It's time to tighten up the public records act to make it more difficult for individuals to obtain personal information on state employees. SB 5678 would do just that. The bill states that:
- Noone obtaining the names of public agency employees through a public records request may use that information to obtain employment or licensing information about that person.
In a hearing before the Senate State Government Operations and Security Committee on Tuesday, Local 117 member Charlotte Berry, a Dental Assistant at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, provided powerful testimony in support of the bill.
I am here today to ask you to support Senate Bill 5678 which would tighten up the Public Records Act to better protect state employees that could be targeted or retaliated against by angry members of the public. My duties include working very closely with inmates. Very close. Sometimes it is uncomfortable. I was subject to a very life altering experience on August 18, 2014. As I was placing a lead apron on an inmate to take x-rays of his teeth, he raised his arm up and across my breast area. Many things went through my mind…. Did that just happen? I have dealt with these feelings for 6 months now...
Inmates and their friends and family outside of the prison file public disclosure requests all the time. With the internet and the ability to pay third party data miners it is very easy for offenders and their contacts outside of the prison to find out where I live. My concern is great.
Local 117's Legislative Affairs Coordinator Brenda Wiest also testified in support of the bill:
Public employees have legitimate concerns about their safety when they interact with felons, deny benefits, cite people for environmental violations, or make custody and visitation decisions. These same public employees provide important services and enforcement roles in the state and should not have to fear that their residence or other private information could be given to individuals that may want to retaliate against them or cause them harm.
You can view the complete testimony on TVW's website here.
Thanks to the testimony of both Charlotte and Brenda, the bill passed out of committee yesterday on a vote of 5-0!
There will be an opportunity to testify on the House companion bill, HB 1349, on Friday, February 18 at 8 A.M. before the House State Government Committee. If you have a powerful story to tell and would like to testify, please contact Brenda Wiest at 206-441-4860 ext. 1256.