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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts for Open Government Advisor

Agency Size Can Influence PRA Penalties

Agency Size Can Influence PRA Penalties

July 2, 2018 by Foster Pepper
Category: Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

The Washington Court of Appeals recently ruled that the Superior Court is permitted to consider a municipality's size when setting penalties under the Public Records Act (PRA).

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Supreme Court: Fire District Email Policy Violated First Amendment

Supreme Court: Fire District Email Policy Violated First Amendment

February 22, 2018 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Open Government Advisor

A recent Washington Supreme Court ruling found that the Spokane Valley Fire District's policy prohibiting employees from using department email accounts to send religious messages violated the First Amendment. This post looks at the implications for public agencies statewide. 

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The Supreme Court Narrowly Construes the “Minimum-Value” Executive Session Exception to the OPMA

The Supreme Court Narrowly Construes the “Minimum-Value” Executive Session Exception to the OPMA

June 12, 2017 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Open Public Meetings Act , Open Government Advisor

On June 8, the Washington Supreme Court issued its opinion in Columbia Riverkeepers v. Port of Vancouver, adopting a very narrow interpretation of the executive session “exception” to the OPMA for discussion about the sale or lease of real estate (the “minimum-value exception”). In this blog post, guest author Ramsey Ramerman breaks down the case. 

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Legislature Considers PRA-related Bills

Legislature Considers PRA-related Bills

March 20, 2017 by Nancy Krier
Category: Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act , New Legislation and Regulations

In the 2017 regular session, the Washington State Legislature is considering several bills that could impact the Public Records Act. This blog post highlights several that have the possibility of being far-reaching if enacted.  

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Further Guidance on Records Requests for “Commercial Purposes”

Further Guidance on Records Requests for “Commercial Purposes”

February 7, 2017 by Adrian Urquhart Winder
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

Public records for "Commercial Purposes"? The Washington Court of Appeals recently addressed another dispute and rejected a union's constitutional privacy argument.

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Agencies Must Provide a “Reasonable Time Estimate” in their 5-day Response, Even When Seeking Clarification.

Agencies Must Provide a “Reasonable Time Estimate” in their 5-day Response, Even When Seeking Clarification.

January 20, 2017 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

In this blog post, guest author Ramsey Ramerman provides an overview of the Washington Court of Appeals' recent decision in Hikel v. City of Lynnwood, where the court held that a reasonable time estimate is always required with an agency's response to a PRA request that does not fully resolve the request, even when the agency seeks clarification that may affect that time estimate.

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Private Email Accounts but Public Records

Private Email Accounts but Public Records

January 5, 2017 by P. Stephen DiJulio and Philip Paine
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Open Government Advisor , Council-Commission Advisor , Public Records Act

This post looks at the recent Washington State Court of Appeals ruling that held the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution do not afford an individual privacy interest in public records contained in an elected official’s private email account.

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PRA Restriction on Providing Lists of Individuals for Commercial Purposes – More Updates

PRA Restriction on Providing Lists of Individuals for Commercial Purposes – More Updates

November 17, 2016 by Nancy Krier
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

The commercial purpose restriction in the PRA restricts agencies from providing lists of individuals for a commercial purpose. Open Government Advisor Nancy Krier discusses the April 2016 SEIU 775 case, and several developments that have happened since then, that impact the commercial purpose restriction.

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WA Court Of Appeals Determines When Records "Produced" to Trigger Statute of Limitations

WA Court Of Appeals Determines When Records "Produced" to Trigger Statute of Limitations

June 23, 2016 by Adrian Urquhart Winder
Category: Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

In White v. City of Lakewood (2016), the Court of Appeals applied a form of "mailbox rule" to the state Public Records Act in defining when records have been "produced" sufficient to trigger the PRA's one-year statute of limitations and reiterated that the statute of limitations is not triggered by an invalid claim of exemption.

