Chapter 1.32


1.32.010    Purpose.

1.32.020    Construction.

1.32.030    Disclosure of public records required.

1.32.040    Public records officer.

1.32.050    Public records request.

1.32.060    Lists of individuals.

1.32.070    Review of denial.

1.32.080    Charges for records.

1.32.090    Exemptions.

1.32.100    Index of public records.

1.32.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to ensure compliance with the provisions of Chapter 42.56 RCW and other applicable law relating to disclosure of public records. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.020 Construction.

The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to provide public access to public records concerning the conduct of government, mindful of individuals’ privacy rights and the desirability of the efficient administration of government. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.030 Disclosure of public records required.

The county council, the county executive, and each county department, agency, division, board, office, commission, or other county entity shall make available for public inspection and copying all public records the disclosure of which is required by Chapter 42.56 RCW or other law. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.040 Public records officer.

A. The county executive shall appoint a public records officer who shall provide centralized oversight, guidance and leadership to fulfill public records requests for the county.

B. Subject to subsection C of this section, the public records officer shall:

1. Serve as a point contact for members of the public in requesting disclosure of public records; provided, that requests may also be presented to county offices and departments;

2. Oversee compliance with the public disclosure requirements of this chapter; and

3. Adopt such policies and procedures as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter consistent with applicable laws.

C. The public records officer shall publish his or her name and contact information in a way reasonably calculated to provide notice to the public, such as posting at the county’s primary place of business, posting on the county’s internet site, or including in county publications.

D. The department head will establish and follow rules for records management in their department. The department head will designate a contact for public records requests. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.050 Public records request.

A. The public records officer shall provide a set of uniform public disclosure request forms for use throughout the executive and legislative branches of county government. All requests for public records shall be presented in writing to the public records officer or to the public records designee of the department, agency, division, board, office, commission, or other county entity believed to be responsible for the records being requested. The request shall include the following:

1. The name and contact information of the person making the request for the record;

2. Reasonable notice that the request is for the disclosure of public records pursuant to the Public Records Act; and

3. Identification of the requested records by reference to names, title, subject matter, and time frames, or other means adequate for the public records officer or public records designee to locate the requested records.

B. Upon receiving a request, the public records officer or public records designee shall document the date the request was received.

C. Departments and offices of elected or appointed officials having records that have customarily been open to public inspection and/or copying may, at the option of the heads of such departments or offices, permit inspection and copying without requiring such requests in writing. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.060 Lists of individuals.

In the case of a request for records that may contain a list of individuals, prior to receiving the records, the person making the request must furnish an affidavit stating either:

A. That he/she is not requesting the list for commercial purposes; or

B. That he/she is specifically authorized or directed by law to obtain the list of individuals for commercial purposes, and that identifies such law. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.070 Review of denial.

A. Any person who objects to the initial denial or partial denial of a request for a public record subject to Chapter 42.56 RCW may petition in writing (including email) to the public records officer for a review of that decision. The petition shall include a copy of or reasonably identify the decision denying the request.

B. The public records officer shall promptly provide the petition and other relevant information to the prosecuting attorney or his/her designee.

C. The prosecuting attorney or designee shall consider the petition and affirm or reverse the denial within two business days after the public records officer’s receipt of the petition, or within such other time as the county and the requestor may mutually agree. (Ord. 2020-032 Exh. A; Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.080 Charges for records.

A. No fee shall be charged for the inspection of public records under this chapter.

B. No fee shall be charged for locating public documents and making them available for copying.

C. Pursuant to RCW 42.56.120(2)(b), the county is not calculating all actual costs for copying records because to do so would be unduly burdensome for the following reasons:

1. The county does not have the resources to conduct a study to determine actual copying costs for all of its records;

2. To conduct such a study would interfere with other essential agency functions. Therefore, the county shall charge fees for copies of records pursuant to the default fees in RCW 42.56.120(2)(b) and (c).

D. The county shall charge fees for customized services pursuant to RCW 42.56.120(3).

E. In addition to the fees and charges in subsections C and D of this section, the department may also require a deposit not to exceed 10 percent of the estimated cost of providing copies for a request. If the department 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 department is not obligated to fulfill the balance of the request. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.090 Exemptions.

Public records that are not subject to disclosure under state law, that are described as exempt by Chapter 42.56 RCW, or that are required to be withheld by any other law are exempt from disclosure under this chapter. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).

1.32.100 Index of public records.

A. Whatcom County government is comprised of many departments, agencies, divisions, boards, offices, and commissions which maintain separate records and incompatible record-keeping systems. The county’s records are voluminous, diverse, complex and stored in multiple locations and in multiple incompatible data bases. Therefore, it would be unduly burdensome and costly to the taxpayers, and would substantially interfere with effective and timely county operations, to develop an index of those records identified in RCW 42.56.070(3).

B. No county department, agency, division, board, office, commission, or other county entity is required to maintain an index of public records conforming to the requirements of RCW 42.56.070(3).

C. Any index maintained by an individual department, agency, division, board, office, commission, or other county entity shall be made available for public inspection and copying unless exempt from disclosure or made confidential by law. (Ord. 2018-034 Exh. A).