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Public Records Request Administrative Policy

Public Records Request Administrative Policy

A. PURPOSE

To establish the policy that Sno-Isle Libraries (Library) will follow in order to provide full access to public records, assistance to requestors, and timely responses as required by RCW 42.56.100, while at the same time protecting public records from damage or disorganization, preventing disclosure of exempt or confidential information, and preventing excessive interference with other essential functions of the Library.

B. SCOPE

This policy applies to all Library employees and officials, including the Library Board of Trustees.

Except as mandated by law, the guidelines set forth in this policy are discretionary and advisory only and shall not impose any affirmative duty on the Library. The Library reserves the right to apply and interpret this policy as it sees fit, and to revise or change the policy at any time, without further action by the Library Board of Trustees. Failure to comply with any provision of these rules shall not result in any liability on the part of the Library other than as set forth in the PRA.

C. IMPLEMENTATION

1. DEFINITIONS

  1. "Exempt" means that a law allows or requires the withholding of a record, or a portion thereof, from disclosure.
  2. "Fullest assistance" means a timely and thorough action and response to a public records request within the monthly time period budgeted for employees to respond to public records in order to avoid unreasonable interference with employees' essential job functions.
  3. "Public Records Officer" or "PRO" means any such person as designated by the Executive Director for processing public records requests and is the person responsible for assisting departments with public records requests and responses.
  4. "Public record" means any record containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by the Library regardless of physical form, characteristics, or storage type.
  5. "Redact" refers to the method of protecting from public viewing the portion of a record that is statutorily exempt from public disclosure.
  6. "Withholding log" is a list of records or portions thereof that are responsive to a public records request but are exempt from disclosure, together with a reference to the specific record; the date of the record; the author; the subject; to whom the record is addressed and copied; the number of pages to which the statutory exemption is being applied; and a brief explanation of how the exemption applies to the record.

2. PROCEDURE

  1. Requests for records. The Library encourages requests for public records be made via email to the Public Records Officer at publicrecordsofficer@sno-isle.org. Requests may also be submitted in person at any Sno-Isle community library, or by mail or fax:
    Sno-Isle Libraries Service Center

    7312 35th Ave NE

    Marysville WA 98271

    FAX: 360-651-7151

    Oral requests will be accepted and forwarded to the Public Records Officer. Records requests received after hours will be considered "received" on the next business day.

