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Public Records Act Reports Due July 1, 2021


May 10, 2021  by  Sarah Doar
Category:  Public Records Act

Public Records Act Reports Due July 1, 2021

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) recently announced that its Public Records Reporting System is now open for reporting 2020 data. The deadline for local governments to report 2020 data is July 1, 2021.

Background

Since 2018, RCW 40.14.026 has required any public agency that spends over $100,000 in staff and legal costs associated with maintaining public records and responding to records requests report certain metrics associated with these activities. This information is included in an annual report that is shared with the Washington State Legislature and the public.

JLARC estimates that there are approximately 2,400 public entities that are subject to the Public Records Act (PRA), including cities, towns, counties, and special purpose districts. While only a fraction are required to report their metrics, agencies that spend less than that amount are encouraged to voluntarily report their metrics or indicate that the agency did not meet the threshold for required reporting.

2019 Findings

JLARC recently shared that 208 agencies reported data for 2019. Altogether, those agencies reported the following:

  • 383,433 PRA requests had been received; 73% of which were fulfilled electronically.
  • 15 days was the average number of days it took an agency to complete a request; however, two-thirds of the requests were closed within five days.
  • $101 million and 1.3 million personnel hours were spent in responding to requests.
  • Less than $250,000 was recovered in copying costs.
  • $10 million was expended on litigation, including attorney fees and costs, penalties, and settlements.

MRSC encourages all agencies to track their metrics even if they do not meet the threshold. This information can be very useful in determining whether further investments – such as hiring more PRA personnel or procuring records management software – can be justified in light of the volume of requests and costs associated with responding to requests.

For more on the reporting system and guidance, see MRSC’s topic page Tracking Records Requests and Reporting PRA Metrics (JLARC Reporting).

To see JLARC’s most recent report, please see the 2019 Public Re​cords Briefing Report.


MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Sarah Doar

Sarah Doar joined MRSC in September 2018.

Most recently, she served as a Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Island County. At Island County, Sarah advised on many aspects of government business, including compliance with public record and opening meeting laws. She also defended the County in Growth Management Act and Land Use litigation. Prior to moving to Washington, Sarah practiced land use, environmental, and appellate law in Florida for over eight years.

Sarah holds a B.A. in Biology from Case Western Reserve University and a J.D. with a certificate in environmental and land use law from Florida State University College of Law.

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