POLICY 27
PUBLIC DISCLOSURE Revised 7/21

SECTION INDEX:    Public Disclosure Policy

1    Purpose

1.1    Public Records Act

1.2    City Policy and Procedure

2    Reference

3    Policy

4    Responsibility / Authority

4.1    Public Records Officer

4.2    City Staff

4.3    Requesters

5    Definitions

6    Guidelines

6.1    Liability

6.2    Municipal Services and Central Office

6.3    Availability of Public Records on the City’s Website

6.4    Making a Request for Public Records

6.5    Processing Public Records Requests

6.6    Inspection of Records

6.7    Providing Records In Installments

6.8    Closing Withdrawn or Abandoned Requests

6.9    Later Discovered Records

6.10    Completion of Request

6.11    No Duty to Create New Records

6.12    Exemptions

6.13    Costs of Providing Copies of Public Records

6.14    Administrative Review of Denials of Public Records

6.15    Index of Public Records

6.16    Maintenance/Order of Records

1. PURPOSE

1.1. Public Records Act

The purpose of the Public Records Act is to provide the public with full access to information concerning the conduct of government, mindful of individuals’ privacy rights and the desirability of efficient administration of government. The Public Records Act provides a statutory framework by which to administer access to public records.

1.2. City Policy and Procedure

The purpose of establishing the following policy and procedure is to provide a method by which City staff will review and respond to requests for public records within the Public Records Act framework. The information contained in this document is designed to aid both those requesting public records and those responding to records requests. The policy and procedure should assist in guiding expectations of requesters and providing notice of a mechanism by which to appeal a records decision, if necessary.

2. REFERENCE

•    RCW 42.56, Public Records Act

    Executive Order #11164

•    Policy 19, Records Management Policy

3. POLICY

The City will provide City records requested by the public as provided in this policy, unless such records are exempt from disclosure under RCW 42.56 or other law under which disclosure is regulated. City staff will aid requesters in obtaining the public records they seek.

4. RESPONSIBILITY / AUTHORITY

4.1. Public Records Officer

The City Clerk is the designated public records officer. The City's public records officer will oversee compliance with the Public Records Act and these procedures. The City's public records officer may delegate the responsibilities of processing requests to other staff. Each department will also designate a public records coordinator to facilitate access to public records within their department, and will identify each coordinator to the public records officer.

4.2. City Staff

City staff will aid requesters, reasonably 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 Olympia. City staff will not destroy or transfer records to the Washington State Archives that are responsive to active public records requests. Assigned City staff will be responsible and held accountable to meet the City’s responsibilities of this policy. Failure to comply with this Policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination from City service.

4.3. Requesters

While requesters are not required to specifically name the Public Records Act, they must give reasonable notice that the request is being made pursuant to the act. Requesters must request identifiable records or classes of records that the City can reasonably locate even though they are not required to specifically state the exact record sought. For example, using inexact phrases such as “relating to” a topic (such as “all records relating to the property tax increase”) will need clarification from the requester to determine what records fairly and directly address the topic. Requesters wishing to submit a public records request should do so using the City’s online request system at: https://public-olympiawa.mycusthelp.com/WEBAPP/_rs/supporthome.aspx. For more information on how to submit requests see Section 6.4 “Making a Public Records Request.”

5. DEFINITIONS

Public Record: Any document or recorded information regardless of physical form or characteristics that has been prepared, owned, used, or retained by the City, including, but not limited to:

•    Physical records

•    Paper records (handwritten or typed)

•    Printed versions of electronic records

•    Maps

•    Photographs

•    Electronic records

•    Computer files

•    Email

•    Databases

•    Digital Sound or Video recordings

•    Voicemail

•    Texts and Instant Messages

•    Webpages and Social Media

6. GUIDELINES

6.1. Liability

Neither the City nor any officer, employee, official, or custodian shall be liable, nor shall a cause of action exist, for any loss or damage based upon a release of public records if the person releasing the records acted in good faith in attempting to comply with this policy. This policy is not intended to expand or restrict the rights of disclosure or privacy as they exist under state and federal law.

6.2. Municipal Services and Central Office

The City of Olympia is a Washington municipal corporation that provides a full range of traditional municipal services to its citizens through various departments. City Hall, the central office, is located at 601 4th Ave E., Olympia WA 98501 and several field offices exist throughout the City

6.3. Availability of Public Records on the City’s Website

Many records are available on the City’s web site at https://olympiawa.gov/. Requesters are encouraged to view records available on the web site prior to submitting a records request.

6.4. Making a Request for Public Records

a.    Any person wishing to submit a public records request may do so via one of the following methods:

1)    Online via the City’s public records portal at https://public-olympiawa.mycusthelp.com/WEBAPP/_rs/supporthome.aspx.

