Public Records Act (PRA)

Public Records Act Correspondence

Feb 2, 2017 Eric Johnson Correspondence to Port Directors Email from WPPA

Port Directors:

It appears that many, if not all, local governments in Washington have received the email below from an outfit in Florida. Several of you have contacted me to ask about this request. I have the following advice:

  1. The information being asked for is legally disclosable under the Public Records Act. However, the PRA does not require you to create a new record (by re-formatting, or creating a new spreadsheet, for example) . You may decide that the easiest way to respond is to create a new record, but you do not need to.
  2. The first step is to respond to the requestor within five days, telling them that you have received their request. At that time you have three additional options: 1) Provide the requested record with the acknowledgment, 2) Indicate approximately how long it will take for you to provide the records, or 3) clarify the request.
  3.  If these records are not electronic, you can choose to scan them into a .pdf document and let the requestor sort through them. You can charge the requestor for the costs of scanning. If you do not have a scanning fee already adopted, you can ask a local vendor what they would charge to scan the documents, and use that amount as the basis for your fee. If there is more than one vendor, two or three quotes would be a good practice. You should document this amount. This is allowed under the state’s Model Rules for the PRA. You can find these rules in WAC 44.14. Section 07003 of those rules explains very clearly how to do this.
  4. If you charge to scan the documents, you may invoice the requestor for a deposit of ten percent of the payment before you scan the records. Once the scanning is complete,you may request full payment for the remaining costs prior to providing the records. This authority is found in WAC 44.14.07006.

I hope this is useful to you. Contact me if you have questions. The link to the WAC noted above is http://app.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=44-14

Also, if you choose to charge for scanning, it would be a good practice to adopt that policy at a port commission meeting, if you have not already.

 

 

Records Access Officer:

 Pursuant to the Public Records Act, this is a request for a copy of the following records:  An electronic copy of any and all employees for years of 2016, (fiscal or calendar year). Each employee record should contain the employer name, employer zip code, year of compensation, first name, middle initial, last name, hire date (mm-dd-yyyy), base salary amount, bonus amount, overtime amount, gross annual wages and position title. This data should be broken down by employer, employee and year.

The principal purpose of this is to make this information more accessible to the public and to access and disseminate information regarding the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. This request is not principally for personal or commercial benefit.  Our agency is just exercising the general rights of the public.  For these reasons, we are requesting a waiver of fees. If there is a charge for this service, please obtain my approval in writing prior to proceeding with request.

All documents can be e-mailed to washington@openthebooks.com or mailed in electronic format (preferred format would be .csv or .xls).  If any documents are not provided in the format specified, please provide the state or federal statutes relied upon for that decision.  If any record or portion of a record responsive to this request is contained in a record or portion of a record deemed unresponsive to the request, I would like to inspect the entire document.  Under the Open Records Act/Freedom of Information Act, all non-exempt portions of any partially-exempt documents must be disclosed.  If any records or portions of records are withheld, please state the exemption on which you rely, the basis on which the exemption is invoked, and the name of the individual responsible for the decision.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of my request. If you have any questions, or if I can be of any assistance, please e-mail me at washington@openthebooks.com

Sincerely,

Nicole Mijares

American Transparency

P.O. Box 970999

Boca Raton, FL  33497-0999

 

 

Eric D. Johnson / Executive Director

Washington Public Ports Association

360.943-0760  /  ericj@washingtonports.org

Public Records Act

In 1972 the voters in state of Washington adopted Initiative 276, which required that most records maintained by state, county, and city governments be made available to members of the public. The public disclosure statutes have been frequently revised over the past three decades. The latest revision of the disclosure statutes are found in chapter 42.56 RCW, and are referred to as the Public Records Act.  Although the public records disclosure statutes do not apply to judicial records (case files), the legislature has specifically extended their coverage to state legislative records. In addition, the public records disclosure statutes apply equally to “every county, city, town, municipal corporation, quasi-municipal corporation, or special purpose district” or “any office, department, division, bureau, board, commission, or agency thereof, or other local public agency.”

Public Records Act Reference Documents

Public Records Act for Washington Cities, Counties, and Special Purpose Districts

http://mrsc.org/getmedia/796a2402-9ad4-4bde-a221-0d6814ef6edc/publicrecordsact.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf

Public Records Act Copyright © 2016 by MRSC. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means or stored in a database or retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher; however, governmental entities in the state of Washington are granted permission to reproduce and distribute this publication for official use. MRSC 2601 Fourth Avenue, Suite 800 Seattle, WA 98121-1280 (206) 625-1300 (800) 933-6772 www.MRSC.org March 2016 $30

Public Records Act Court Decisions

Benton County v. Zink, ___ Wn. App ___ (11/10/2015) – Ms. Zink made a public records request to the county, seeking records in electronic format. Although some of the records were available electronically, not all were. Given the size of the request and the fact that some records would need to be redacted, the county was unable to provide the records using its own staff and equipment. The county sought quotes from outside vendors and offered the records at 25 cents per page, the amount it would be charged by the lowest cost vendor. To honor Ms. Zink’s request, some records would need to be copied, some content redacted, then scanned, thus creating a new record that would need to be stored. Ms. Zink objected and indicated that the county had to provide the records without the per page charge. The county sought a declaratory judgment to determine its obligations.

