Washington state fell to 12th place among the states in a recent report by The Center for Public Integrity on government integrity. That’s down from third place in the group’s 2012 rankings. Why the slip?
OLYMPIA — If your child’s grades had tumbled the same way Washington state’s did in a recent government-integrity report — from B-minus in 2012 to D-plus this year — you might ground him or her. Or seek help.
Measuring things such as open government and how public officials are held accountable, the rankings drop brought us from 3rd place among the states in 2012 to 12th place this year.
The report’s Washington findings, released by The Center for Public Integrity and summarized by Kyung Song, a former staff reporter at The Seattle Times, notes that some of the drop is due to scoring changes from the 2012 report.
So while two results shouldn’t be directly compared, the score does “suggest a worrying trend,” according to the report.
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For starters, the Washington state plummeted in its standings on the public’s access to information, earning an F this year, down from a B-minus in 2012.
One reason the report cites is Washington doesn’t have a law requiring government agencies to post information online. So while there’s a nifty site, data.wa.gov, where you can nerd out on a range of bits from drought-permit authorizations, to Seattle Head Start stats — government agencies don’t have to use it.
A failing mark on access to information, unfortunately, isn’t unusual: only six states avoided flunking that category.
Another area where Washington received an F is in executive accountability. Among other things, the report points to the lack of a required “cooling off” period for public officials before they go lobby the people with whom they used to work.
Example A, according to the report: former state Attorney General Rob McKenna, who shortly after leaving office was lobbying the state on behalf of a company he had previously sued.
Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, proposed a bill in this year’s legislative session to require a one-year cooling off period before officials could take lobbying jobs, but it died.
The report summary also notes that the state Public Disclosure Commission is underfunded. The PDC, among other things, makes public campaign finance data, lobbying records and other information, and also handles some enforcement actions.
“Indeed, the PDC says it lacks the staffing to conduct regular audits of campaign contribution filings or government officials’ financial disclosure forms — meaning false or incomplete reporting can go unnoticed unless political rivals or the public flag them,” according to the report.
Looking for an ironic bright spot in all this? Washington’s best score, a B-plus, came for its internal auditing. That would be the state Auditor’s Office, the agency that holds other agencies and elected officials accountable for performance and how taxpayer dollars are spent.
But 2015 has been the saga of state Auditor Troy Kelley. In March, federal officials raided Kelley’s Tacoma home and since then, a grand jury has handed down an indictment related to his prior business dealings and tax filings.
Kelley has pleaded not guilty and taken a leave of absence from the Auditor’s Office to try and clear his name. A trial is scheduled for March 14.