  2. Response. Within five business days of receiving a valid/proper public records request, the Public Records Officer must respond to the requestor in one or more of the following ways:
    • Acknowledging that the Library has received the request and providing a reasonable estimate of the time required to respond to the request, including an estimated date for a response;
    • Requesting clarification of any element of the request considered broad or unclear in order to enable the Library to respond to the request;
    • Making the record available for inspection or copying in person, or transmitting copies of requested records by mail, email, or through online portals;
    • Notifying the requestor of any fees associated with their request, according to Fees section below;
    • Denying the public records request, notifying the requestor of the denial, and providing a written statement of the specific reasons for the denial.
      Additional time required to respond to a request may be based upon the need to clarify what information the requestor is seeking, collaborate with the requestor to ensure a successful search, to locate and assemble the information requested, to notify third parties or agencies affected by the request, or to determine whether any part of the information requested is exempt and that a denial should be made as to all or part of the request and to prepare redaction logs as appropriate. If the requestor fails to clarify the request within thirty (30) days, the Library need not respond and the request will be closed as abandoned. In this case, the Library will send a closure letter to the requestor. However, if a portion of the request is clear,  the Library will respond to that portion. Those portions that remain unclarified after 30 days will be considered abandoned and closed.
      The Library may receive requests for public records identified in terms of "any and all documents related to" or similar language. Library staff shall not be obligated to interpret such a broad, general request in order to decipher which specific documents may be of interest to the requestor and the PRA does not allow a requestor to search through the Library's files for records which cannot be identified or described to the Library. When a request uses a vague phrase such as "all records relating to," the PRO shall seek clarification to determine what identifiable records are being sought; or deny the request, notify the requestor of the denial, and provide a written statement of the specific reasons for the denial.
  3. Third Party Notice. If applicable, the Library will provide notice to third parties whose rights may be affected by the disclosure in accordance with RCW 42.56.540.
  4. Availability of Records. The Public Records Officer shall make available for inspection and copying all nonexempt public records in accordance with the PRA and within the allocated maximum monthly budgeted time set forth in Time Spent section below.
  5. Records Index. Sno-Isle Libraries is a multi-county organization with many locations and departments which maintain separate records in incompatible record-keeping systems. The Library's records are voluminous, diverse, complex, and stored in multiple locations and in multiple incompatible databases. As a result, it would be unduly burdensome and costly to the Snohomish County and Island County taxpayers, and would substantially interfere with effective and timely Library operations, to develop and maintain an index of those records identified in RCW 42.56.070(3).
  6. Existing, Identifiable Records. A requestor must request an "existing, identifiable record" or "class of records" before the Library must respond to it. An "identifiable record" is one that Library staff can reasonably locate. Requestors are not allowed to search through Library files for records which cannot be reasonably identified or described to the Library. However, a requestor is not required to identify the exact record requested.The Library has no obligation to create records. Requests are subject to the records which existed as of the date the request was submitted. Requests will not apply to records which come into existence at any time after the request is made, including those which may come into existence while the request is open. If, after informing the requestor that all responsive records have been provided, the Public Records Officer discovers additional responsive records existed at the time of the request, it shall promptly inform the requestor of the additional records, provide a brief explanation of the circumstances, and provide them on an expedited basis. In general, an "identifiable record" is not a request for information. For example, asking "what policies the Library has for handling discrimination complaints" is merely a request for "information." A request to inspect or copy the Library's policies and procedures for handling discrimination complaints would be a request for an "identifiable record." Similarly, the Library is not required to conduct research for a requestor.
  7. Retention and Destruction of Public Records. The Washington State Archivist has developed retention schedules for local government records including e-mail and electronic records. Records of the Library should be retained and destroyed consistent with the retention schedules. If a public records request is made at a time when a record exists, but is scheduled for destruction in the near future, the person with possession and control of the record shall retain the record until the request is resolved. Backup copies of public records created by information services personnel are not a substitute for records retention. Retention is the responsibility of the creator of the record, sender of the record, and the records retention office. Full and partial backups are generally available only for the most recent 30-day period and only used for library business continuity and recovery. These files are not individually indexed and identifiable for specific record searches. Therefore, requests for records from backup files shall require significantly longer response times needed due to the complex nature of discovery, review, and processing time to provide these records. Customized service fees may apply.
  8. Inspection. If the requestor indicates a desire to view or inspect requested records, the Library shall provide the option of viewing through an online portal or by providing a physical space and location for inspection. Records provided via an online portal would enable viewing, inspection and downloading at the requestor's convenience. Viewing and inspection at a physical location would require scheduling the inspection at the Sno-Isle Library Service Center a mutually agreed-upon time during regular business hours to ensure there is no excessive interference with other essential Library functions or unreasonable disruption of Library operations. A Library employee will be assigned to observe and document physical inspections. No member of the public may remove, alter, or disassemble any documents made available for physical inspection. The requestor may indicate records to have the Library copy.
  9. Copies. A requestor may choose to make copies or have copies of records made instead of inspecting them. Charges for photocopies or electronically produced copies shall be made in accordance with RCW 42.56.070 and 42.56.120. The Library may require a deposit of up to ten percent (10%) of the estimated costs of copying all the records. The fee structures can be found in Fees section below.
  10. Request Types. Routine requests are those such as meeting minutes, Resolutions, or other documents routinely produced and readily available for review. All requests not otherwise identified as large or complex shall be considered routine requests and will be handled in the normal course of business consistent with these policies and without undue delay caused by the processing of large or complex requests. Non-routine, large, or complex requests are those in which: 1) there is a question about disclosure, in whole or in part; 2) the information requires more than a few minutes to compile; or 3) the records requested come from more than one department or source. In determining request types, the Public Records Officer or designee should consider relevant factors including, but not limited to: 1) the general, expansive, or all-inclusive nature of the request; 2) the number of departments involved; 3) the location of records and available method of searching records; 4) the potential number of records implicated; 5) the rights of third parties; 6) the need for clarification of the request; 7) administrative tasks necessary to process the request; 8) the amount of time needed to review documents for applicable exemptions; 9) the need for legal review of the public records request; and 10) the format of relevant records.