The trial court concluded that the county could hire an outside firm to create the requested electronic documents and charge Ms. Zink for the cost of the work, the county is not required to pay someone to create additional records for records it already has in paper form, and it is not required to create or pay for additional records it already possesses in electronic form. Ms. Zink appealed, and the court affirmed. After resolving a standing issue, the court concluded that the county had no obligation to create electronic records, and that it could engage an outside service provider to create electronic copies and then charge Ms. Zink for the cost.

 

Public Records Act Sections Applicable to Port of Illahee PRA Resolution

RCW 42.56.010

Definitions.

The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter unless the context clearly requires otherwise.
(1) “Agency” includes all state agencies and all local agencies. “State agency” includes every state office, department, division, bureau, board, commission, or other state agency. “Local agency” includes every county, city, town, municipal corporation, quasi-municipal corporation, or special purpose district, or any office, department, division, bureau, board, commission, or agency thereof, or other local public agency.
(2) “Person in interest” means the person who is the subject of a record or any representative designated by that person, except that if that person is under a legal disability, “person in interest” means and includes the parent or duly appointed legal representative.
(3) “Public record” includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. For the office of the secretary of the senate and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives, public records means legislative records as defined in RCW 40.14.100 and also means the following: All budget and financial records; personnel leave, travel, and payroll records; records of legislative sessions; reports submitted to the legislature; and any other record designated a public record by any official action of the senate or the house of representatives.
(4) “Writing” means handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, and every other means of recording any form of communication or representation including, but not limited to, letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combination thereof, and all papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, motion picture, film and video recordings, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums, diskettes, sound recordings, and other documents including existing data compilations from which information may be obtained or translated.

RCW 42.56.040

Duty to publish procedures.

(1) Each state agency shall separately state and currently publish in the Washington Administrative Code and each local agency shall prominently display and make available for inspection and copying at the central office of such local agency, for guidance of the public:
(a) Descriptions of its central and field organization and the established places at which, the employees from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information, make submittals or requests, or obtain copies of agency decisions;
(b) Statements of the general course and method by which its operations are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available;
(c) Rules of procedure;
(d) Substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law, and statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted by the agency; and
(e) Each amendment or revision to, or repeal of any of the foregoing.
(2) Except to the extent that he or she has actual and timely notice of the terms thereof, a person may not in any manner be required to resort to, or be adversely affected by, a matter required to be published or displayed and not so published or displayed.

RCW 42.56.070

Documents and indexes to be made public.

