Order Reprint of this Story November 26, Sex offender lists are readily available online. The one Zink posted includes Level 1 offenders, those considered the least likely to re-offend. Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce. If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today. Although Level 1 offenders account for well over half of all sex offenses, their names were routinely excluded from public disclosure.
The list includes offenders of all levels in Benton County and in Franklin County. Zink received the database after the Washington Supreme Court ruled in April that she had a right to the Level 1 offender information held by the Washington State Patrol, which maintains the database. This fall, she followed through on her pledge to post the information to the Google Plus page where she documents her legal battles. Donna Zink is one of the six state heroes of open government. Ramsey Ramerman, Washington Association of Public Records Officers In addition to fighting for the release of Level 1 sex offender data, Zink is involved in several public records cases.
In many of them, the nurse with psychiatric training represents herself without an attorney. Most notable is her decade-plus battle with the city of Mesa over violations of the public records act and its companion, the Open Public Meetings Act.
Ramerman, an attorney for the city of Everett, runs the nonprofit Washington Association of Public Records Officers and periodically represents jurisdictions facing records suits, including the city of Mesa. Fears unfounded Zink said fears posting sex offender data online would jeopardize sex offenders appear unfounded. Zink said she advised civility.
I want people to start paying attention to their court system. This is a lot bigger than sex offenders. The public records aspect is what gets me. She has requested updated information to cover the past three years. Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond said there have been no incidents reported.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs confirmed that it too has received no feedback since Zink posted the information. Why she fought Zink first pressed for Level 1 offender information in , when she could not find in a public sex offender database the name of someone she knew was convicted of a sex crime.
She asked for — and received — Level 1 information from Franklin County, where she lives. She made a similar request to Benton County in July Benton County processed a similar request a year earlier from school officials in Prosser. The county agreed the information was public, but notified more than offenders of the request first. According to court records, both the patrol and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs intended to grant her request.
Again, offenders were notified in advance. A lower court agreed with the John Does, but Zink and the state patrol appealed. In its decision in John Does v. Washington State Patrol and Donna Zink, the court recalled it had previously interpreted the records act to imply a general personal privacy exemption.
The ruling was promptly overruled by the state Legislature, which amended state code to strengthen the act. It explicitly linked releasing sex offender data to public safety. Zink, who is married with four grown children, said she will be watching if the Legislature attempts to restrict public records.