  11. Installments. When the request is for a large number of records, the Public Records Officer shall provide access for inspection and copying in installments, if applicable. A requestor may always choose to narrow or clarify a large or complex request. A requestor may always make a new public records request that more specifically identifies records needed and otherwise qualifies as a routine request, rescinding their narrow or complex request.
  12. Multiple requests. In general, public records requests will be handled in the order they are received. If the Library receives a request that results in a small amount of responsive records and the Library believes it can fulfill that request in a short amount of time, then the Library may fill that request before others. In general, should there be multiple requests by the same requestor, the request that was first received will be processed first and the other requests will be started after the previous request is complete. Further, should there be two requests in a month by the same requestor, the second request shall be processed after processing of any request pending from a prior month and/or requests from requestors making only a single request. For requestors making a third request in a month (or more), those requests shall be prioritized behind any pending requests from requestors making fewer than three requests that month. If the maximum monthly employee hours is met in a month, employees shall cease working on public records requests for the duration of the month in order to perform their essential job duties, unless those employees find themselves with extra time in a month or at the discretion of the Public Records Officer or their designee. Such delay will not interfere with the foregoing "first in time, first in right" prioritization of requests.
  13. Time spent. Fulfilling public records requests are an essential function of the Public Records Officer and their designees. The Library finds it reasonable to dedicate no more than forty (40) total hours a month to respond to public records requests. The amount defined is based on the amount of other core responsibilities outlined in an employee's job description. These allocations may be altered from time to time at the discretion of the Executive Director.
  14. Exemptions. The Act provides that a number of records are exempt from public inspection and copying. In addition, documents are exempt from disclosure if any other statute exempts or prohibits disclosure. Additional statutes that may exempt public records from disclosure include but are not limited to the following statutes referenced below. If any part of a record is exempt from disclosure, the Public Records Officer shall provide to the requestor a written communication identifying the record or portion withheld, the specific exemption relied upon and the authority for the exemption, and briefly explaining how the exemption applies to the record or portion withheld, including enough information for a requestor to make a threshold determination of whether the claimed exemption is proper. If only portions of a record are exempt from disclosure, the Public Records Officer shall redact the exempt portions and provide the nonexempt portions. The documentation described in this section shall be presented in the form of a withholding log. The Library is prohibited by statute from disclosing lists of individuals for commercial purposes.
  15. Closing the request. A request will be considered closed when:
    • A diligent search for the requested records has been made and all responsive records have been produced and, if applicable, a withholding log has been provided;
    • A requestor has not, within thirty (30) days of notification that records are available for inspection or copying, inspected or requested copies of the records;
    • A requestor has not, within thirty (30) days of notification that copies have been made, claimed and paid for copies; or
    • A requestor has not, within thirty (30) days of a request for clarification, provided clarification. The requestor shall be notified in writing of the closure of their request.
  16. Petition. Any person who objects to the initial denial or partial denial of a public records request may petition in writing to the Library's Executive Director for a review of the decision. The petition shall include a copy of or reasonably identify the written statement by the Public Records Officer denying the request. The Library's Executive Director shall promptly consider the petition and either affirm or reverse the denial within ten (10) business days following receipt of the petition.
  17. Fees. The Library has adopted the state legislature's approved fees and costs for most Library records, as authorized in RCW 42.56.120:
    • No fee for inspection of records on agency public internet web site, official online public records portal, or scheduled inspection at a Library office or location. (While there is no fee for inspection, other fees may apply);
    • No fee for accessing or downloading records the agency routinely posts on its public internet web site, unless the requestor asks the agency for records to be provided through other means. (The following copy charges below then apply.);
    • 15 cents/page for photocopies or printed electronic copies;
    • 10 cents/page for records scanned into electronic format;
    • 5 cents for every four electronic files or attachments uploaded to an email, cloud storage service or other electronic delivery system;
    • 10 cents/per gigabyte for transmitting records electronically; or
    • The actual cost of digital media device, container used to mail the copies and the actual certified mail postage or delivery charge;
    • The actual cost of data compilations prepared or accessed as a customized service. (Cost is in addition to the above fees for copies.)The Library does not charge for public inspection of a record or for locating a record. The Library may waive fees for a request of 20 pages or less.Upon request, the Library will provide a summary of the applicable charges before copies are made and the requestor may revise the request to reduce the number of copies.Before beginning to make copies available, the Library may require a deposit of up to ten percent (10%) of the estimated costs of copying, scanning, or transmitting all the records selected by the requestor. The Library may also require payment of the remainder of the copying/scanning/transmitting costs before providing all the records, or the payment of the costs of copying/scanning/transmitting an installment before providing that installment. Payment may be made by cash, check, or money order made payable to the Sno-Isle Libraries. Credit/debit cards are not accepted for payment of copies.
  18. Outside Vendors. The Library is not required to copy/scan records at its own facilities. The Library, at its discretion, can send the project to a commercial copying/scanning center and bill the requestor for the amount charged by the vendor. The Library can arrange with the requestor to pay the vendor directly.
  19. Customized Service. According to RCW 42.56.120, the Library may assess a customized service charge for exceptionally large records requests that require staff and resources beyond what is normally available to the Library. The fee is in addition to the authorized copying costs, and may include reimbursement for the actual costs of providing the records. A customized service charge is warranted if:
    • Fulfilling the request requires extensive use of information technology resources to identify, locate, format, or translate a record, or provide electronic access services; or
    • The request requires specialized analytical, research, or supervisory assistance to identify, locate, compile, or transfer the records.

