Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), Chair of the Governance & Education Committee, and City Attorney Pete Holmes unveiled legislation today to provide worker protections and job security to public disclosure officers (PDOs) who process public records on behalf of elected officials, an effort to ensure City of Seattle employees are shielded from political influence while carrying out their duties to respond to Public Records Act requests on behalf of elected officials.
The legislation aims to protect public disclosure officers, build confidence in the transparency and accountability of Seattle’s elected officials, and ultimately strengthen public trust in City government. The legislation applies civil service protections to public disclosure officers who process and release the public records of the Mayor, as well as the City Council and the City Attorney’s Office.
“Public disclosure officers are diligent public servants responsible for ensuring the City and its elected officials adhere fully to the expectation of transparency under the Public Records Act. They should never fear the repercussions of advocating for more transparency on the public’s behalf, nor should they have to go to the extreme measure of filing a whistleblower complaint. This legislation ensures these workers are granted greater independence through civil service protections so they can do their jobs confidently and on behalf of the public,” González said. “In our stakeholder work while developing this legislation, the need for resources to make technological investments to address broader, systemic issues was identified, relating to how the City stores and maintains public records and text messages in particular. I’ll work with my colleagues and the Mayor to ensure these investments are prioritized in upcoming budget legislation.”
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “I’m glad to support these new worker protections to provide employees breathing room to make the right decisions, free from political pressure and without fear of retaliation. I’m hopeful our policymakers will continue to invest in infrastructure to retain digital communications and know that introduction of today’s bill is the start of the conversation, not the end of it.”
The offices of Council President González and City Attorney Holmes worked with partners at Seattle Ethics and Elections, Seattle Information Technology Department and public disclosure officers (PDOs) themselves to evaluate the PDOs’ employment status and structure and have developed this legislation to ensure these workplace protections can be made quickly, efficiently, and without adding additional bureaucracy or significant new costs to the City’s budget.
The legislation will be considered in González’s virtual Governance and Education Committee on July 13, 2021 at 2 p.m.