Having lost three attempts to persuade Washington courts to protect city-related emails on his private server from public disclosure, a former Puyallup city councilman is asking the nation’s highest court to consider his case.
Steve Vermillion petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of a Pierce County judge to force him to reveal email communications on city business handled on his personal email address.
Ramsey Ramerman, an Everett attorney who represents Vermillion, said his client has asked him to take the question one step higher to the Supreme Court. Ramerman’s services are funded by the city of Puyallup because of Vermillion’s status as a former public official.
The case stems from a 2014 public disclosure request from governmental transparency advocate Arthur West of Olympia. Vermillion failed to block West’s demand in Superior Court, and the Washington State Supreme Court declined to review that decision.
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City Manager Kevin Yamamoto, a former city attorney, has said the Vermillion case raises significant constitutional questions regarding privacy and public access to city records.
Ramerman maintained the questions raised by the case are important.
If the state’s open records law forces Vermillion to disclose constituents’ communications to him regarding city issues, the law would have a chilling effect on the free flow of communications between the public and their elected representatives, he said.
West maintains that the open records law protects the public from backroom deals made between the city and influential persons without the benefit of open public debate.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663