(1) Each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying all public records, unless the record falls within the specific exemptions of *subsection (6) of this section, this chapter, or other statute which exempts or prohibits disclosure of specific information or records. To the extent required to prevent an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy interests protected by this chapter, an agency shall delete identifying details in a manner consistent with this chapter when it makes available or publishes any public record; however, in each case, the justification for the deletion shall be explained fully in writing.
(2) For informational purposes, each agency shall publish and maintain a current list containing every law, other than those listed in this chapter, that the agency believes exempts or prohibits disclosure of specific information or records of the agency. An agency’s failure to list an exemption shall not affect the efficacy of any exemption.
(3) Each local agency shall maintain and make available for public inspection and copying a current index providing identifying information as to the following records issued, adopted, or promulgated after January 1, 1973:
(a) Final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases;
(b) Those statements of policy and interpretations of policy, statute, and the Constitution which have been adopted by the agency;
(c) Administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public;
(d) Planning policies and goals, and interim and final planning decisions;
(e) Factual staff reports and studies, factual consultant’s reports and studies, scientific reports and studies, and any other factual information derived from tests, studies, reports, or surveys, whether conducted by public employees or others; and
(f) Correspondence, and materials referred to therein, by and with the agency relating to any regulatory, supervisory, or enforcement responsibilities of the agency, whereby the agency determines, or opines upon, or is asked to determine or opine upon, the rights of the state, the public, a subdivision of state government, or of any private party.
(4) A local agency need not maintain such an index, if to do so would be unduly burdensome, but it shall in that event:
(a) Issue and publish a formal order specifying the reasons why and the extent to which compliance would unduly burden or interfere with agency operations; and
(b) Make available for public inspection and copying all indexes maintained for agency use.
(5) Each state agency shall, by rule, establish and implement a system of indexing for the identification and location of the following records:
(a) All records issued before July 1, 1990, for which the agency has maintained an index;
(b) Final orders entered after June 30, 1990, that are issued in adjudicative proceedings as defined in RCW 34.05.010 and that contain an analysis or decision of substantial importance to the agency in carrying out its duties;
(c) Declaratory orders entered after June 30, 1990, that are issued pursuant to RCW 34.05.240 and that contain an analysis or decision of substantial importance to the agency in carrying out its duties;
(d) Interpretive statements as defined in RCW 34.05.010 that were entered after June 30, 1990; and
(e) Policy statements as defined in RCW 34.05.010 that were entered after June 30, 1990.
Rules establishing systems of indexing shall include, but not be limited to, requirements for the form and content of the index, its location and availability to the public, and the schedule for revising or updating the index. State agencies that have maintained indexes for records issued before July 1, 1990, shall continue to make such indexes available for public inspection and copying. Information in such indexes may be incorporated into indexes prepared pursuant to this subsection. State agencies may satisfy the requirements of this subsection by making available to the public indexes prepared by other parties but actually used by the agency in its operations. State agencies shall make indexes available for public inspection and copying. State agencies may charge a fee to cover the actual costs of providing individual mailed copies of indexes.
(6) A public record may be relied on, used, or cited as precedent by an agency against a party other than an agency and it may be invoked by the agency for any other purpose only if:
(a) It has been indexed in an index available to the public; or
(b) Parties affected have timely notice (actual or constructive) of the terms thereof.
(7) Each agency shall establish, maintain, and make available for public inspection and copying a statement of the actual per page cost or other costs, if any, that it charges for providing photocopies of public records and a statement of the factors and manner used to determine the actual per page cost or other costs, if any.
(a) In determining the actual per page cost for providing photocopies of public records, an agency may include all costs directly incident to copying such public records including the actual cost of the paper and the per page cost for use of agency copying equipment. In determining other actual costs for providing photocopies of public records, an agency may include all costs directly incident to shipping such public records, including the cost of postage or delivery charges and the cost of any container or envelope used.
(b) In determining the actual per page cost or other costs for providing copies of public records, an agency may not include staff salaries, benefits, or other general administrative or overhead charges, unless those costs are directly related to the actual cost of copying the public records. Staff time to copy and mail the requested public records may be included in an agency’s costs.
(8) An agency need not calculate the actual per page cost or other costs it charges for providing photocopies of public records if to do so would be unduly burdensome, but in that event: The agency may not charge in excess of fifteen cents per page for photocopies of public records or for the use of agency equipment to photocopy public records and the actual postage or delivery charge and the cost of any container or envelope used to mail the public records to the requestor.
(9) This chapter shall not be construed as giving authority to any agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives to give, sell or provide access to lists of individuals requested for commercial purposes, and agencies, the office of the secretary of the senate, and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives shall not do so unless specifically authorized or directed by law: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That lists of applicants for professional licenses and of professional licensees shall be made available to those professional associations or educational organizations recognized by their professional licensing or examination board, upon payment of a reasonable charge therefor: PROVIDED FURTHER, That such recognition may be refused only for a good cause pursuant to a hearing under the provisions of chapter 34.05 RCW, the Administrative Procedure Act.

RCW 42.56.080

Facilities for copying—Availability of public records.

Public records shall be available for inspection and copying, and agencies shall, upon request for identifiable public records, make them promptly available to any person including, if applicable, on a partial or installment basis as records that are part of a larger set of requested records are assembled or made ready for inspection or disclosure. Agencies shall not deny a request for identifiable public records solely on the basis that the request is overbroad. Agencies shall not distinguish among persons requesting records, and such persons shall not be required to provide information as to the purpose for the request except to establish whether inspection and copying would violate RCW 42.56.070(9) or other statute which exempts or prohibits disclosure of specific information or records to certain persons. Agency facilities shall be made available to any person for the copying of public records except when and to the extent that this would unreasonably disrupt the operations of the agency. Agencies shall honor requests received by mail for identifiable public records unless exempted by provisions of this chapter.

RCW 42.56.090

Times for inspection and copying—Posting on web site.

Public records shall be available for inspection and copying during the customary office hours of the agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives for a minimum of thirty hours per week, except weeks that include state legal holidays, unless the person making the request and the agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives or its representative agree on a different time. Customary business hours must be posted on the agency or office’s web site and made known by other means designed to provide the public with notice.

RCW 42.56.100

Protection of public records—Public access.

