Washington Governor Jay Inslee received the Washington Coalition for Open Government’s Key Award Jan. 28 for declaring that he will not exercise a sweeping “executive privilege” newly created by a state Supreme Court ruling.
The award, given to individuals or groups who do something notable for the cause of open government, was presented to Inslee in his office by WCOG board member Bill Will, executive director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.
“Governor Inslee’s principled stand in favor of transparency should receive positive recognition because it has singlehandedly prevented bad law from taking effect,” said WCOG President and Kirkland City Council member Toby Nixon. “It will also encourage future governors to adhere to the same voluntary standard of openness. He has made lemonade out of lemons.”
In October, the Washington State Supreme Court, ruling in a suit filed by the Freedom Foundation, held that Washington’s governor is constitutionally entitled to an executive privilege that allows him or her to shield virtually all of his communications from disclosure under the state’s Public Records Act.
Even before the case was decided, Inslee vowed as a gubernatorial candidate not to exercise the privilege claimed by then-Governor Chris Gregoire, the defendant in the Freedom Foundation’s lawsuit. Since taking office, Inslee has reaffirmed that stance through his spokesmen.
The court’s decision has prompted several legislators to propose a constitutional amendment barring the governor from making a broad claim of executive privilege.