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Washington Supreme Court Reviews "Other Statute" Exemption in Ruling on Sex Offender Records

Washington Supreme Court Reviews "Other Statute" Exemption in Ruling on Sex Offender Records

June 7, 2016 by Adrian Urquhart Winder
Category: Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

In Doe v. Washington State Patrol (2016), the Washington Supreme Court held that the state's community notification statute concerning registered sex offenders is not an "other statute" exemption under the Public Records Act.

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What is an Agency

What is an Agency's Obligation When a Records Request May Suggest Requester's "Commercial Purpose"?

May 9, 2016 by P. Stephen DiJulio
Category: Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

A summary of the court's decision in SEIU Healthcare v. DSHS and Freedom Foundation and what that means for public records disclosure requests.

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2016 Legislature: Recap of Some Public Agency Records and Open Meetings Bills

2016 Legislature: Recap of Some Public Agency Records and Open Meetings Bills

April 11, 2016 by Nancy Krier
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

Highlights of some of the open government-related bills that may be of interest to local governments from the 2016 Washington State Legislature.

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Lack of “Serious Independent Analysis" of Exemptions Can Result in Finding of Bad Faith Under PRA

Lack of “Serious Independent Analysis" of Exemptions Can Result in Finding of Bad Faith Under PRA

September 29, 2015 by P. Stephen DiJulio
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

In Adams v. Washington State Department of Corrections, the Court of Appeals held that for purposes of penalty calculation for agencies that do not comply with public records requests under RCW 42.56.565(1), an agency will be punished for “bad faith” if it fails to engage “in any serious independent analysis of the exempt status of documents.”

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Washington Court Holds Ballots Secret and Not Subject to Public Disclosure

Washington Court Holds Ballots Secret and Not Subject to Public Disclosure

August 25, 2015 by P. Stephen DiJulio
Category: Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

The 2015 court decision White v. Skagit County and Island County concluded that ballots are exempt from disclosure due to the vital government function of holding secret ballot elections.

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Court of Appeals Reverses Large Public Records Act Penalty Imposed on University of Washington

Court of Appeals Reverses Large Public Records Act Penalty Imposed on University of Washington

March 24, 2015 by Adrian Urquhart Winder
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

In Bichindaritz v. University of Washington (2015), the Court of Appeals reversed a penalty against the University of Washington after a trial court found that the university's production of documents was not in good faith and took too long.

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When is a Committee Not a Committee under the OPMA?

April 1, 2014 by P. Stephen DiJulio
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Open Government Advisor

The Washington Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW, applies to a "governing body" as well as to a committee that "acts on behalf of" a governing body. The key definitions from the OPMA, at RCW 42.30.020, include as follows:

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Handling Vague and Complex Public Records Requests: Developing Your Plan of Attack

February 28, 2013 by Sara Di Vittorio
Category: Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

Have you ever seen a public records request that makes you scratch your head and think, "How am I going to respond to that?" Two public records officers from Snohomish County weigh in on strategies for dealing with seemingly impossible requests that are either too vague or too complex.

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Addressing Disruptions at Public Meetings

April 18, 2012 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Legislative Body , Open Government Advisor

When members of the public disrupt a public meeting, the disruption poses several challenges for the governing body. A recent incident at a local school district highlights the procedural hoops a governing body must go through if they attempt to address the disruption by adjourning the meeting and reconvening it in another location. A recent federal case from California exposes liability risks...

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Supreme Court Underscores the Requirement to Produce an Exemption Log under the PRA

March 1, 2012 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Open Government Advisor

The 2009 Supreme Court ruling Rental Housing Authority v. City of Des Moines ruled that the city did not trigger the one-year statute of limitations for Public Records Act claims until after the city had produced its "PAWS II" exemption log.

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Court Holds Agencies Can Enforce Their Public Records Act Policies

March 1, 2012 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Open Government Advisor

The 2008 decision Parmelee v. Clarke held that because the requester had actual knowledge of the agency's public records procedures, the requester was required to follow those procedures and make public records requests to the identified officer.

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