Agencies shall adopt and enforce reasonable rules and regulations, and the office of the secretary of the senate and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives shall adopt reasonable procedures allowing for the time, resource, and personnel constraints associated with legislative sessions, consonant with the intent of this chapter to provide full public access to public records, to protect public records from damage or disorganization, and to prevent excessive interference with other essential functions of the agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives. Such rules and regulations shall provide for the fullest assistance to inquirers and the most timely possible action on requests for information. Nothing in this section shall relieve agencies, the office of the secretary of the senate, and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives from honoring requests received by mail for copies of identifiable public records.
If a public record request is made at a time when such record exists but is scheduled for destruction in the near future, the agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives shall retain possession of the record, and may not destroy or erase the record until the request is resolved.

RCW 42.56.120

Charges for copying.

No fee shall be charged for the inspection of public records. No fee shall be charged for locating public documents and making them available for copying. A reasonable charge may be imposed for providing copies of public records and for the use by any person of agency equipment or equipment of the office of the secretary of the senate or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives to copy public records, which charges shall not exceed the amount necessary to reimburse the agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives for its actual costs directly incident to such copying. Agency charges for photocopies shall be imposed in accordance with the actual per page cost or other costs established and published by the agency. In no event may an agency charge a per page cost greater than the actual per page cost as established and published by the agency. To the extent the agency has not determined the actual per page cost for photocopies of public records, the agency may not charge in excess of fifteen cents per page. An agency may require a deposit in an amount not to exceed ten percent of the estimated cost of providing copies for a request. If an agency makes a request available on a partial or installment basis, the agency may charge for each part of the request as it is provided. If an installment of a records request is not claimed or reviewed, the agency is not obligated to fulfill the balance of the request.

RCW 42.56.152

Training—Public records officers.

(1) Public records officers designated under RCW 42.56.580 and records officers designated under RCW 40.14.040 must complete a training course regarding the provisions of this chapter, and also chapter 40.14 RCW for records retention.
(2) Public records officers must:
(a) Complete training no later than ninety days after assuming responsibilities as a public records officer or records manager; and
(b) Complete refresher training at intervals of no more than four years as long as they maintain the designation.
(3) Training must be consistent with the attorney general’s model rules for compliance with the public records act.
(4) Training may be completed remotely with technology including but not limited to internet-based training.

RCW 42.56.520

Prompt responses required.

Responses to requests for public records shall be made promptly by agencies, the office of the secretary of the senate, and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives. Within five business days of receiving a public record request, an agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives must respond by either (1) providing the record; (2) providing an internet address and link on the agency’s web site to the specific records requested, except that if the requester notifies the agency that he or she cannot access the records through the internet, then the agency must provide copies of the record or allow the requester to view copies using an agency computer; (3) acknowledging that the agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives has received the request and providing a reasonable estimate of the time the agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives will require to respond to the request; or (4) denying the public record request. Additional time required to respond to a request may be based upon the need to clarify the intent of the request, to locate and assemble the information requested, to notify third persons or agencies affected by the request, or to determine whether any of the information requested is exempt and that a denial should be made as to all or part of the request. In acknowledging receipt of a public record request that is unclear, an agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives may ask the requestor to clarify what information the requestor is seeking. If the requestor fails to clarify the request, the agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives need not respond to it. Denials of requests must be accompanied by a written statement of the specific reasons therefor. Agencies, the office of the secretary of the senate, and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives shall establish mechanisms for the most prompt possible review of decisions denying inspection, and such review shall be deemed completed at the end of the second business day following the denial of inspection and shall constitute final agency action or final action by the office of the secretary of the senate or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives for the purposes of judicial review.

RCW 42.56.580

Public records officers.

(1) Each state and local agency shall appoint and publicly identify a public records officer whose responsibility is to serve as a point of contact for members of the public in requesting disclosure of public records and to oversee the agency’s compliance with the public records disclosure requirements of this chapter. A state or local agency’s public records officer may appoint an employee or official of another agency as its public records officer.
(2) For state agencies, the name and contact information of the agency’s public records officer to whom members of the public may direct requests for disclosure of public records and who will oversee the agency’s compliance with the public records disclosure requirements of this chapter shall be published in the state register at the time of designation and maintained thereafter on the code reviser web site for the duration of the designation.
(3) For local agencies, the name and contact information of the agency’s public records officer to whom members of the public may direct requests for disclosure of public records and who will oversee the agency’s compliance within the public records disclosure requirements of this chapter shall be made in a way reasonably calculated to provide notice to the public, including posting at the local agency’s place of business, posting on its internet site, or including in its publications.
 

Port of Illahee Public Records Act Resolution and Interim Policy

Resolution 2016-2   Interim Policy for Public Records Act (PRA) Requests

Resolution 2016 - 2 001