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Posts for Public Records Act

JLARC Unveils Public Records Reporting System

JLARC Unveils Public Records Reporting System

May 16, 2018 by Oskar Rey
Category: Public Records Act

MRSC has received many questions about JLARC public records reporting requirements as modified by the 2017 bill ESHB 1594. This blog post looks at the reporting requirements for local governments and JLARC's newly unveiled reporting system.

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Why Are We (Sometimes) So Protective of Public Records?

Why Are We (Sometimes) So Protective of Public Records?

April 6, 2018 by Jim Doherty
Category: Public Records Act

There are strong reasons for not disclosing information in public records that appears to be covered by the statutory exemptions and prohibitions. However, MRSC Legal Consultant Jim Doherty argues local government staff should lean toward disclosing records rather than withholding them.

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New Ruling Finds Facebook Posts Can Be a Public Record

New Ruling Finds Facebook Posts Can Be a Public Record

March 7, 2018 by Flannary Collins
Category: Public Records Act

A recent ruling in the Washington State Court of Appeals (Division Two) has clarified the circumstances under which personal Facebook posts can be considered public records. Legal Consultant Flannary Collins looks at the case of West v. City of Puyallup

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OPMA and PRA Training Requirements for Government Officials

OPMA and PRA Training Requirements for Government Officials

January 17, 2018 by Oskar Rey
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

This blog post will provide an overview of the OPMA and PRA training requirements for local government officials
and provide resources to obtain training. 

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New JLARC Guidance for PRA Tracking Mandate

New JLARC Guidance for PRA Tracking Mandate

December 21, 2017 by Brooke Frickleton
Category: Public Records Act

This post describes the new public records tracking mandate and a handbook the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee created to help agencies meet this new requirement. 

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New Open Government Legislation: The Odds & Ends

New Open Government Legislation: The Odds & Ends

August 28, 2017 by Robert Sepler
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

In addition to some big changes to the PRA, the legislature also made a number of other, relatively minor, tweaks to both the PRA and the OPMA this session. In this blog post, MRSC Legal Consultant Robert Sepler gives a quick overview of these odds and ends.

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New Public Records Data Reporting Requirement

New Public Records Data Reporting Requirement

July 24, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Public Records Act

2017 was a big year for the PRA, with the legislature making several high-profile changes to the law. In this blog post, MRSC Legal Manager Jim Doherty discusses one change that may come as a surprise to many agencies: the new public records data reporting requirement. 

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New Open Government Training Requirements for Public Records Officers

New Open Government Training Requirements for Public Records Officers

July 21, 2017 by Brooke Frickleton
Category: Public Records Act

Earlier this year, the legislature made a number of changes to the Public Records Act (PRA). One key update is that the PRA and records retention training currently required for PROs must now include training on electronic documents and improving technology information systems. In this blog post, MRSC Legal Extern Brooke Frickleton outlines this new requirement.

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Use of Electronic Devices During Council/Commission Meetings

Use of Electronic Devices During Council/Commission Meetings

June 23, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

It seems that everybody is always looking at a screen or sending messages these days, sometimes using a smartphone, a notebook computer, or tablet—what’s the big deal? This blog post examines the issues that arise when members of a governing body text, message, or email during a public meeting. 

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New PRA Legislation: To Boldly Go Where the PRA Hasn’t Gone Before

New PRA Legislation: To Boldly Go Where the PRA Hasn’t Gone Before

May 30, 2017 by Flannary Collins
Category: Public Records Act , New Legislation

Governor Inslee signed ESHB 1594 and EHB 1595 on May 16, putting into place a number of notable changes to the PRA and records retention laws applicable to electronic records. So, what has changed in the PRA? In this blog, Flannary Collins takes a look at the highlights.

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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

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, AGO Opinions and Regulations , 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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When Must a Private Entity Comply with the PRA?

When Must a Private Entity Comply with the PRA?

January 30, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Public Records Act

Many public agencies in the State of Washington enter into contracts with private entities to provide public services. When private entities begin performing public services by contract, they inevitably begin to create records. The question this blog post will explore is: When are such records “public records” subject to production under the Public Records Act (PRA)?

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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, AGO Opinions and Regulations , 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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PRA Case Law Round Up for 2016

PRA Case Law Round Up for 2016

January 12, 2017 by Flannary Collins
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Public Records Act

It’s a new year and a perfect time for a 2016 PRA case law round up. This blog post recaps major PRA cases from 2016 that should be of continuing interest to Washington's local governments in 2017. Drum roll, please…

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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, AGO Opinions and Regulations , 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 Performance Audit: 5 Tips for Improving the PRA Experience

PRA Performance Audit: 5 Tips for Improving the PRA Experience

December 9, 2016 by Flannary Collins
Category: Public Records Act

The SAO’s performance audit on the PRA highlighted ways to improve records management and the PRA response experience for both agencies and requestors. This blog post will focus on those tips, as well as adding some anecdotes and insights I have gleaned over the past 14 years from working with the PRA.