2)    By email, written letter by mail, or phone call to the City’s Designated Public Records Officer. The contact information for the City’s Public Records Officer is as follows:

Public Records Officer

City of Olympia

PO Box 1967

Olympia, WA 98507

Phone: 360-753-8325

Fax: 360-753-8165

cityclerk@ci.olympia.wa.us

3)    For General Government Records Requests, in person at Olympia City Hall during normal business hours at the main customer service desk for City Hall. Multi-departmental requests which also seek police records in addition to records from General Government departments may also be submitted via this method.

4)    For Police Records Requests, in person at the Olympia Police Department front counter during normal business hours located at Olympia City Hall.

b.    Public Record Requests which are not submitted via one of the methods described in section “a” may not be recognized as a public records request. As a result, requests for records that are not submitted as provided in section “a” are not subject to the requirements of the Public Records Act.

It is the duty of the Requester to provide the Public Record Request to the designated Public Records’ Officer via one of the methods described in section “a”.

c.    Public records requests submitted by written letter or email should include the following information:

1.    Name of requester;

2.    Date of request;

3.    Phone, email, and/or address or other contact information of requester;

4.    Identification of the public records adequate for the public records officer or designee to locate the records (title and date, if known), and;

5.    Location (department) of the requested records, if known.

d.    If the request is made by email, regular mail, fax, in-person or by telephone, responding staff will confirm receipt of the information and the substance of the request in writing by entering the request information into the City’s online tracking system on the requester’s behalf.

e.    The City may deny a "bot" request that is one of multiple requests from a requestor to the City within a twenty-four hour period, if the City determines that responding to the multiple requests would cause excessive interference with essential City functions. A "bot" request is a records request that an agency reasonably believes was automatically generated by a computer program or script

f.    A requester is not typically required to state the purpose of the request. However, in instances where additional information is required by law or to clarify or prioritize a request and provide responsive records, the public records officer or designee may inquire about the nature or scope of the request.

6.5. Processing Public Records Requests

a.    The public records officer or designee will process requests in the order allowing the most requests to be processed in the most efficient manner. Multiple requests from a single requester may be processed consecutively if the request is for a large number of records or if the request requires significant staff time.

If a requester wants a subsequent request prioritized, the requester may either withdraw the earlier request(s) or request in writing that the later request be responded to first.

b.    Within five business days of receipt of the request (day one is the first working day after the request is received), the public records officer or designee will do one or more of the following:

1.    Make the records available; or

2.    Identify an internet location where the record can be accessed. Requesters who cannot access the internet may be provided hard copies or access to a City terminal to access the record; or

3.    Acknowledge receipt of request and provide a reasonable estimate of when records will be available; or

4.    If the request is unclear, acknowledge receipt of request, ask the requester to provide clarification and provide a reasonable estimate of when records will be available; or

5.    Deny the request.

c.    If the City of Olympia does not respond in writing within five business days of receipt of the request for disclosure, the requester should consider contacting the public records officer to verify the City received the request.

6.6. Inspection of Records

a.    The City of Olympia will provide a space for persons to inspect public records. Public records are generally available for inspection and copying during normal business hours of Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding legal holidays. Records must be inspected at an office of the City of Olympia. No member of the public may remove a record from the viewing area or disassemble or alter any record. The requester must indicate which records should be copied by the City.

b.    The requester must make arrangements to claim or review the assembled records within thirty days of notification that the records are available.

c.    If the requester fails to claim or review the records within the fourteen-day period or make other arrangements, the City may close the request and re-file the assembled records. In the event the requester submits a new request for the same or almost identical records, the process will begin anew.

6.7. Providing Records In Installments

a.    When the request is for a large number of records or when a portion of responsive records is more readily available than others, the public records officer or designee may provide records in installments.

b.    If the requester fails to pay for, download or inspect available installments in the required timeline, the public records officer or designee may discontinue the search for the remaining records and close the request.

6.8. Closing Withdrawn or Abandoned Requests

When the requester withdraws the request, fails to fulfill the obligation to inspect or download the records in the required timeline, or fails to pay the required amount due for requested copies, the public records officer will close the request.

6.9. Later Discovered Records

After the City has closed the request, if the City becomes aware of additional responsive records existing at the time of the request, it will promptly inform the requester of the additional records and provide them as soon as possible.

A public records request is not continuing in nature. If a requester desires additional records created or obtained by the City after the date of the original request, the requester must submit a new request.

6.10. Completion of Request

The City’s response to a request will be deemed complete upon the requester’s inspection of the records, or upon notification that copies of all the requested records are available for payment and pick up, or upon notification that all records have been provided, or upon notification that no responsive records were located.

