Seattle-area Housing Authority institutes transparency reforms

Settlement in Knight FOI Fund case resolves tenant’s open meeting complaint, but public records issues are still pending.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (August 6, 2013) – A public housing agency serving suburban Seattle, Wash., will institute a sweeping series of transparency measures as a result of a lawsuit made possible by the inspired persistence of an engaged public housing resident and a litigation grant made under the Knight FOI Fund.

Cindy Ference, a tenant in a King County Housing Authority complex for senior and disabled people in Shoreline, Wash., sued the housing agency over open-meetings violations in April after learning it had set up a shadow entity to carry out some of its programs without public oversight. Ms. Ference and her attorney, Katherine George, reached a settlement agreement with the Housing Authority to ensure that the public can learn about programs of the agency as well as its shadow entity, a nonprofit called Moving King County Residents Forward. 

“This settlement ensures that the Housing Authority will not only meet, but exceed, Washington state requirements for governments to make decisions openly,” Ference said. “Furthermore, it will allow the thousands of residents served by the Housing Authority to be better informed regarding the decisions that affect their lives.”

Ference received financial support for her legal action from the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC), which administers the Knight FOI Fund. The open government litigation fund, which is intended to assist meritorious open government lawsuits, was begun in 2010 under a grant to NFOIC and the University of Missouri from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

See the full release here.