Public Records Policy

2.51.010 Purpose & Application

The purpose of this Chapter is to provide rules by which the County implements and ensures compliance with the provisions of Public Records Act for the County's public records. Courts are not "agencies" subject to the Public Records Act. The Chapter is not applicable to records maintained by any court subject to the access and/or dissemination under Washington Court Rules GR 31 and GR 31.1. This Chapter does

not apply to public records of the State of Washington, such as the records of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the Washington State Patrol (WSP), the Department of Licensing (DOL) and the Department of Corrections (DOC), that may be available to the County's employees by virtue of digital connectivity.

2.51.020 Interpretation & Construction

The provisions of this Chapter shall be liberally interpreted and construed to promote full access to the County's public records in order to assure continuing public confidence in government: provided, that when making public records available the County shall prevent unreasonable invasions of privacy, shall protect public records from damage or disorganization, and shall prevent excessive interference with essential government functions.

2.51.030 Public Records Available

Public records shall be made available for public inspection and copying pursuant to this Chapter, except as otherwise provided by law.

2.51.040 Exempt Records

The County shall publish and maintain a list of laws, other than those specifically set forth in the Public Records Act that the County believes exempt or otherwise prohibit disclosure of public records or information contained in public records. Public records and information exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act or any other law are exempt from disclosure under this Chapter whether or not such exemption is on any list of exemptions published and maintained by the County.

2.51.050 Public Records Officers & Coordinators Designated

  1. The County shall have one Public Records Officer who shall serve as the point of contact for members of the public who request disclosure of public records by the County. The Public Records Officer shall be responsible for the County's implementation of and compliance with this Chapter and the Public Records Act.
    All requests for the County's public records shall be made to the Public Records Officer, except that the Sheriff may designate one or more Assistant Public Records Officers to receive and process requests for public records made directly to the Sheriff's Office and who shall coordinate the processing of such requests with the Public Records Officer.
  2. Each Elected Official and Department Head of an office or department subject to this Chapter shall designate one or more Public Records Coordinators for his or her office or department. In the absence of a designation, the Elected Official or Department Head shall serve as the Public Records Coordinator. Public Records Coordinators shall be fully knowledgeable regarding the nature of all records maintained by the office or department and shall be responsible for locating, identifying and compiling records in response to public records requests, and providing responsive documents to the Public Records Officer, or for supervising inspection of requested records. Requests for public records shall not be made to or received by any Public Records Coordinator.

2.51.060 Public Records Requests - How Made

  1. Public records may be inspected and/or obtained under the following procedures:
    1. A request for public records shall be made to the Public Records Officer, who will assign the request to the appropriate Public Records Coordinators for the office(s) or department(s) having custody or control of the requested records. Unless provided otherwise in this Chapter, elected officials, department heads and employees shall not accept requests for public records and shall refer the requester to the Public Records Officer.
    2. A request for public records shall be made in writing and include the following information:
      1. Contact information that will enable the Public Records Officer to inform the requestor of the status of the request, contact the requestor if necessary to seek clarification of the request, and/or advise the requestor that responsive records are ready for inspection and/or dissemination;
    3. The date of the request;
    4. A clear indication that the document is a "Public Records Request;"
    5. Whether the request is to inspect the public records or for copies of public records, or both;
    6. A clear description of the public records requested for inspection and/or copying and the office or department having custody of the public records;
    7. If the request is for a list of individuals, a statement that the list will not be used for any commercial purposes or that the requester is authorized or directed by law to obtain the list of individuals for commercial purposes, with a specific reference to such law;
    8. Whether the request is for printed or digital copies of the public record; and
    9. The preferred delivery method for responsive records (e.g. mail, pick-up, etc.)
  2. If an elected official or department maintains indexed records specifically for public inspection and/or copying, the inspection and/or copying may be permitted in response to an oral request without the need for a public records request. However, any requester making a request specifically designated as a public records request shall be referred to the Public Records Officer. An oral request to inspect and/or copy indexed records shall require a written public records request to be made to the Public Records Officer if the request is for, or the response may include, any of the following:
    1. A list of individuals;
    2. Categorical requests not identifying a specific public record;
    3. Subjects of current, threatened or potential litigation;
    4. More than 100 pages;
    5. Reproduction of oversized documents such as maps, surveys, large format photographs or color reproduction; or
    6. Public records or information potentially exempt from disclosure.
  3. The County shall develop and maintain forms to facilitate public record requests. Use of the forms is not required.
  4. Requests for inspection or copying of public records maintained by an agency of the State of Washington or another government agency must be made to such agency and will be subject to that agency's rules and regulations, including required forms and fees.