6.11. No Duty to Create New Records

The City is not obligated to create new records to satisfy a records request; however, the City may, at its discretion, create such new records to fulfill the request where the City deems that method of response to be more expedient.

6.12. Exemptions

a.    The Public Records Act and other statutes exempt or prohibit disclosure of certain City records. Requesters should take note that there are many exemptions contained outside of the Public Records Act that may restrict the availability of some records.

b.    If the City of Olympia deems a record or portion of a record is exempt from disclosure and should be withheld, the public records officer or designee will state the specific exemption and provide a brief explanation of why the record or a portion of the record is being withheld.

c.    If the requested records contain information that may affect rights of others and/or may be exempt from disclosure, the public records officer may, prior to providing the records, give notice to those persons. Such notice should be given to make it possible for those receiving the notice to seek an order from a court to prevent or limit the disclosure. The notice to the affected persons will typically include a copy of the request.

d.    Some of the City’s most common exemptions are listed below. This list is for informational purposes only and not intended to be an exhaustive list of exemptions. Failure to list an exemption shall not affect the efficacy of any exemption.

1.    Personal information in files maintained for City employees to the extent that disclosure would violate their right to privacy, including but not limited to addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, driver license numbers, voluntary deductions, and any garnishment deductions (RCW 42.56.230(3), 42.56.250(4), 42.56.050)

2.    Records in investigative files, including police and code enforcement investigations, to the extent that nondisclosure is essential for effective law enforcement or for the protection of any person’s right to privacy (RCW 42.56.240(1), RCW 42.56.050);

3.    Identifying information for victims or witnesses of crimes under certain circumstances (RCW 42.56.240(1) 42.56.240(2), RCW 7.69A.030(4))

4.    Bank or Other Financial Information such as credit/debit card numbers, electronic check numbers, card expiration dates, or bank or other financial information (RCW 42.56.230(5))

5.    Attorney-Client Privileged Communication between the City and its attorneys (RCW 42.56.290, RCW 42.56.070, and RCW 5.60.060(2))

6.13. Costs of Providing Copies of Public Records

a.    The City of Olympia determined by executive order #2, signed by the City Manager on August 21, 2017, that performing a study to calculate the actual costs of providing records is unduly burdensome and the City will, therefore, charge fees to copy and provide public records not to exceed those permitted by RCW 42.56.120.

b.    There is no fee for inspecting public records, however, the City does charge the following fees for copying and sending records to the requestor.

c.    Copying is charged at fifteen cents ($.15) per page, for paper copies, and ten cents ($.10) per page, for scanned copies.

d.    Envelopes and/or packaging are charged at the actual costs of those supplies.

e.    Postage is charged at the actual postage costs of such postage.

f.    Digital Storage media/devices are charged at the actual cost of materials (such as a CD, DVD, flash drive, etc.)

g.    Uploading/attaching electronic files to digital storage media/device(s), a cloud-based data storage service, or emails is charged at five cents ($.05) per each four files.

h.    In addition to other fees, public records provided in an electronic format are charged at 10 cents per gigabyte.

i.    Customized service charges are charged at the actual cost if the City estimates that the request requires the use of information technology expertise to prepare data compilations or provide customized electronic access services when such compilations and customized access services are not used by the city.

j.    In the event a request is estimated to exceed $25, the City may require the requester to deposit an amount not to exceed 10% of the estimated cost prior to the duplication of record(s).

k.    Payment may be made by cash, credit, check, or money order payable to the City of Olympia.

l.    If the total fees for copying the records is less than $1.00, the City may choose to waive the fee.

6.14. Administrative Review of Denials of Public Records

a.    Any person who objects to the initial denial or partial denial of a records request may petition in writing to the public records officer for a review of that decision. The petition must include a copy of the written statement by the public records officer or designee denying the request.

b.    The public records officer or designee will immediately consider the petition and either affirm or reverse the denial within two business days following the public records officer’s receipt of the petition, or within such time as the City and the requester mutually agree RCW 42.56.520.

6.15. Index of Public Records

The City of Olympia determined by executive order #11164, signed by the City Manager on January 15, 2004, that maintaining an index is unduly burdensome, costly, and would interfere with agency operations due to the number and complexity of records generated as a result of the wide range of City activities and office locations.

6.16. Maintenance/Order of Records

The City will maintain its records in a reasonably organized manner. The City will take reasonable actions to protect records from damage and disorganization. For more information see City Policy 19, Records Management.

Revision history: June 2021; September 2019; February 2018; September 2017; February 2017; January 2015; March 2014; October 2013. Superseded: N/A.