 42.32. These are Washington’s “sunshine laws.” In addition, records management and retention laws are at RCW 40.14.
Training is Critical. Public agencies must have a good command of these laws. Training is a key component in correctly implementing and complying with the laws.
Training is also an important risk management tool. Training can help establish a “culture of compliance” within an agency. Training can help avoid or reduce litigation and its costs. Violations of the open public records and meetings laws can result in penalties, as well as a breakdown in confidence in government. In 2010, the Washington State Supreme Court held that when deciding penalties for violations of the open public records laws, courts can consider whether agency staff received training. In 2012, the Washington State Auditor found 250 “open government related issues” among local governments, including several related to open public meetings. In 2013, an independent report by the William D. Ruckelshaus Center recommended that local governments should have access to records training and resources.
Training Resources. The Office of the Attorney General provides model rules for complying with the open public records laws, and technical assistance and training on open public records and open public meetings laws. On this web page, the office also provides access to other free online resources for open government training. As more resources become available, they will be posted or linked here. Agencies may also contact the office to seek in-person training assistance. Agencies may contact the Assistant Attorney General for Open Government.
Training materials and/or speakers may also be available to agencies from other sources. Examples are listed after the curriculum.* Some organizations’ materials are linked on this web page. Agencies can also contact organizations directly to inquire about training materials and/or speakers. Agencies may also design their own training materials, using the resources here as samples.
Online Training Curriculum. The online training curriculum materials are divided into four lessons. The first three address open government: (1) Open Government Overviews and General Principles, (2) Open Public Records, and (3) Open Public Meetings. Lesson (4) addresses Records Management and Retention. Agencies can use materials that fit their training needs.
Reminder: Laws Change. The Washington State Legislature can amend the sunshine and records management/retention laws. Courts also issue decisions interpreting these laws. Agencies should review current laws and decisions to determine if training materials they use are consistent with the current laws, and whether they should be updated. If there is a difference, the laws govern.
Practice Tip: Document the Training. Agencies should determine which staff and/or officials should receiving training. It is a good practice for agencies to document training provided or received by their staff or officials. This web page includes a sample training certificate and a sample training roster. Agencies can use other forms or procedures to document training.
LESSON 1: OPEN GOVERNMENT OVERVIEWS AND GENERAL PRINCIPLES
LESSON 2: OPEN PUBLIC RECORDS – RCW 42.56
LESSON 3: OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS – RCW 42.30, RCW 42.32
LESSON 4: RECORDS MANAGEMENT AND RETENTION – RCW 40.14
LAST STEP: TRAINING DOCUMENTATION
* Examples of other possible sources for training materials and/or speakers include the Washington Secretary of State’s Office (records management/retention), the Municipal Research and Services Center, the Association of Washington Cities, the Washington Association of County Officials, the Washington State Association of Counties, the Washington Association of Public Records Officers, the Washington State School Directors Association, the Washington Coalition for Open Government, and others.