Associated Polices and Laws

Washington State

  • Washington State RCW 64.111. Documents regarding discipline/retirement of judges.
  • Washington State RCW 64.113. Confidentiality- violations.
  • Washington State RCW 24.550. Information on sex offenders to public.
  • Washington State RCW 60.060. Privileged communications.
  • Washington State RCW 60.070. Court-ordered mediation records.
  • Washington State RCW 68.140. Victims compensation claims.
  • Washington State RCW 69A.030(4). Child victims and witnesses- protection of identity.
  • Washington State RCW 69A.050. Rights of child victims and witnesses – addresses.
  • Washington State RCW 75.050. Records of Dispute Resolution Centers.
  • Washington State RCW 51.050. Disclosing transaction of grand jury.
  • Washington State RCW 51.060. Disclosure of grand jury deposition.
  • Washington State RCW 02.100. Reproductive privacy.
  • Washington State RCW 82.170. Financial institution records- wrongful disclosure .
  • Washington State RCW 27.090. Grand jury testimony/evidence.
  • Washington State RCW 27.160. Grand jury reports- release to public only by judicial order.
  • Washington State RCW 52.100. Records identifying child victim of sexual assault.
  • Washington State RCW 77.210. Records of persons committed for criminal insanity.
  • Washington State RCW 97.040. Criminal history information released must include disposition.
  • Washington State RCW 97.050. Conviction and criminal history information.
  • Washington State RCW 97.060. Deletion of certain criminal history record information, conditions.
  • Washington State RCW 97.070. Disclosure of identity of suspect to victim.
  • Washington State RCW 97.080. Inspection of criminal record by subject.
  • Washington State RCW 185C.280. Crisis residential centers notice to parent about child.
  • Washington State RCW 34.115. Court dependency proceedings.
  • Washington State RCW 40.217. Juveniles adjudicated of sex offenses - release of information.
  • Washington State RCW 50.010. Maintenance of and access to juvenile records.
  • Washington State RCW 50.050. Juvenile offenders.
  • Washington State RCW 50.100. Juvenile/children records not relating to offenses.
  • Washington State RCW 60.020. Missing children information.
  • Washington State RCW 04.405. Confidentiality of information gained by CPA.
  • Washington State RCW 19.060. Notification to clients by counselors.
  • Washington State RCW 19.180. Confidential communications with counselors.
  • Washington State RCW 02.115. Licensing Information.
  • Washington State RCW 215.020. Destruction of personal health and financial information.
  • Washington State RCW 215.030. Compliance with federal rules.
  • Washington State RCW 04.175. Name and address of domestic violence victim in marriage records.
  • Washington State RCW 12.170. Reports of child abuse/neglect with courts.
  • Washington State RCW 23.050. Child support orders.
  • Washington State RCW 23.120. Child support records.
  • Washington State RCW 26A.050. Uniform Parentage Act - data privacy.
  • Washington State RCW 26A.355. Confidentiality of genetic testing.
  • Washington State RCW 33.330. Sealed court adoption Records.
  • Washington State RCW 33.340. Agency adoption records.
  • Washington State RCW 33.343. Access to adoption records by confidential intermediary.
  • Washington State RCW 33.345. Release of name of court for adoption or relinquishment.
  • Washington State RCW 33.380. Adoption - identity of birth parents confidential.
  • Washington State RCW 44.010. Privacy of reports on child abuse and neglect.
  • Washington State RCW 44.020(19). Unfounded allegations of child abuse or neglect.
  • Washington State RCW 44.030. Reports of child abuse/neglect.
  • Washington State RCW 44.125. Right to review and amend abuse finding- confidentiality.
  • Washington State RCW 53.070. Records identifying the location of archaeological sites.
  • Washington State RCW 08.710. Voter registration records- certain information exempt.
  • Washington State RCW 08.720. Voter registration records- place of registration confidential.
  • Washington State RCW Chapter 14. Preservation and destruction of public records.
  • Washington State RCW 23.070(4). Municipal officer disclosure of confidential information prohibited.
  • Washington State RCW 41.030(7). Identity of local government whistleblower.