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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, AGO Opinions and Regulations , 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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PRA Performance Audit: Comparing Washington’s PRA to Other States

PRA Performance Audit: Comparing Washington’s PRA to Other States

October 19, 2016 by Flannary Collins
Category: Public Records Act

In my recent PRA Performance Audit: The Costs of Fulfilling PRA Requests blog post, I focused on the SAO’s audit findings related to the costs incurred by public agencies in responding to records requests. This blog post will focus on another aspect of the SAO’s audit: approaches other states and the federal government have taken with their public records laws. 

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PRA Performance Audit: The Costs of Fulfilling PRA Requests

PRA Performance Audit: The Costs of Fulfilling PRA Requests

September 14, 2016 by Flannary Collins
Category: Public Records Act

This blog post is the first in a series analyzing the State Auditor’s Office’s (SAO’s) PRA performance audit: The Effect of Public Records Requests on State and Local Governments, and will provide a general overview of the audit with a particular focus on the SAO’s findings related to the costs incurred by public agencies, with future blog posts focusing on other aspects of the audit.

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The Common Interest Doctrine and the PRA

The Common Interest Doctrine and the PRA

August 22, 2016 by Jill Dvorkin
Category: Public Records Act

A recent case from Division III of the Washington Court of Appeals (Division III), Kittitas County v. Allphin, provides strong support for the ability of local governments to work with state agencies in enforcing state and local laws, and to have certain communications related to these enforcement actions protected as privileged under the common interest doctrine. 

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A Practical View on Records Requests for Judicial Records

A Practical View on Records Requests for Judicial Records

July 6, 2016 by Robert Sepler
Category: Public Records Act

In my previous Records Requests for Judicial Records blog post, I recommended the following:

If a city or county receives a request for certain judicial records, I think that the request should be forwarded to the PRO designated by the court to ...

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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, No. 47079-9-II (May 25, 2016), Division II of the Washington Court of Appeals applied a form of “mailbox rule” to the state Public Records Act (PRA) in defining when records have been “produced” sufficient to trigger the PRA’s one-year statut...

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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, the Washington Supreme Court held that the state’s community notification statute concerning registered sex offenders is not an “other statute” exemption under the Washington Public Records Act (PRA).

The requester in Doe sou...

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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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Records Requests for Judicial Records

Records Requests for Judicial Records

May 6, 2016 by Robert Sepler
Category: Public Records Act

It’s been about four months since the new court rule governing administrative judicial records, GR 31.1, became effective, so here's a quick refresher on the law governing records requests for judicial records.

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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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Washington Supreme Court Upholds Per Page Penalties Under the Public Records Act

Washington Supreme Court Upholds Per Page Penalties Under the Public Records Act

March 31, 2016 by Joe Levan
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Public Records Act

In a recently issued 5-4 decision, the Washington Supreme Court, in Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop, Inc. v. Department of Labor & Industries, interpreted the Public Records Act (PRA) in a manner that provides very broad discretion to courts to impose appropriate penalties for illegally withholding public records. According to the four dissenting justices (see below), that discretion is now so broad that it is, arguably, without limit. The Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s imposition of per page penalties against the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), which amounted to penalties of over a half a million dollars. This decision is likely to have far-reaching implications.

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Explaining the PRA

Explaining the PRA's Deliberative Process Exemption

March 24, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: Public Records Act

The purpose of the Public Records Act (PRA) exemption in RCW 42.56.280, named the "deliberative process" exemption by the courts, is "to safeguard the free exchange of ideas, recommendations, and opinions prior to decision" (Hearst Corp. v. Hoppe (1978)), "to protect the 'give and take' of deliberations that are necessary to agency decision-making and to formulate agency policy." (ACLU v. City of Seattle (2004)). Like many PRA exemptions, it is a layered provision that has to be carefully peeled to understand what it covers. This post will address the basic considerations in applying this exemption.

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The PRA and Nextdoor.com: 3 Things Public Officials Should Know Before They Log On

The PRA and Nextdoor.com: 3 Things Public Officials Should Know Before They Log On

March 16, 2016 by Robert Sepler
Category: Public Records Act


You’ve likely heard a lot about the public records concerns with social media, but Nextdoor, a relatively new social networking website focused on distinct neighborhoods, represents a new twist on social media that has some unique Public Records Act (PRA) implications.

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Personal Information in Public Records: Is It Subject to Disclosure?

Personal Information in Public Records: Is It Subject to Disclosure?

