Greg Overstreet, Attorney General Rob McKenna's top deputy for public records and open meetings, is leaving to start a private practice...

Share story

OLYMPIA — Greg Overstreet, Attorney General Rob McKenna’s top deputy for public records and open meetings, is leaving to start a private practice concentrating on open government.

McKenna has announced that the new open-government ombudsman will be Deputy Solicitor General Tim Ford.

Overstreet leaves on June 15 and opens his new practice June 29.

The ombudsman job was created by McKenna when he took office in 2005. Overstreet says the office doesn’t sue agencies to force compliance. Instead, “we persuade and inform, and that is pretty effective,” he said.

In general, Overstreet said he found that local governments were more resistant to public-record requests than state agencies. But he says they’ve become more open to requests in recent years.

“I think we had a significant role with city and local governments,” Overstreet said. “I think the Attorney General’s Office is so well-respected among state agencies and local governments that when I would describe what I thought the public-records act required, and back it up with statutes … my thoughts were well-received.”

The Washington Coalition for Open Government — a group that includes news media and activists such as the Evergreen Freedom Foundation — recently gave Overstreet one of its Key Awards for his work at the Attorney General’s Office.

He wrote the Attorney General’s 2006 Model Rules on Public Records and was editor-in-chief of the Washington State Bar Association’s Open Records Desk Book.

With Ford’s appointment, the ombudsman job continues to be held by attorneys who worked for the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW).

Ford and Overstreet were attorneys for the builders lobbying group, an organization that has often fought open-records battles with state officials.

Ford, 42, left the BIAW in 2005 to join the Attorney General’s Office. He has worked for the Solicitor General Division since 2005.

Seattle Times Olympia Bureau: 360-943-9882