Public Records Request FAQ

Public Records Request FAQ

How are the five business days calculated when responding to a public records request?

RCW 42.56.520 provides that a response to a request for public records must be made by the agency within five business days. The day the request is received does not count as one of the five days. RCW 1.12.040 provides: "The time within which an act is to be done, as herein provided, shall be computed by excluding the first day, and including the last, unless the last day is a holiday, Saturday, or Sunday, and then it is also excluded." The general statute appears to be of application throughout the state statutes.

What public records are exempt from disclosure?

Each record must be reviewed to determine whether it is exempt from public disclosure. Most exemptions are listed in RCW 42.56.230-42.56.480. However, certain statutes outside public records laws also provide exemptions from disclosure or prohibitions on disclosure of particular records. When a city denies a request for disclosure of a public record, the specific statutory exemption on which the denial is based must be identified along with a brief explanation of how the exemption applies.

Do all City records have to be stored at City Hall?

No. According to WAC 414-12-020 and WAC 414-12-010, regulations that govern custody of public records, public records are the property of the City and should be stored in the office in which they were originally filed. This may not always be the office of the clerk, but may be a branch office of the City in some cases. The security of the records must be maintained wherever they are stored.

Must the City copy records at no charge for non-profit organizations?

No. Public records law allows a city to recover a reasonable charge for providing copies of public records to any person. This applies to nonprofit corporations as well as private citizens or businesses. The charge may not exceed the amount necessary to reimburse the agency for its actual costs and may not include staff time needed to retrieve the documents.

Must the City agree to provide copies of "future records"?

No. A future record is one that does not exist today but may be created in the future. If there is no "writing," there can be no "public record" and, accordingly, there can be no requirement to allow inspection or copying as a result of a current request. Obviously, if a future request is made and the record then exists, the request will need to be considered. The City's obligation is confined to existing records.

Must the City create a document when responding to a specific request for public disclosure?

No. Although there is no Washington case that has decided whether a duty to create an otherwise non-existent document exists under RCW 42.56, there is federal law on this issue. Under the Freedom of Information Act, an agency is not required to create a record which is otherwise non-existent.

If a record I requested is denied, what are my options?

Review of Denials of Public Records

1. Requesting a review of denials of public records. RCW 42.56.520 allows for review of denials of public records. Any person who objects to the initial denial or partial denial of a records request may petition in writing to the City Clerk's office for a review of that decision. The petition shall include a copy of, or reasonably identify, the written statement denying the request.

2. Consideration of petition for review. The public records officer or his/her designee will immediately consider the petition and either affirm or reverse the denial within two business days following the City Clerk's office receipt of the petition, or within such other time as the City Clerk's office and the requestor mutually agree to.