  • Washington State RCW 41.045. Nondisclosure of protected information (whistleblower).
  • Washington State RCW Chapter 56. Public Records Act.
  • Washington State RCW 52.080. Traffic accident reports – confidentiality.
  • Washington State RCW 52.083. Traffic accident reports - available to interested parties.
  • Washington State RCW 52.120. Traffic crimes and infractions- confidential use by police and courts.
  • Washington State RCW 52.130(2). Abstract of driving record.
  • Washington State RCW 61.506. BAC and blood test results.
  • Washington State RCW 02.065. Insurance commissioner.
  • Washington State RCW 62.101. Local government insurance transactions - access to information.
  • Washington State RCW 13.060. Access to employment security records by local government agencies.
  • Washington State RCW 13.100. Disclosure of non-identifiable information or with consent.
  • Washington State RCW 28.070. Workers compensation records.
  • Washington State RCW 36.060. Physician information on injured workers.
  • Washington State RCW 70.040. No duty to disclose record of common law lien.
  • Washington State RCW 50.105. Autopsy reports.
  • Washington State RCW 50.320. Dental identification records - available to law enforcement agencies.
  • Washington State RCW Chapter 50. Uniform controlled substance.
  • Washington State RCW Chapter 02. Medical records - access and disclosure - entire chapter.
  • Washington State RCW 05.170. Child mortality reviews by local health departments.
  • Washington State RCW 24.022. Public health agency information regarding sexually transmitted disease investigations – confidential.
  • Washington State RCW 24.024. Transcripts and records of hearings regarding sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Washington State RCW 28.020. Local health department TB records – confidential.
  • Washington State RCW 48.100. Jail records and booking photos.
  • Washington State RCW 58.055. Birth certificates - certain information confidential.
  • Washington State RCW 58.104. Vital records, research confidentiality safeguards.
  • Washington State RCW 123.075. Client records of domestic violence programs.
  • Washington State RCW 125.065. Records of rape crisis centers in discovery.
  • Washington State RCW 05.425. Notice of release or transfer of committed person after offense dismissal.
  • Washington State RCW 05.445. Release of mental health information to Dept, of Corrections.
  • Washington State RCW 05.620. Authorization requirements and access to court records.
  • Washington State RCW 24.035(5)(g). Mental health information system.
  • Washington State RCW 71.34.200. Mental health treatment of minors.
  • Washington State RCW 34.335. Court records for minors related to mental health treatment.
  • Washington State RCW 14.070. Records regarding developmental disability.
  • Washington State RCW 09.345. Notice to public about sex offenders.
  • Washington State RCW 09.585(3). Disclosure of inmate records to local agencies.
  • Washington State RCW 04.030. Veterans discharge papers.
  • Washington State RCW 04.060. Applicants and recipients of public assistance.
  • Washington State RCW 04.520. Food stamp program confidentiality.
  • Washington State RCW 09.900. Medical assistance.
  • Washington State RCW 13A.045. Financial information of adoptive parents.
  • Washington State RCW 13.280. Children in out-of-home placements.
  • Washington State RCW 20.280. Child support enforcement - local agency cooperation, information.
  • Washington State RCW 34.095. Abuse of vulnerable adults - confidentiality of investigations and reports.
  • Washington State RCW 32.330. Disclosure of tax information.
  • Washington State RCW 36.389. Confidential income data in property tax records held by assessor.
  • Washington State RCW 40.020. Confidential income data supplied to assessor regarding real property.

Federal Statutes and Regulations

Process

This administrative policy is reviewed every four (4) years by the Human Resources Manager (or designee). The review is completed in conjunction with the Sno-Isle Libraries Board’s review of the Public Records Request Policy. Upon completion of the review, this policy is revised or reaffirmed.

Policy History

Date approved: February 11, 2021
Next review date: 2025
Adopted: September 25, 2019

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