Attorney General focuses on transparency, scams

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says his office is prioritizing as best it can to deal with current and pending legal challenges in the state in the face of a slimmer budget, and he's confident critical issues are being addressed.

In an editorial discussion with Reporter staff Tuesday, Ferguson touted his selection of Nancy Krier as the open government ombudsman for his office. The attorney general said he is also proposing a bill to provide locally elected officials with an online training resource for navigating open records requests within the law.

While some cities like Kirkland are backing budgets that make government accessibility a first-tier service, others are being challenged by what they consider to be burdensome requests for public information. Ferguson said it's good for local governments to work to clarify with the public what they want in order to narrow the scope of requests, but sometimes it doesn't matter.

"There will be some cost to that and some inconvenience," he said of following open government laws, "and that's a fact."

The attorney general's lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturer's Association over campaign finance concealment claims will move forward this month. So far, Ferguson said the association is accused of hiding the identities of contributors of up to $10.6 million to its campaign against I-522 in Washington, which would have required labeling on some genetically modified food products. His office is seeking more options than just monetary penalties against the GMA. "Even a significant [monetary] penalty on their end may be interpreted as the cost of doing business."

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is taking applications through Dec. 18 for licensure to grow, process and sell recreational marijuana.

Ferguson said the liquor control board is now seeking an opinion from his office about whether these municipalities have legal grounds to oppose marijuana as a commercial enterprise in their cities and oppose the will of voters who approved I-502. With the holiday season in full swing, the attorney general's office also has been warning the public about potential scams, such as in retail, online and fake charities.

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