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Public Records Disputes – Co-Mediate Instead of Litigate

May 3, 2012  by  Bob Meinig
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act

You’d think that many Public Records Act (PRA) cases could be resolved quickly and inexpensively through mediation instead of through litigation.  But it's virtually impossible to find a mediator who knows the PRA and who would be trusted by both sides - the public agency and the records requestor - in a PRA dispute.

Enter Ramsey Ramerman and Greg Overstreet.  They have formed a “co-mediation” service, Open Government Mediations and Training, for this very purpose.  {C}"Co-mediation" is mediation by two mediators, one for each side.  The idea is that the public agency can trust Ramsey to understand the agency's position and the requestor can trust Greg to understand the requestor's.

Ramsey is an Everett assistant city attorney who is recognized for his experience in PRA issues, serves on the state Sunshine Committee, and is one of the founders of the Washington Association of Public Records Officers.  Ramsey is also a contributor to MRSC’s Open Government Advisor column.  Greg is well-known for his representation of records requestors, he previously served as the state attorney general's Open Government Ombudsman, and he was the original author of the attorney general’s “Model Rules” for the PRA.  He is also a member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government Advisory Board.

Even if a records requestor rejects an agency request for co-mediation, an agency may gain an advantage by merely asking for co-mediation.  If the requestor refuses, the agency can legitimately tell a judge, "We tried to resolve this cheaply and quickly through mediation, but the requestor refused."  That can be a factor in a judge’s consideration of penalties should the agency lose its case.  And there is no cost for an agency merely to ask Ramsey and Greg to co-mediate a case.

Ramsey and Greg also offer PRA and Open Public Meetings Act training, giving agencies both sides' perspectives on these issues.  Check out their website for more information.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Bob Meinig

Bob wrote extensively on the state Open Public Meetings Act, municipal incorporation and annexation, and a wide variety of other legal topics. He is now retired.



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