2.51.070 Inspection of Public Records - Where & When

Public records shall be inspected at the offices of the elected official or department having custody or control of the records or, in the alternative, at the office of the Public Records Officer. Responsive public records will be available for inspection from 9 am to Noon and from 1 to 4 pm, Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays: provided, that there is no obligation to allow inspection immediately upon a demand. The Public Records Officer may request that the person seeking to inspect public records schedule an appointment for inspection.

2.51.080 Response to Public Records Requests

  1. The Public Records Officer shall, to the extent practicable, assist requesters in identifying the public records sought.
  2. There is no obligation to allow inspection or provide a copy of a public record on demand.
  3. Within five business days after receiving a public record request, the Public Records Officer shall respond to the request in writing. The Public Officer shall make one or more of the following responses:
    1. The request for inspection of public records is approved, with or without exemptions, and whether an appointment for inspection needs to be scheduled by the requester;
    2. The request for copies of public records is approved, with or without exemptions, and the copies of all requested records are enclosed with the response or are available for delivery or pick-up after payment of fees;
    3. The request has been received by the Public Records Officer, that additional time is needed to respond to the request, and stating a reasonable estimate of the time required to respond;
    4. The request has been received by the Public Records Officer and the records shall be provided on a partial or installment basis as the records are identified, located, assembled and/or made ready for inspection or copying and applicable exemptions, if any, have been reviewed, subject to payment of applicable fees; and/or
    5. The request is denied stating the specific exemption(s) prohibiting disclosure and a brief explanation of how the exemption applies to each withheld and redacted record.
    6. If requested prior to producing copies of records, a summary of all applicable charges and fees, and an estimate of total charges and fees to respond to the request.
  4. The Public Records Officer shall, at the time of providing responsive records, notify the requester of the responsive records or information in such records that are exempt from disclosure or require redaction, stating the specific exemption(s) prohibiting disclosure and a brief explanation of how the exemption applies to each withheld and redacted record.
  5. Additional time to respond to a request may be based upon the County's need to:
    1. Clarify the intent of the request;
    2. Identify, locate, assemble and/or make the records ready for inspection or disclosure;
    3. Notify third persons or agencies affected by the request; or
    4. Determine whether any of the records or information requested is exempt from disclosure and whether a denial should be made as to all or part of the request.
  6. When the Public Records Officer seeks clarification of a request, the Public Records Officer shall include a response as to those portions not needing clarification and include a reasonable estimate of the time required to provide the records requested. If a requester fails to clarify the request after receiving a response from the Public Records Officer seeking clarification the Public Records Officer need not respond further to the portions of the request needing clarification.
  7. If the Public Records Officer does not respond in writing within five working days after receipt of a request for public records, the requester shall be entitled to request review by the Prosecuting Attorney.
  8. If the Public Records Officer provides an estimate of the time required to respond to the request and the requester believes the amount of time stated is not reasonable, then the requester may request that the Prosecuting Attorney review the estimate of time.
  9. When a request for public records is received that concerns a subject believed or suspected to involve litigation that is pending, threatened or anticipated, the Public Records Officer shall promptly notify the Prosecuting Attorney of the request. Each page of the responsive records provided to the requester shall be sequentially numbered or otherwise uniquely identified. Copies of the request, all correspondence between the Public Records Officer and the requester, and copies of the public records provided to the requester shall be delivered to the Prosecuting Attorney. The requester shall not be charged for copies delivered to the Prosecuting Attorney.
  10. The Public Records Officer may deny a request for public records reasonably believed to be automatically generated by a computer program or script if the request is one of multiple requests from the requestor received within a twenty-four hour period and responding to the multiple requests would cause excessive interference with other essential functions of the County.

