Despising transparency to the end, the Durkan administration cuts a vital public information resource

By Erica C. Barnett

Last summer, the public directory of city employees – a vital resource that allowed members of the public to access contact details of city employees as well as information about the Byzantine bureaucracy of city services – suddenly disappeared. from the city’s website. The directory was the only place members of the public could access contact information for the majority of people who work in the city.

Asked what happened to the yearbook last summer, Durkan’s administration office cited unspecified technical issues and assured PubliCola that it would be back before the end of the year.

“I fully understand that removing this service makes it more difficult to connect with individual city staff,” the city’s acting chief technology officer said in a statement released by Durkan’s office last summer. “This was an unplanned change, so it will take time for us to ramp up and staff a project team with staff to finalize specifications and develop the replacement solution.”

That was supposed to be the plan. Instead, in a move typical of Durkan’s disdain for transparency and access to public information, the administration quietly decided to kill the directory on its release. According to an update posted on the city’s website in mid-December, the city’s human resources office, headed by Durkan-appointed Bobby Humes, made a “ruling” at some point in the end. of 2021 that “the directory would no longer be maintained”.

According to Loter, the “HR department’s decision is not to maintain the directory and to rely on the department’s contact details, which are also posted there as well as on many of the department’s websites.” PubliCola requested a copy of this decision.

The erasure of the city’s public directory is a blow to transparency and access to public information. It’s no surprise that a mayor infamous for his disappearing text messages is also responsible for taking down this link to basic information about city government in his final months, but it’s nonetheless discouraging.

Now anyone wishing to contact a city employee by email or phone will have to try their luck with a limited number of official gatekeepers or file a request for public disclosure of the information, a process that can take months. .

We reached out to Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office to comment on the previous administration’s decision to discontinue the directory.

In the meantime, PubliCola has requested a current copy of the directory. If the city doesn’t display it, we will.

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