Sunshine on my Shoulders

Posted October 11th, 2007 by Joe Kaiser

Are citizens of this state really required to swear out affidavits in order to obtain government records?

Dear Rob,

Yesterday, from Benton County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Eric Hsu, I received a personalized Non-Commercial Use Affidavit.

Mr. Hsu advised that in order for me to receive the public records I’d requested from Benton County, I was required to swear, under oath (and under penalty of perjury), that they would not be used for commercial purposes.

I gotta tell ya, Rob, I’m not feeling the sunshine in Benton County, Rob.


Are citizens of this state really required to swear out affidavits in order to obtain government records?

They certainly seem to be in Benton County, Washington.

I found this about the sunshine laws on your website . . .

Attorney General Rob McKenna believes access to open government is vitally important in a free society. That’s why he’s made government accountability, open records and access one of the top priorities in his administration.

Strong “sunshine laws” are crucial to assuring government accountability and transparency.— Washington State Office
of the Attorney General

Open Government?

Mr. Hsu then listed the 16 or 18 companies I’d incorporated at one time or another, indicating considerable effort had been made investigating me and my business affairs.

Don’t you think that’s a little creepy, Rob?


My reply . . .

Dear Mr. Hsu,

I responded to your email below yesterday, indicating my intention of moving forward with the form you attached and described as “Commercial use affidavit J. kaiser.doc”.

Having carefully reviewed the form, please be advised that I reject it and refuse to use it.

My request is for the public record documents that allow me to create an accounting of the unclaimed tax sale overages having previously been transferred to the Benton County expense fund, per RCW 84.64.080, as well as any related tax roll information.

If this was not made clear, please advise.

The list of funds having been so transferred (and the tax parcel number of the property having been foreclosed) cannot possibly be described as a “list of individuals.” The related tax roll information, likewise, (per AGO 1980 – No.1) cannot possibly be described as a “list of individuals.”

As such, your proposed affidavit is inherently defective and is of no use.

Kindly provide the public record I previously requested under the PRA.

Additionally, and completely separate from my earlier request, be advised that under the Public Records Act of Washington I now request all public record wherein any person made a formal request under the PRA and your office responded by creating a personalized “Commericial Use Affidavit” for that individual.

Specifically, but not to the exclusion of any other public record, I request copies off all such affidavits, correspondence between your office and the requester, and correspondence between your office and whatever county agency to which the request was made.

Please give this matter your prompt attention. I am under deadline. Thank you.

Joe Kaiser


Email goes here, not

I’d post his email here, but I can’t (although I am tempted). I can’t because in the footer of the letter is an admonition stating . . .

NOT FOR THIRD PARTY DISSEMINATION, OR FOR PUBLIC DISCLOSURE.”— Eric Hsu
Benton County Senior Deputy Prosecutor

Lovely.

Whatever happened to “open records,” “government accountability” and “transparency,” or are those just buzz words that don’t actually apply in the real world?

Now, I understand Mr. Hsu’s dilemma and the apparent need for the abundance of caution he brings to the table, and that’s fine, provided it happens with each and every public records request that crosses his desk.


Personal services

Or is it just me?

Does Benton County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Eric Hsu require affidavits and investigate everyone requesting public records from an agency within his county?

I’d very much like to know because making a public records request only to be singled out, made to sign an affidavit that doesn’t even apply, and to be subjected to an investigation by the agency from which the records were requested cannot possibly be the intention of your open government “sunshine laws.”

Rob, your thoughts?

In the arena,

Joe Kaiser


4 Responses to: “Sunshine on my Shoulders”

  1. LeonB responds:
    Posted: October 11th, 2007 at 6:48 am

    Joe,

    I just thought of this and thought you might find it interesting. A family member was recently moved into a nursing home. That persons home was in foreclosure prior to the move. I had power of attorney.

    A lady who was trying to “rescue” the foreclosure of our mortgage bragged about how her HUSBAND is one of the countys top prosecutors. Apparently he doesn’t have a problem with mortgage foreclosure rescue.

    I bet you’d be suprised how many sharp county people use thier knowledge of public information for personal benefit. Not to mention attorneys who have portfolios of properties. If they’re not using bandit signs and sending out letters like everyone else, then they must be by your states standards, taking unfair advantage of somebody somewhere.

    There are so many people out there doing business the wrong way. I can’t understand why they would choose someone who is doing business straight up. I’m stil not sure what it is they’re saying exactly that you did wrong. There is no law against buying houses from someone who is in foreclosure.

  2. Vlad responds:
    Posted: October 11th, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Joe,

    I am not a particular fan of Prime-Time TV drama series (“Law & Order”, for example), but here I see a creepy similarity with the plot line of those shows – someone (a Bad guy), caught in a tight spot by their own lies, is trying to maneuver out of it telling even more lies…

    Only this time, the Good guys and the Bad guys have traded places. It’s an amazing series to follow and wait for the “Verdict”…

  3. Davido responds:
    Posted: October 11th, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Joe, this post includes your comment;

    “I’d post his email here, but I can’t (although I am tempted). I can’t because in the footer of the letter is an admonition stating . . .

    NOT FOR THIRD PARTY DISSEMINATION, OR FOR PUBLIC DISCLOSURE.”
    — Eric Hsu
    Benton County Senior Deputy Prosecutor”

    That is fine if you have some reason to be compliant. And, of course, Mr. Hsu can make any statements he thinks are beneficial in his correspondence.

    However, nothing in the law prevents you from publicizing, in full, some or all of his correspondence with you. Government officials in Washington have zero personal privacy interest in work performed as part of their official function.

    Therefore, go ahead and post it. Or if you want to be extra courteous, attach an advisory sentence to your PRA requests warning that all correspondence regarding the request can and will be made public.

    As to, “I’d post his email here, but I can’t,” thats nonsense.

  4. Joe Kaiser responds:
    Posted: October 11th, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Davido,

    I suspected as much and knew intuitively that telling me the correspondence had to be kept private made no sense.

    Joe


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