State agency sued in Washington, displays churlishness

In the state of Washington, three now-adult victims of sexual and physical molestation endured while living in a foster home to which they were assigned by the state’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) have sued that agency for $45 million

See 3 sue state over access to records.

They have now filed a second lawsuit against the DSHS, alleging that the agency failed to properly provide copies of public documents they sought as they prepared their case.

Their attorney, David Moody, says the agency turned over some, but not all, of the documents he had requested on behalf of his clients. The agency can be fined anywhere from $5 to $100 per document per day for this lapse, if the plaintiffs are able to establish in court that this is what happened.

According to the informative article in the Seattle Times on which this post is based, the state agency claims that it spent “hundreds of hours” producing records that the plaintiffs requested.

So? The fact that they spent hundreds of hours on this doesn’t mean that they gave the plaintiffs what they requested, and possibly had a right to under the state’s open records law. The DSHS also claims that all requested documents were delivered–and maybe that’s true.

What isn’t true is that the amount of time they spent fulfilling the request has anything to do with the price of tea in China.

It is common for agencies to imply that they have been excessively burdened by open records request.  That seems like an especially cheap shot in a case where the plaintiffs were repeatedly sexually and physically abused over a period of years while living in a home to which they had been assigned by the agency in question. Whether the agency is at fault for that remains to be determined.

However, the least the agency could do is refrain from complaining. Have some perspective.

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