2.51.090 Copying & Delivery Fees

  1. Disallowed Charges.
    1. No fee will be charged for the inspection of a public record.
    2. No fee will be charged for locating public records in response to a request and making the records available for inspection or copying.
    3. No fee will be charged for searching for public records, redacting portions of a record which are exempt from disclosure, or preparing an index of exempt documents.
  2. Allowed Charges - Generally.
    1. A reasonable fee will be charged to reimburse the County for the costs of providing copies. The Public Records Officer may waive the fee for fewer than 100 pages on the basis that the expense of processing the payment exceeds the costs of providing the copies.
    2. A reasonable fee shall be charged to reimburse the County for the cost of delivering copies of public records to a requester, including the cost of packaging the copies for delivery and the cost of postage or delivery service.
    3. Any request for which the response will be more than 100 pages of documents, oversized documents, color photographs or reproductions, tape recordings and computer disks may be sent to a private copying service for copying, in which case the copying fee shall be the actual charge imposed for copying, plus applicable taxes and shipping costs.
    4. The Public Records Officer may require that all copying and delivery fees be paid in advance of the release of the copies.
  3. Statutory Charges. The fee for searching records, research, and/or providing a copy of a public record may be set by statute. Where the state or federal law sets a fee, that fee will be charged. Court papers (RCW 3.62.060), duplication of electronic tapes of a court proceeding (RCW 3.62.060); traffic accident reports (RCW 46.52.085); and criminal history information (RCW 10.97.100) are examples.
  4. Unless a fee is fixed by another federal, state or county ordinance, the following fee schedule is applicable:
    1. Printed Copies 8.5 by 14 inches page, or less - $0.15 per page 
    2. Scanned Pages - $0.10 per page 
    3. Copies 8.5 by 14 inches greater than 11 by 17 inches page - $0.30 per page
    4. Maps and Plans - $15 per page
    5. Greenbar computer printouts - $1 per page
    6. Audio Tapes - $20 per cassette tape
    7. Fax (8.5 by 11 inches only) - $1 per page
    8. Postage - Actual expense
    9. Boxes - Actual expense
    10. Envelopes - $0.50 each
    11. CD-DVD Disc - $1 each
    12. Other digital Storage Media - Actual Cost
    13. Outside Copying Service - Actual expense
    14. Email Attachments/Files - $0.05 per every 4 Files
    15. Electronic Records - $0.10 per gigabyte
    16. Customized Services - See DCC 2.51.140
  5. The Public Records Officer may require a deposit in an amount not to exceed ten % of the estimated cost of providing requested public records. If the Public Records Officer responds to a request on a partial or installment basis, the requester shall be charged for each part or installment responding to the request. If a partial or installment response is not claimed or reviewed by the requester, the Public Records officer is not obligated to fulfill the balance of the request.
  6. In lieu of the fee schedule outlined in section D, the Public Records Officer may choose to impose a flat $2 fee for the fulfillment of a public records request. This fee shall only be levied if the Public Records Officer reasonably estimates that the actual cost of records would be equal to or greater than the flat fee.
  7. If the Public Records Officer chooses to apply a flat fee to an initial installment, the flat fee must be used for all subsequent installments.

2.51.100 Protection of Public Records

The Public Records Officer and Public Records Coordinators shall, to the extent practicable, insure that records requested are not misplaced or misfiled by members of the public during inspections and not removed from the County office. Original public records shall not be released to the public for any purpose.

2.51.110 Requested Records - Scheduled for Destruction

If a public record request is made at a time when a record exists, but the record is scheduled for destruction in the near future, the Public Records Officer shall direct that the record be retained until the request is resolved.

2.51.120 Searching Public Records - Back-up & Security Copies

In order to prevent excessive interference with essential functions of the County, the County shall not search backup or security systems for copies of public records when the originals of such records have been identified, located and are available for inspection and/or copying.

2.51.130 Review of Denied Request

  1. Any person who objects to the denial of a request for a public record may petition the Prosecuting Attorney for prompt review of such decision by delivering a written request to the Prosecuting Attorney and including all written responses by the Public Records Officer.
  2. The Prosecuting Attorney shall affirm, modify or reverse the denial in writing within two business days following receipt of the written request for review.
  3. A requester's administrative remedies shall not be deemed exhausted until the Prosecuting Attorney has made a written decision or until the close of the second business day following the Prosecuting Attorney's receipt of the written request, whichever occurs first.
  4. The County shall be deemed to have made a final decision denying a request for public records only after a review conducted under this section has been completed.

2.51.140 Digital Information

For purposes of this Chapter, two classifications of digital information are recognized: digital records and customized services.

