Having been reassured that government transparency isn’t a crime in this state, on Tuesday Lincoln County became the only jurisdiction in Washington currently negotiating out in the open with its public employees.
The Freedom Foundation was there from start to finish, sending the model resolution, advising the commissioners on what to expect in regards to legal challenges and answering strategic questions. The Freedom Foundation also provided testimony on the day the resolution was passed, did polling and was on hand today to witness Washington’s first-ever open collective bargaining negotiation.
Freedom Foundation attorney David Dewhirst, a board member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, also used the occasion to present the commissioners with the organization’s Key Award for transparency.
“Without the Freedom Foundation this would never have happened,” said Rob Coffman, chairman of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.
Let’s be clear: There’s nothing in state law that would prevent a local jurisdiction from making its contract negotiations public. It just seems that way because everyone else has been intimidated by the unions into doing their dirty work behind closed doors.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. And by all indications, it won’t be much longer.
Several other Washington counties are already considering following Lincoln County’s lead, and Public Employment Relations Commission’s (PERC) emphatic ruling will undoubtedly embolden them to do so.
It’s about time.
For too long and in too many places the public has been denied a chance to see who their elected leaders are really working for – the voters or the unions who fund their re-election campaigns.
That we’re even having this discussion just goes to show how upside-down the process in Washington has become. In a sane world, those gathered around the bargaining table wouldn’t all be cashing checks from the same source, the tax payers, and transparency would be the rule rather than the exception.
Until three county commissioners in a tiny corner of the state courageously stood up to the unions and said, “No more,” the default assumption was that a veil of secrecy was supposed to exist and open government was somehow not in the public interest.
Here’s hoping the torch due to be lit this week in tiny Lincoln County burns brightly enough to illuminate the darkness that still envelops too much of Washington.
- PERC Dismisses Teamsters Complaint, Recognizes Lincoln County’s Right to Hold Contract Negotiations In Public
- Freedom Foundation’s Legal Team to Represent Lincoln County Against Teamsters
- Survey Shows Lincoln County Voters Overwhelmingly Support Commissioners’ Union Transparency Resolution
Read PERC’s decisions: