Chapter 1.24
PUBLIC RECORDS ACT

Sections:

1.24.010    Authority and purpose.

1.24.020    Agency description—Contact information—Public records officer.

1.24.030    Availability of public records.

1.24.040    Processing of public records requests—General.

1.24.050    Exemptions.

1.24.060    Costs of providing copies of public records.

1.24.070    Review of denials of public records.

1.24.010 Authority and purpose.

A.    RCW 42.56.070 requires each agency to make available for inspection and copying nonexempt “public records” in accordance with published rules. The act defines “public record” to include 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 the agency. RCW 42.56.070 requires each agency to set forth “for informational purposes” every law, in addition to the Public Records Act, that exempts or prohibits the disclosure of public records held by that agency.

B.    The purpose of these rules is to establish the procedures that the city of Sedro-Woolley will follow in order to provide full access to public records. These rules provide information to persons wishing to request access to public records of the city of Sedro-Woolley and establish processes for both requestors and the city of Sedro-Woolley staff that are designed to best assist members of the public in obtaining such access.

C.    The purpose of the act is to provide the public full access to information concerning the conduct of government, mindful of individuals’ privacy rights and the desirability of the efficient administration of government. The act and these rules will be interpreted in favor of disclosure. In carrying out its responsibilities under the act, the city of Sedro-Woolley will be guided by the provisions of the act describing its purposes and interpretation. (Ord. 1570-07 § 1, 2007)

1.24.020 Agency description—Contact information—Public records officer.

A.    The city of Sedro-Woolley offices are located at 720 Murdock Street, but following January 1, 2008 will be located at 220 Munro Street.

B.    Any person wishing to request access to public records or seeking assistance in making such a request should contact the public records officer of the city of Sedro-Woolley:

Public Records Officer: City Attorney

City of Sedro-Woolley

Municipal Building (located at the address noted above)

(360) 855-1661

Information is also available at the city of Sedro-Woolley’s web site at www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us.

C.    The public records officer will oversee compliance with the act but another city of Sedro-Woolley staff member may process the request. Therefore, these rules will refer to the public records officer “or designee.” The public records officer or designee and the city of Sedro-Woolley will provide the “fullest assistance” to requestors; create and maintain for use by the public and city of Sedro-Woolley officials an index to public records of the city of Sedro-Woolley, if applicable; ensure that public records are protected from damage or disorganization; and prevent fulfilling public records requests from causing excessive interference with essential functions of the city of Sedro-Woolley. (Ord. 1570-07 § 2, 2007)

1.24.030 Availability of public records.

A.    Hours for Inspection of Records. Public records are available for inspection and copying during normal business hours of the city of Sedro-Woolley: Monday through Friday, eight a.m. to five p.m., excluding legal holidays. Records must be inspected at the offices of the city of Sedro-Woolley and may not be inspected until the records have been identified by the public records officer following a request for inspection.

B.    Records Index. The city of Sedro-Woolley is developing an index of public records that is/will be available for use by members of the public. Because the city council has found it unduly burdensome for the city to create an index of records prior to the date of the ordinance codified in this chapter, the index will begin following the date of the ordinance codified in this chapter.

C.    Organization of Records. The city of Sedro-Woolley will maintain its records in a reasonably organized manner. The city of Sedro-Woolley will take reasonable actions to protect records from damage and disorganization. A requestor shall not take city of Sedro-Woolley records from city of Sedro-Woolley offices without the permission of the public records officer or designee. A variety of records available are on the city of Sedro-Woolley web site at http://www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us/. Requestors are encouraged to view the documents available on the web site prior to submitting a records request.

D.    Making a Request for Public Records.

1.    Any person wishing to inspect or copy public records of the city of Sedro-Woolley should make the request in writing on the city of Sedro-Woolley’s request form, or by letter, fax, or e-mail addressed to the public records officer and including the following information:

a.    Name of requestor;

b.    Address of requestor;

c.    Other contact information, including telephone number and any e-mail address;

d.    Identification of the public records adequate for the public records officer or designee to locate the records; and

e.    The date of the request.

2.    If the requestor wishes to have copies of the records made instead of simply inspecting them, he or she should so indicate and make arrangements to pay for copies of the records or a deposit. Standard photocopies will be provided at fifteen cents per page or the maximum allowable rate established under RCW 42.56 in effect at the time of the request.

3.    A form is available for use by requestors at the office of the public records officer and on-line at http://www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us/.

4.    The public records officer or designee may accept requests for public records that contain the above information by telephone or in person. If the public records officer or designee accepts such a request, he or she will confirm receipt of the information and the substance of the request in writing. (Ord. 1570-07 § 3, 2007)

1.24.040 Processing of public records requests—General.

A.    Providing “Fullest Assistance.” The city of Sedro-Woolley is charged by statute with adopting rules which provide for how it will “provide full access to public records,” “protect records from damage or disorganization,” “prevent excessive interference with other essential functions of the agency,” provide “fullest assistance” to requestors, and provide the “most timely possible action” on public records requests. The public records officer or designee will process requests in the order allowing the most requests to be processed in the most efficient manner.

B.    Acknowledging Receipt of Request. Within five business days of receipt of the request, the public records officer will do one or more of the following:

1.    Make the records available for inspection or copying;

2.    If copies are requested and payment of a deposit for the copies, if any, is made or terms of payment are agreed upon, send the copies to the requestor;

3.    Provide a reasonable estimate of when records will be available; or

4.    If the request is unclear or does not sufficiently identify the requested records, request clarification from the requestor. Such clarification may be requested and provided by telephone. The public records officer or designee may revise the estimate of when records will be available; or

5.    Deny the request.

C.    Consequences of Failure to Respond. If the city of Sedro-Woolley does not respond in writing within five business days of receipt of the request for disclosure, the requestor should contact the public records officer to determine the reason for the failure to respond.

D.    Protecting Rights of Others. In the event that the requested records contain information that may affect rights of others and may be exempt from disclosure, the public records officer may, prior to providing the records, give notice to such others whose rights may be affected by the disclosure. Such notice should be given so as to make it possible for those other persons to contact the requestor and ask him or her to revise the request, or, if necessary, seek an order from a court to prevent or limit the disclosure. The notice to the affected persons will include a copy of the request.

E.    Records Exempt from Disclosure. Some records are exempt from disclosure, in whole or in part. If the city of Sedro-Woolley believes that a record is exempt from disclosure and should be withheld, the public records officer will state the specific exemption and provide a brief explanation of why the record or a portion of the record is being withheld. If only a portion of a record is exempt from disclosure, but the remainder is not exempt, the public records officer will redact the exempt portions, provide the nonexempt portions, and indicate to the requestor why portions of the record are being redacted.

F.    Inspection of Records.

1.    Consistent with other demands, the city of Sedro-Woolley shall promptly provide space to inspect public records. No member of the public may remove a document from the viewing area or disassemble or alter any document. The requestor shall indicate which documents he or she wishes the city to copy.

2.    The requestor must claim or review the assembled records within thirty days of the city of Sedro-Woolley notification to him or her that the records are available for inspection or copying. The agency will notify the requestor in writing of this requirement and inform the requestor that he or she should contact the agency to make arrangements to claim or review the records. If the requestor or a representative of the requestor fails claim or review the records within the thirty-day period or make other arrangements, the city of Sedro-Woolley may close the request, refile the assembled records and discard any unclaimed copies. Other public records requests will be processed ahead of a subsequent request by the same person for the same or almost identical records, which will be processed as a new request. The requester shall remain responsible to pay for unclaimed copies.

G.    Providing Copies of Records. After inspection is complete, the public records officer or designee shall make the requested copies or arrange for copying in a reasonable period of time.

H.    Providing Records in Installments. When the request is for a large number of records, the public records officer or designee will provide access for inspection and copying in installments, if he or she reasonably determines that it would be practical to provide the records in that way. If, within thirty days, the requestor fails to inspect the entire set of records or one or more of the installments, the public records officer or designee will stop searching for the remaining records and close the request.

I.    Completion of Inspection. When the inspection of the requested records is complete and all requested copies are provided, the public records officer or designee will indicate that the city of Sedro-Woolley has completed a diligent search for the requested records and made any located non-exempt records available for inspection.

J.    Closing Withdrawn or Abandoned Request. When the requestor either withdraws the request or fails to fulfill his or her obligations to inspect the records or pay the deposit or final payment for the requested copies, the public records officer will close the request and indicate to the requestor that the city of Sedro-Woolley has closed the request. (Ord. 1570-07 § 4, 2007)

1.24.050 Exemptions.

A.    The Public Records Act provides that a number of types of documents are exempt from public inspection and copying. In addition, documents are exempt from disclosure if any “other statute” exempts or prohibits disclosure. Requestors should be aware of the following exemptions, outside the Public Records Act, that restrict the availability of some documents held by the city of Sedro-Woolley for inspection and copying: Attorney-Client Privilege, Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and “protected healthcare information” (PHI), under the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Protection Act of 1996.

B.    The city of Sedro-Woolley is prohibited by statute from disclosing lists of individuals for commercial purposes.

C.    Deliberative process exemption RCW 42.17.310(1)(i)/42.56.210(1)(i) exempts “Preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, and intra-agency memorandums in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated or recommended” except if the record is cited by the city.

In order to rely on this exemption, the city must show that the records contain predecisional opinions or recommendations of subordinates expressed as part of a deliberative process; that disclosure would be injurious to the deliberative or consultative function of the process; that disclosure would inhibit the flow of recommendations, observations, and opinions; and finally, that the materials covered by the exemption reflect policy recommendations and opinions and not the raw factual data on which a decision is based. Courts have held that this exemption is “severely limited” by its purpose, which is to protect the free flow of opinions by policy makers. It applies only to those portions of a record containing recommendations, opinions, and proposed policies; it does not apply to factual data contained in the record. The exemption does not apply to records or portions of records concerning the implementation of policy or the factual basis for the policy. The exemption does not apply merely because a record is called a “draft” or stamped “draft.” Recommendations that are actually implemented lose their protection form disclosure after they have been adopted by the agency.

D.    Employment and licensing information as set forth in RCW 42.56.250.

E.    Library records as set forth in RCW 42.56.310.

F.    Personnel information as set forth in RCW 42.56.230. (Ord. 1570-07 § 5, 2007)

1.24.060 Costs of providing copies of public records.

A.    Costs for Paper Copies. There is no fee for inspecting public records. A requestor may obtain standard black and white photocopies for fifteen cents per standard page and large format copying costs as provided on the public records request form. In the event of amendment to RCW 42.56, this fee shall automatically adjust to the maximum allowable charge under RCW 42.56. In the event the city treasurer determines the actual cost of providing copies, the actual cost shall be charged.

Before beginning to make the copies, the public records officer or designee may require a deposit of up to ten percent of the estimated costs of copying all the records selected by the requestor. The public records officer or designee may also require the payment of the remainder of the copying costs before providing all the records, or the payment of the costs of copying an installment before providing that installment. The city of Sedro-Woolley will not charge sales tax when it makes copies of public records.

B.    Costs for Electronic Records. The cost of electronic copies of records shall be ten dollars for information on a floppy disk, twenty dollars for information on a CD-ROM and fifteen dollars for tape recordings of meetings (per tape).

C.    Costs of Mailing. The city of Sedro-Woolley may also charge actual costs of mailing, including the cost of the shipping container.

D.    Actual Costs. For requests that require outside assistance to fulfill, the requestor shall pay the actual costs incurred to fulfill the request.

E.    Payment. Payment may be made by cash, check, or money order to the city of Sedro-Woolley. (Ord. 1570-07 § 6, 2007)

1.24.070 Review of denials of public records.

A.    Petition for Internal Administrative Review of Denial of Access. Any person who objects to the initial denial or partial denial of a records request may petition in writing (including e-mail) to the public records officer for a review of that decision. The petition shall include a copy of or reasonably identify the written statement by the public records officer or designee denying the request.

B.    Consideration of Petition for Review. The public records officer shall promptly provide the petition and any other relevant information to the mayor. The mayor, or in his/her absence the mayor pro-tem, will immediately consider the petition and either affirm or reverse the denial within two business days following the city of Sedro-Woolley’s receipt of the petition, or within such other time as the city of Sedro-Woolley and the requestor mutually agree to.

C.    Judicial Review. Any person may obtain court review of denials of public records request pursuant to RCW 42.17.340 at the conclusion of two business days after filing a petition for internal administrative review of denial of access. (Ord. 1570-07 § 7, 2007)