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Washington city refuses to settle suit over e-mail messages

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  1. Freedom of Information
A Washington city rejected a local open government activist's offer last week to settle a public records suit in which…

A Washington city rejected a local open government activist’s offer last week to settle a public records suit in which a state appeals court has ordered it to pay what could amount to $110,000 in legal fees, The Daily Herald reported.

The Monroe City Council refused Meredith Mechling’s offer to settle a suit over e-mail messages she requested in 2006 that two state courts ordered the city hand over. Mechling wanted $192,950 to cover both her legal fees and public records law penalties, but on the advice of its attorneys, the city decided to wait for the decision of a state court, which could order a lower figure.

In October, a state appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the city violated Washington’s public records law when it refused to fulfill Mechling’s request after she became concerned that the council was having debates via e-mail rather than in a public forum. The city gave her some e-mail messages but redacted information in those sent from personal accounts and withheld others, claiming attorney-client privilege.