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Processing Public Records Requests for Electronic Records

This page provides sample policy language on processing public records requests for electronic records that local governments in Washington State can use or modify to fit their specific policy needs.

It is part of MRSC's Electronic Records Policy Tool Kit, created in partnership with the Washington State Auditor's Center for Government Innovation.


Overview 

The requirements for processing requests for electronic public records are generally the same as requests for paper copies. In general, the policy should address the following:

  • The status of electronic records as public records
  • Responding to requests for records in electronic format and/or native format
  • Customized access
  • Electronic records redaction
  • Discourage/prohibit use of personal accounts for agency business

General Policy 

The following sample policy language is adapted from:

Sample Policy Language

The process for requesting electronic records is the same as for requesting public records in hard copy.

When a requestor requests records in an electronic format, if technically feasible, the Public Records Officer will provide the nonexempt records or portions of such records that are reasonably locatable:

  • in an electronic format that is used by the Agency and is generally commercially available; or
  • in a format that is reasonably translatable from the format in which the Agency keeps the record.

With the consent of the requestor, the Agency may provide customized access if the record is not reasonably translatable into the format requested. The Agency may charge a customized service charge in accordance with RCW 42.56.120(3) and (4).

Making an electronic copy of an electronic record is not “creating” a new record; instead, it is similar to copying a paper copy. In addition, eliminating a field of an electronic record can be a method of redaction; it is similar to redacting portions of a paper record using a black pen to make it available for inspection or copying. WAC 44-14-04003(6) (comment to AGO Model Rule WAC 44-14-040).


Methods of Production

The following sample policy language is adapted from:

Sample Policy Language 

Copies of requested public records delivered to a requestor will be stored in a secure location, assigned to each Agency department or office, and logged under a specific Public Records Request number. Electronic copies of both the pre-redaction and post-redaction public records will be retained by the Agency.

The Agency offers three methods for delivery of responsive electronic records to a public records request.  The volume of responsive records as well as the frequency with which specific records are requested, dictate the method of delivery. 

  1. For requests which have a low volume of responsive electronic records, the records may be sent through email as an attachment.  Based on the attachment size limits of most major email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook), the file size limit is 25 mb; thus, if the responsive records exceed the limit, they will not be emailed.  Installments will be compiled to provide the maximum number of records to the requestor in each installment and will not be divided to comply with the file size limit.  If there is a charge for producing these records, payment must be received prior to emailing responsive records. 
  2. Installments which have a volume of responsive electronic records that exceeds the file size limit described above (25 mb) will be delivered via CD/DVD or USB memory device.
  3. Each agency department shall determine whether it is able to provide records via online file transfer sites. Each installment will be copied onto a CD/DVD or a USB memory device. CDs/DVDs and USB devices can be either picked up in person or sent via U.S. mail. If a requestor elects to have CDs/DVDs or a USB device mailed to them, the requestor must provide the Agency with a mailing address. Fees will be assessed as provided in [insert reference to applicable code provision or fee schedule]. If there is a charge for producing electronic records, payment must be received by the Agency prior to mailing or providing responsive records. 

If a large number of similar requests are received, the Public Records Officer may elect to set up an online distribution method. This method will reflect the technology and skills which exist in the Agency’s departments and offices at that time. Any online distribution will be established at the sole discretion of the Public Records Officer. 

Exceptions or modifications to these methods must be approved in writing by the Public Records Officer prior to the delivery of any records. 


Last Modified: July 03, 2019