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Public Records Request Administrative Policy

Public Records Request Administrative Policy

A. PURPOSE

Sno-Isle Libraries (the Library) is committed to providing full access to public records in accordance with the Washington State Public Records Act - Chapter 42.56 RCW (PRA).

This policy augments the Public Records Policy approved by the Board of Trustees on September 23, 2019, and supersedes any and all of the Library's prior public records administrative policies or procedures.

The purpose of this document is to establish the policy that the Library will follow in order to provide full access to public records, fullest 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.

The Library shall not distinguish among persons requesting records, and such persons shall not be required to provide information as to the purpose of the request unless necessary to determine whether an exemption applies or whether a list of individuals is being requested for commercial purposes.

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. "Library" means Sno-Isle Libraries.
  2. "Employee" means the Board of Trustees, Executive Director, Department Directors and all other Library staff.
  3. "Exempt" means that a law allows or requires the withholding of a record, or a portion thereof, from disclosure.
  4. "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.
  5. "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.
  6. "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.
  7. "Redact" refers to the method of protecting from public viewing the portion of a record that is statutorily exempt from public disclosure.
  8. "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 or in writing on a Request to Inspect Public Records form, which is available on the Library's website. 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 Section q. Fees 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 request will not be closed and the Library will respond to the portions that are clear.

    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 by forth in Section m. Time Spent 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 Section p. Fees 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 in Exhibit A attached hereto.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.

 

