"Government accountability means that public officials — elected and un-elected — have an obligation to explain their decisions and actions to the citizens. Government accountability is achieved through the use of a variety of mechanisms — political, legal and administrative — designed to prevent corruption and ensure that public officials remain answerable and accessible to the people they serve. In the absence of such mechanisms, corruption may thrive."
— U.S. Department of State
The Washington Public Records Act is one of the strongest open government laws in the nation and reflects the desire of
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Washington citizens to know what their government is doing. A transparent and accessible government is essential to a successful free society, and fosters trust and confidence in government.
Strong “sunshine laws” are crucial to assuring government accountability and transparency. In Washington State, those laws provide for open public records and open public meetings.
Since Washington voters approved the Public Disclosure Act more than 40 years ago, a growing number of exemptions have been added to public records laws.
Also, under the Open Public Meetings Act, some parts of open public meetings may be closed to the public, but only if certain requirements are met.
To assist the public and public agencies in understanding and implementing the sunshine laws, the Office of the Attorney General provides several resources.
The Office of the Attorney General provides an Ombuds function that works with other assistant attorneys general as they advise their clients and coordinates with and offers training to local government on open government issues.
The Office of the Attorney General provides open government training materials and resources to assist agencies in complying with the laws.
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The Attorney General’s Open Government Resource Manual was produced by the Attorney General’s Office with the assistance of attorneys representing media and requesters, and local and state government organizations. The manual is a comprehensive, easy-to-read overview intended to help clarify provisions of the law and may prevent future disagreements. This manual provides a general summary and is not intended to provide a complete discussion of every detail of the Public Records Act or Open Public Meetings Act.
The model rules, designed to reduce litigation and assist smaller local governments and citizen requestors by allowing them to avoid “re-inventing the wheel” on recurring issues, have been adopted and published in the Washington Administrative Code.
The Legislature directed the Attorney General to adopt advisory model rules on topics including “Fulfilling requests for electronic records.” The model rules are non-binding best practices to assist records requestors and agencies. On June 15, 2007, the Attorney General’s Office adopted the model rules for electronic records.