Massive demand for release of cities’ public records dropped by Tim Clemans
by Jack Mayne
The man who asked Des Moines, Burien and SeaTac – and most other cities in the state – for every single public record they had, dropped his request all of a sudden via email on Monday, Feb. 1.
Tim Clemans told the cities of Des Moines and Burien that he was withdrawing his demand by email.
His email to Burien was somewhat cryptic:
“Decided requesting records is a waste of time for the most point (sic). Most of my request cancelled. Focusing my efforts on coding at Washington COG.”
The reference to “Washington COG” is an apparent reference to the Washington Coalition for Open Government, a Seattle-based non-profit that says it “advocates for the people’s right to access government information.”
In December, the Des Moines City Council was told Clemans demanded release of all public records of the city – and of all 39 cities in King County – because it would be “significantly better” if all public business was online.
“Essentially what he has asked for is every single record – paper record, electronic record, emails, meta data, text messages, everything,” City Manager Tony Piasecki said at the time, adding “of course that is hundreds of thousands of documents, thousands and thousands of hours of staff time retrieving them.”
In December, Clemans said in an email to this reporter that government “will be significantly better when virtually everything about it is online especially when the time from an action to time of disclosure is very short.”
Clemens did not respond to an email Monday night (Feb. 1) asking for his reasons for quitting his requests of records.
Why do this?
“People simply do better when watched,” wrote Clemans last year. “The free open source software I’m developing will allow people to get alerts about new information for a particular search. For example if you are a homeowner concerned about violent crime in your neighborhood in the near future you’ll be able to get any violent crime data within your set radius in your inbox.
“For journalists and activists their queries will be much more involved like say ‘immediately tell me when a manager is accused of misconduct’”.
Clemans added, “There’s a lot of work to be done.
“Installment number one is focused on getting the basic information detailed profiles about government employees.”
Worked for Seattle Police
After earlier demands of records from Seattle Police, he ended up being hired by the department only to be fired soon after.
The Stranger newspaper last Oct. 29 had a story about Clemens departure from Seattle’s employ.
“Tim Clemans, the award-winning programmer who bombarded the Seattle Police Department with public disclosure requests until it took the unusual step of hiring him resigned today — the culmination of months of mounting tensions between him and the department. ‘I’m really just fed up at this point,’” Clemens said according to The Stranger.
Apparently tensions began in August when Clemens said he had “created a computer program that helps 911 dispatchers do their jobs more efficiently by highlighting the most serious calls.”
But the weekly newspaper said here was a dispute with a Seattle Police captain, who demanded changes to that system had to “go through him and Clemens, says the Stranger story, “admits that when that happened, he ‘blew up,’ yelling and cursing the captain … and was escorted out of the building and hasn’t been allowed back to SPD headquarters since then.”
Clemens in the Stranger story said, “I’m going to PDR (public disclosure request) the shit out of you.”