  1. Digital Records. The County produces and maintains data in digital records to maximize efficiency in fulfilling its basic public service functions. These digital records relate to the operation and conduct of County government and typically include financial data, property records, property assessment records, filed documents, maps, etc.
    1. Digital records are public records subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act and this Chapter, unless exempt from disclosure under state or federal law or the request is for proprietary data which the County has obtained under a licensing agreement that does not permit disclosure to third parties.
    2. At the option of the Public Records Officer, digital records may be printed and provided in paper format. If the digital record is large and/or not capable of being printed in an understandable format, then the digital record may be provided in the digital format in which the record is maintained by the County. The County does not have the obligation to convert a digital record to a digital format that is different than the format maintained by the County.
    3. Fees for providing digital records in digital form shall be based on the actual cost of the media used to provide the records. Overhead for information system acquisition and maintenance shall not be included in such fees.
    4. The County does not warrant or in any way guarantee the accuracy or completeness of digital records. Requesters receiving digital records shall be required to sign an acknowledgement of such disclaimer.
  2. Customized Services. Customized Services do not exist at the time of a request. These products must be created by performing any of the following: acquiring data, running custom queries, programming software, testing models, reformatting data, or configuring the product in order to respond to a specific request. Custom digital products are not public records subject to disclosure.
    1. All requests for custom digital products will be made to the appropriate elected official or department head. If more than one office or department is involved, the request shall be made to the Management Information Services administrator, who shall refer requests to the appropriate offices and/or departments and provide a coordinated response.
    2. A request may be denied for any of the following reasons:
      1. The private sector has the ability to produce the requested product at a competitive price;
      2. The existing workload of the affected staff is such that the requested work cannot be accommodated;
      3. The request is for information that is exempt or prohibited from disclosure or otherwise confidential under state or federal law;
      4. The request is for proprietary data which the County has legally obtained under a license agreement that prohibits disclosure, distribution or publication; or
      5. The County does not have the hardware, software or personnel resources to respond to the request.
  3. All fees shall be estimated in writing prior to providing the custom digital product. Payment of estimated fees must be received before any work will be performed. Fees shall consist of the following:
    1. Design and processing costs to the County, including any charge-back fees paid to another public agency or service bureau;
    2. Actual costs of salary and benefits for the employee or employees required for consulting and/or producing the custom digital electronic product;
    3. Reasonable overhead charges;
    4. Delivery charges;
    5. Actual costs for magnetic tapes, computer paper, microfiche, disks, and/or other media used to provide the custom electronic product;
    6. Any consulting fee, subcontractor fee or service cost incurred as a result of obtaining secondary services to respond to the request; and
  4. A requester may appeal a denial or the fees required for production of a customized service to the Board of County Commissioners. The appeal shall be made in writing within ten business days after the requester's receipt of a written denial or a statement of the fees required. The appeal must state with specificity the relief sought and the reasons supporting the relief. The Board shall consider the appeal at a public hearing within twenty days after the appeal is received. The offices and departments affected by the appeal shall have an opportunity to respond to the appeal in writing. The requester and the affected offices and departments shall be given notice of the public hearing at least 48 hours in advance and shall have a right to make oral arguments to the Board. All deliberations shall be public unless information discussed is exempt or prohibited from disclosure or otherwise confidential under state or federal law. The decision of the Board shall be in writing and shall be issued within twenty days after the public hearing.
  5. A written agreement with the requester shall be required prior to any work on and delivery of a customized service. The written agreement shall, at a minimum, include:
    1. A description of the customized service to be produced;
    2. All Fees;
    3. Whether the customized service will be updated and how often;
    4. A warranty disclaimer, as approved by the prosecuting attorney; and
    5. Any other terms and conditions required by the prosecuting attorney.
  6. The County will comply with the terms of all legally acquired software licenses, copyrighted materials, and license agreements.
  7. The County may at any time enter into an agreement with a public or private entity for sharing in the production costs of a customized service.
  8. Once a customized service is produced it becomes a public record subject to the Public Records Act. The County reserves the right to purge the product from its public records in accordance with applicable laws.

2.51.150 Copies of Chapter Available to Public

Copies of this Chapter and public records request forms shall be available to and provided to the public, without cost, at each County office. Digital copies shall be made available to the public on the County's website.

View a List of the Public Record Exemptions (PDF).