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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts for Public Records Act

New Technology, Same Old Open Government Challenges

New Technology, Same Old Open Government Challenges

Software such as Microsoft Teams can help to facilitate communication in a workplace, but the use of such tools is tricky for governing bodies whose meetings must be open to the public and whose communications should be easily searchable if a public records request arises.

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Privacy v. Security: Use of Security Cameras on Government Property

Privacy v. Security: Use of Security Cameras on Government Property

While governmental use of security cameras can be a useful tool, agencies should take care to adopt a policy that outlines the precise ways in which the cameras will be used and how the recordings will be managed. 

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Data as Records: PRA Disclosure of Database Information

Data as Records: PRA Disclosure of Database Information

Fulfilling a public records request that seeks information contained in a database can be challenging. Local government staff must understand they have an obligation to produce data within a database but must come up with a practical method to do so. 

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JLARC Public Records Program Reporting Deadline Coming Up Fast

JLARC Public Records Program Reporting Deadline Coming Up Fast

The JLARC Public Records Program reporting deadline is July 1. This guest blog covers major findings from the 2020 report as well as answers to frequently asked questions regarding the reporting process. 

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OPMA/PRA Emergency Proclamation Will Expire June 1

OPMA/PRA Emergency Proclamation Will Expire June 1

Pandemic-related restrictions on public meetings and the processing of public records will no longer be in effect this coming June, per the newly released Proclamation 20-28.16. 

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Recent Developments in Washington Public Records — June 2021

Recent Developments in Washington Public Records — June 2021

This blog reviews recent developments in the law that impacts the disclosure of public records.

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Public Records Act Reports Due July 1, 2021

Public Records Act Reports Due July 1, 2021

Any public agency that spends over $100,000 in activities associated with managing public records and responding to public records requests will need to file a report on these activities with the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee by July 1, 2021. 

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Allegations and the PRA: Navigating the Disclosure of Internal Investigations

Allegations and the PRA: Navigating the Disclosure of Internal Investigations

This blog post looks at questions that might arise when a request is made for a public record pertaining to the internal investigation of an employee. 

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New Privacy in Public Employment

New Privacy in Public Employment

This blog post reviews SSHB 1888, which creates new public records exemptions for certain information in personnel and public employment records and goes into effect on June 11.

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Public Records Considerations in the Era of Telecommuting

Public Records Considerations in the Era of Telecommuting

This blog post looks at how an agency can exercise some control over its public records when these may be located — or taken — outside the workplace.

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The PRA and Third-Party Notice During Emergency Court Shutdowns

The PRA and Third-Party Notice During Emergency Court Shutdowns

This blog post offers public agencies guidance on how to provide third-party notification for public records requests during a period when local superior courts have shut down or drastically cut back on hours. 

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New Ruling Provides Guidance on “Specific Intelligence”

New Ruling Provides Guidance on “Specific Intelligence”

This blog discusses the recent ruling in West v. City of Tacoma, which addresses what an agency needs to prove when it claims the Public Records Act’s exemption for “specific intelligence information."

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Understanding When It’s Over: Administrative Procedures and the PRA

Understanding When It’s Over: Administrative Procedures and the PRA

This blog post summarizes Kilduff v. San Juan County and suggests best practices for agency administrative procedures concerning public records searches. 

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Elected Officials Guide — What’s Personal and What’s Public?

Elected Officials Guide — What’s Personal and What’s Public?

This blog covers questions about the use of social media and cell phones with regards to privacy and public records and focuses on their use from the perspective of an elected official.

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Supreme Court Rules Individual State Legislators Are Subject to the PRA

Supreme Court Rules Individual State Legislators Are Subject to the PRA

This blog post provides an overview of the recent Washington Supreme Court ruling addressing whether individual state legislators are subject to the Public Records Act.

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New Developments in PRA Land

New Developments in PRA Land

This blog post provides an overview of two recent Washington State Supreme Court cases that involved the Public Records Act and offers some key takeaways for local governments to consider. 

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Records Requests from Agency Elected Officials

Records Requests from Agency Elected Officials

What happens if your elected official files a public records request with your local government? This blog post looks at how to handle what should be a simple request, but often isn't due to extenuating circumstances. 

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Please Stop: Handling Public Requests

Please Stop: Handling Public Requests

Municipal employees sometimes must deal with a variety of requests, and some can be quite challenging. This article looks at what local governments can and cannot broadly do in terms of responding to large public records requests and complaints.  

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New Ruling Addresses the Extent of the "Public Records" Definition

New Ruling Addresses the Extent of the "Public Records" Definition

A new decision from the Washington State Supreme Court addresses the extent of the “Public Records” definition, which now provides more clarity for local governments. 

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Recent PRA Developments — Dog Days of Summer Edition

Recent PRA Developments — Dog Days of Summer Edition

This blog article covers a recent Attorney General opinion and a Washington Court of Appeals case, both of which address the Public Records Act. 

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Another Legislative Session, Another Round of PRA Changes

Another Legislative Session, Another Round of PRA Changes

This blog reviews some of the public records bills affecting local governments from the 2019 legislative session.

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It’s a Dirty Job, But Somebody Has To Do It: Meeting the Public Records Challenge

It’s a Dirty Job, But Somebody Has To Do It: Meeting the Public Records Challenge

Written by Sarah Doar, MRSC Legal Consultant, this blog post looks at some common questions MRSC receives regarding public records management. 

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Introducing the PRA & Records Management Technology Guide!

Introducing the PRA & Records Management Technology Guide!

MRSC has partnered with the SAO Center for Government Innovation to provide local governments with information and resources for managing electronic public records, and we are proud to introduce the PRA & Management Technology Guide.

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Walking on Murky Waters: The New PRA Exemption for Religious Affiliation

Walking on Murky Waters: The New PRA Exemption for Religious Affiliation

With the passage of HB 2097, the Washington State Legislature prohibited state or local agencies from providing personally identifiable information that could be used to create a federal religious affiliation, national origin, or ethnicity registry for law enforcement or immigration purposes. 

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Agency Size Can Influence PRA Penalties

Agency Size Can Influence PRA Penalties

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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EU’s General Data Protection Regulation: Does It Apply to Your Agency?

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation: Does It Apply to Your Agency?

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation addresses data protection and privacy for EU citizens by giving residents more control over thier personal data and by simplifying the regulatory environment for international businesses.  In this post, Jim Doherty looks at whether or not it also applies to local governments. 

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JLARC Unveils Public Records Reporting System

JLARC Unveils Public Records Reporting System

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”

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?

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If your agency receives a request for records, some of which appear to be judicial records, what's the safest way to proceed?

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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

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

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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