February 24, 2016 by Flannary Collins
Category: Public Records Act

People submit their personal information to public agencies in various contexts, including when a citizen signs up for public comment at an agency meeting, a witness to a crime is interviewed by the police, a new employee is hired by an agency, or a homeowner starts receiving utility services. How much of this personal information is subject to public disclosure?

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Some Public Records Act Insights from 2015

Some Public Records Act Insights from 2015

January 7, 2016 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

There were several highly significant court decisions and other developments in 2015 regarding the Public Records Act (PRA) (chapter 42.56 RCW). The following are six insights for local governments that I’ve gleaned from such developments, with a particular focus on electronic records and use of personal electronic devices by...

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New PRA Decision: Good Procedure Nets Good Result

New PRA Decision: Good Procedure Nets Good Result

December 2, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Public Records Act

The recent court of appeals decision in Benton County v. Zink holds a number of lessons to be learned regarding procedures for dealing with electronic records and developing an effective strategy for dealing with a litigious requestor.

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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, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

In Adams v. Washington State Department of Corrections, Division II of the Court of Appeals held that for purposes of penalty calculation for agencies that do not comply with public records request (PRA) under RCW 42.56.565(1), an agency will be ...

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The PRA Applies to Work-Related Texting on a Personal Cell Phone

The PRA Applies to Work-Related Texting on a Personal Cell Phone

August 28, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Public Records Act

In a highly anticipated decision on the Public Records Act (PRA), the Washington Supreme Court on August 27, 2015 issued its opinion in Nissen v. Pierce County. The court, in a unanimous decision that includes some revelations, held that “text messages sent and received by a public employee in the employee’s official capacity are public records of the employer, even if the employee uses a private cell phone.”

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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 Washington Constitution, Article VI, Section 6 states: “The Legislature shall provide for such method of voting as will secure to every elector absolute secrecy in preparing and depositing his ballot.” This provision was central to a Washington Court of Appeals decision on July 13, 2015, rejecting a public records act request for “copies of electronic or digital image file...

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Court Clarifies How the PRA Can Apply to Contractor Records

Court Clarifies How the PRA Can Apply to Contractor Records

July 22, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Public Records Act

A recent Washington State Court of Appeals decision, Cedar Grove Composting, Inc. v. City of Marysville clarified the extent to which contractor records can be subject to the Public Records Act (PRA).

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New Amendments to the Public Records Act

New Amendments to the Public Records Act

June 10, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Public Records Act

The 2015 Legislature passed and the Governor signed five bills amending the Public Records Act (PRA) that affect local government public records procedures.

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PRA Employment Records Exemption Applies to Former Employees

PRA Employment Records Exemption Applies to Former Employees

June 3, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

What if someone makes a PRA request for records related to a former employee? Do these exemptions still apply? In a recent decision, the Washington State Court of Appeals held that these exemptions apply not only to current employees, but also to former employees.

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Important New Guidance Issued Regarding Agency Text Messaging

Important New Guidance Issued Regarding Agency Text Messaging

April 24, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

If you’re an official or staff member for a local government in Washington State and you sometimes use text messaging to conduct agency business, or you’re thinking about doing so, there are unique legal considerations related to texting that you and your agency need to be aware of. These considerations include possible implications regarding records retention, as well as regar...

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Ongoing Public Employer Investigations of Alleged Employee Misconduct: PRA Issues

Ongoing Public Employer Investigations of Alleged Employee Misconduct: PRA Issues

April 8, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Public Records Act

The Washington State Supreme Court issued an interesting decision last week addressing, primarily, whether the names of public employees that are the subject of ongoing investigations of unidentified, alleged misconduct are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act (PRA).

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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, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

In Bichindaritz v. University of Washington, Division One of the Court of Appeals reversed a $723,290.50 penalty and $102,958.03 attorney fee award for violations of the Public Records Act by the Univers...

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BIG Public Records Requests

BIG Public Records Requests

March 3, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Public Records Act

There have been some pretty incredible Public Records Act (PRA) requests lately – perhaps you have seen the headlines: AG rejects Seattle man’s request for 600 million emails. That request was for all emails, excluding those that require redactions, sent to or from all state agencies over a period of years...

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Are Personal Notes Public Records Under the Public Records Act?

Are Personal Notes Public Records Under the Public Records Act?

February 19, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

Here’s the scenario: You’re an official or employee of a local government in Washington State and sometimes, at agency meetings, you take notes for your personal use. Are those notes public records under the Public Records Act (PRA) (chapter 42.56 RCW)? The short answer is that it depends on how the notes are created, ...

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New Records Retention Guidance for Sensitive Authentication Data

New Records Retention Guidance for Sensitive Authentication Data

January 22, 2015 by Flannary Collins
Category: Public Records Act

The Secretary of State’s Local Government Common Records Retention Schedule (CORE) has a brand new category concerning the destruction of “Sensitive Authentication Data” obtained during fi...

