Dan Sytman, Spokesperson for Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, Sets the Record Straight to KnowThyNeighbor Regarding the State's Absence at Wednesday's TRO Hearing to Stop Public Access to Names of Signers of Referendum 71 as Well as Washington's Official Stand on Public Records Laws
KnowThyNeighbor has been following the media and blogs surrounding last Wednesday's hearing brought by Bopp, Coleson and Bostrom which temporarily halted our access to the 138,000 names of signers of the anti-gay Referendum 71 in Washington State. For the record, of great concern to me is the missed opportunity showing lack of leadership by Josh Friedes of Equality Washington in not addressing the nature of the lawsuit itself -- its attack against public records but more importantly its attack against the victim, the LGBT community, by painting us once again as monsters, not trusted to live in a civil society. More on that to follow.
But I was also concerned that the Secretary of State's office (ie Washington), the one being sued did not show up in court on Wednesday for the hearing. There was much speculation and quite a bit of negative press. I decided to find the answer from the office that would be defending the state on September 3rd, not the Secretary, but the Attorney General.
Dan Sytman, Attorney General (R) Rob Mckenna's spokeperson, immediately returned a call to KnowThyNeighbor on Friday. Mr. Sytman wanted to be perfectly clear that the Attorney General takes "defending Washington's public records law very, very seriously" and that they will be "defending this law very, very seriously." Spokesman Sytman also went on to say that in defending the right to public disclosure of the names of signers of Referendum 71, "We will win." His interest on behalf of the state of Washington being not referendum specific but more importantly to assure citizens that public disclosure laws are safe from challenges in the future.
So why was the Attorney General or his staff not present at Wednesday's hearing? According to Sytman, Temporary Restraining Orders are rarely rejected and as we have learned, this TRO was dropped on everyone's desk including KnowThyNeighbor's with less than a days notice. The AG's office received "a hundred pages" in this lawsuit and it is very complicated. The work, according to Sytman began immediately upon receipt of the suit.
KnowThyNeighbor's concerns here are this. One, if Referendum 71 qualifies for the ballot, it will with a very small signature margin, maybe in the hundreds. While it is still a debate as to the ability of challenges to prevail once a referendum has been certified by the Secretary of State, it is certain that the only way for the public ie the LGBT community to police any fraud and uncover invalid signatures is through public postings of signer's names as our efforts proved in Massachusetts back in 2005 and early 2006. I made the AG's office aware that KTN would be able to help in this process within the state's 5 day window of opportunity if the TRO had not been granted. Because it was granted, the September 3rd court date makes it impossible unless the LGBT community is able to get the Secretary of State to give us an extension to the verification process.
Tom Lang, KnowThyNeighbor.org