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Levan’s Lens on the Public Records Act – 2014

Levan’s Lens on the Public Records Act – 2014

December 23, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

The end of the year provides an opportunity to look back over Public Records Act (PRA) legislative and case law developments from 2014. Here are some key points that I think are noteworthy for Washington local governments.

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New MRSC Webpage Showcasing OPMA and PRA Practice Tips

New MRSC Webpage Showcasing OPMA and PRA Practice Tips

October 8, 2014 by Flannary Collins
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

During my ten years as Shoreline assistant city attorney, I faced constant questions from staff and officials on the Public Records Act (PRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). Two of my go-to resources for these questions were MRSC’s PRA and OPMA publications, both of which I found to be thorough and helpful. Now...

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Privacy Rights, the Public Records Act, and Unanswered Questions

September 19, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

In a highly anticipated court decision that was issued recently, the Washington State Court of Appeals had an opportunity to address important unanswered questions related to what privacy rights a public official has under the Public Records Act (PRA)...

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Explaining the Open Government Trainings Act

April 16, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

Recognizing that, “whether due to error or ignorance, violations of the public records act and open public meetings act are very costly for state and local governments,” the Legislature enacted and the Governor signed ESB 5964 (Laws of 2014, ch. 66), named the “Open Government Trainings Act.” This new law, effective on July 1, 2014, mandates that persons filling certain state and local...

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Be Cautious Before Disposing of a Public Record

Be Cautious Before Disposing of a Public Record

February 12, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Public Records Act

Recently, a former city official entered a plea for “injuring public records.” Accepting the plea, the judge stated “You will likely never be a city manager again.” What’s that all about?

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Washington Supreme Court Narrows Public Records Act Investigative Records Exemption

Washington Supreme Court Narrows Public Records Act Investigative Records Exemption

January 22, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

As 2013 came to a close, the Washington Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Sargent v. Seattle Police Dep’t, __ Wn.2d __ (2013), that, for some, upends their long-held understand of how to apply the "investigative" exemption...

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Public Records Act Report Emphasizes a Better Way to Resolve Disputes

December 20, 2013 by Tracy Burrows
Category: Public Records Act

This week, the William D. Ruckelshaus Center issued to the State Legislature its Situation Assessment of Public Records Requests to Local Governments. In our September 25th post, "Is the Public Records Act Working?," Joe Levan reported on the charge that the Legislature gave to the Ruckelshaus Center to develop recommendations for the future of the Public Records Act (PRA). The Center's report...

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New Approach to Responding to Public Records Requests – the Kirkland Model

October 30, 2013 by Pat Mason
Category: Public Records Act

Many local governments are struggling to balance their obligations under the Public Records Act with their existing staff and financial resources.  Local governments want to provide the fullest access to records possible, but they must do...

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PRA Requests for Lists of Individuals “for Commercial Purposes”

October 2, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Public Records Act

A number of jurisdictions across the state recently received a public records request from an “online information service” that was seeking documents detailing all purchases the jurisdictions had made from 2008 to present. The information requested included the name, address, contact person, and email of vendors.  Part of the Public Records Act (PRA), RCW 42.56.070(9), prohibits a public agency...

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Is the Public Records Act Working? Can it Be Improved? Let’s Find Out.

September 25, 2013 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

An important effort is currently underway that I think merits the particular attention of local government officials and employees throughout Washington state. This collaborative effort relates to exploring improvements to our state’s Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW.

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Exempting or Redacting a Record? Give a Brief Explanation.

September 11, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Public Records Act

A recent state Court of Appeals decision, City of Lakewood v. Koenig, held the City of Lakewood liable for costs and attorney fees when the city redacted information from a requested public record but failed to provide a "brief explanation" for the redaction.

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

March 1, 2013 by Sara Di Vittorio
Category: Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

Public records requests run the gamut from the simple request for a copy of a police report to the complex request for any and all emails sent or received by an individual with no timeframe limitation. While it may be easy to wrap your mind around the search for records responsive to those easy requests, it can be quite daunting to face a seemingly limitless request. This article focuses on...

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2012 End of Year Public Records Alert

December 12, 2012 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

As 2012 draws to a close, I want to call to the attention of local government officials and staff members some recent developments related to public records law and requirements that I think are particularly significant.
In previous posts on this blog, I have written about a few key court decisions that I think provide useful guidance on public records issues that are commonly faced by...

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Recent Court Guidance on What Constitutes a Public Record under the Public Records Act

September 20, 2012 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

One of the legal issues most frequently faced by local government officials and staff in Washington state relates to compliance with our state’s Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW. In this post, I’ll briefly discuss a court decision I think is significant on the threshold PRA issue – what is and what is not a public record.

While it is often clear what is a public record...

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