EXHIBIT A

RCWs

  • RCW 2.64.111 Documents regarding discipline/retirement of judges
  • RCW 2.64.113 Confidentiality- violations
  • RCW 4.24.550 Information on sex offenders to public
  • RCW 5.60.060 Privileged communications
  • RCW 5.60.070 Court-ordered mediation records
  • RCW 7.68.140 Victims compensation claims
  • RCW 7.69A.030(4) Child victims and witnesses- protection of identity
  • RCW 7.69A.050 Rights of child victims and witnesses - addresses
  • RCW 7.75.050 Records of Dispute Resolution Centers
  • RCW 9.51.050 Disclosing transaction of grand jury
  • RCW 9.51.060 Disclosure of grand jury deposition
  • RCW 9.02.100 Reproductive privacy
  • RCW 9A.82.170 Financial institution records- wrongful disclosure RCW 10.27.090 Grand jury testimony/evidence
  • RCW 10.27.160 Grand jury reports- release to public only by judicial order
  • RCW 10.29.030 Organized crime special inquiry judge
  • RCW 10.29.090 Records of special inquiry judge proceedings
  • RCW 10.52.100 Records identifying child victim of sexual assault
  • RCW 10.77.210 Records of persons committed for criminal insanity RCW 10.97.040 Criminal history information released must include disposition
  • RCW 10.97.050 Conviction and criminal history information RCW 10.97.060 Deletion of certain criminal history record information, conditions
  • RCW 10.97.070 Disclosure of identity of suspect to victim RCW 10.97.080 Inspection of criminal record by subject
  • RCW 13.32A.090 Crisis residential centers notice to parent about child RCW 13.34.115 Court dependency proceedings
  • RCW 13.40.217 Juveniles adjudicated of sex offenses - release of information
  • RCW 13.50.010 Maintenance of and access to juvenile records RCW 13.50.050 Juvenile offenders
  • RCW 13.50.100 Juvenile/children records not relating to offenses RCW 13.60.020 Missing children information
  • RCW 13.70.090 Citizen juvenile review board- confidentiality
  • RCW 15.120.050 Industrial hemp research program
  • RCW 18.04.405 Confidentiality of information gained by CPA
  • RCW 18.19.060 Notification to clients by counselors
  • RCW 18.19.180 Confidential communications with counselors
  • RCW 19.02.115 Licensing Information
  • RCW 19.215.020 Destruction of personal health and financial information
  • RCW 19.215.030 Compliance with federal rules
  • RCW 26.04.175 Name and address of domestic violence victim in marriage records
  • RCW 26.12.170 Reports of child abuse/neglect with courts
  • RCW 26.23.050 Child support orders
  • RCW 26.23.120 Child support records
  • RCW 26.26.041 Uniform Parentage Act - protection of participants RCW 26.26.450 Confidentiality of genetic testing
  • RCW 26.33.330 Sealed court adoption Records
  • RCW 26.33.340 Agency adoption records
  • RCW 26.33.343 Access to adoption records by confidential intermediary RCW 26,33.345 Release of name of court for adoption or relinquishment
  • RCW 26.33.380 Adoption - identity of birth parents confidential
  • RCW 26.44.010 Privacy of reports on child abuse and neglect
  • RCW 26.44.020(19) Unfounded allegations of child abuse or neglect RCW 26.44.030 Reports of child abuse/neglect
  • RCW 26.44.125 Right to review and amend abuse finding- confidentiality
  • RCW 27.53.070 Records identifying the location of archaeological sites RCW 29A.08.720 Voter registration records- place of registration confidential
  • RCW 29A.08.710 Voter registration records- certain information exempt
  • RCW Chapter 40.14 Preservation and destruction of public records
  • RCW 42.23.070(4) Municipal officer disclosure of confidential information prohibited
  • RCW 42.41.030(7) Identity of local government whistleblower
  • RCW 42.41.045 Nondisclosure of protected information (whistleblower)
  • RCW 46.52.080 Traffic accident reports - confidentiality
  • RCW 46.52.083 Traffic accident reports - available to interested parties
  • RCW 46.52.120 Traffic crimes and infractions- confidential use by police and courts
  • RCW 46.52.130(2) Abstract of driving record
  • RCW 46.61.506 BAC and blood test results
  • RCW 48.02.065 Insurance commissioner
  • RCW 48.62.101 Local government insurance transactions - access to information
  • RCW 50.13.060 Access to employment security records by local government agencies
  • RCW 50.13.100 Disclosure of non-identifiable information or with consent
  • RCW 51.28.070 Workers compensation records
  • RCW 51.36.060 Physician information on injured workers
  • RCW 60.70.040 No duty to disclose record of common law lien
  • RCW 68.50.105 Autopsy reports
  • RCW 68.50.320 Dental identification records - available to law enforcement agencies
  • RCW Chapter 69.50 Uniform controlled substance
  • RCW Chapter 70.02 Medical records - access and disclosure - entire chapter.
  • RCW 70.05.170 Child mortality reviews by local health departments
  • RCW 70.24.022 Public health agency information regarding sexually transmitted disease investigations - confidential
  • RCW 70.24.024 Transcripts and records of hearings regarding sexually transmitted diseases
  • RCW 70.24.105 HIV/STD records
  • RCW 70.28.020 Local health department TB records - confidential
  • RCW 70.48.100 Jail records and booking photos
  • RCW 70.58.055 Birth certificates - certain information confidential
  • RCW 70.58.104 Vital records, research confidentiality safeguards
  • RCW 70.96A.150 Alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs
  • RCW 70.123.075 Client records of domestic violence programs
  • RCW 70.125.065 Records of rape crisis centers in discovery
  • RCW 71.05.390 Information about mental health consumers
  • RCW 71.05.395 Applies to mental health records
  • RCW 71.05.400 Information to next of kin or representative
  • RCW 71.05.425 Notice of release or transfer of committed person after offense dismissal
  • RCW 71.05.427 Information that can be released
  • RCW 71.05.430 Statistical data
  • RCW 71.05.440 Penalties for unauthorized release of information
  • RCW 71.05.445 Release of mental health information to Dept, of Corrections
  • RCW 71.05.620 Authorization requirements and access to court records
  • RCW 71.05.630 Release of mental health treatment records
  • RCW 71.05.640 Access to treatment records
  • RCW 71.05.650 Accounting of disclosures
  • RCW 7i.24.035(5)(g) Mental health information system
  • RCW 71.34.200 Mental health treatment of minors
  • RCW 71.34.210 Court records for minors related to mental health treatment
  • RCW 71.34.225 Release of mental health services information
  • RCW 71A.14.070 Records regarding developmental disability
  • RCW 72.09.345 Notice to public about sex offenders
  • RCW 72.09.585(3) Disclosure of inmate records to local agencies
  • RCW 73.04.030 Veterans discharge papers
  • RCW 74.04.060 Applicants and recipients of public assistance
  • RCW 74.04.520 Food stamp program confidentiality
  • RCW 74.09.900 Medical assistance
  • RCW 74.13.121 Financial information of adoptive parents
  • RCW 74.13.280 Children in out-of-home placements
  • RCW 74.20.280 Child support enforcement - local agency cooperation, information
  • RCW 74.34.095 Abuse of vulnerable adults - confidentiality of investigations and reports.
  • RCW 82.32.330 Disclosure of tax information
  • RCW 84.36.389 Confidential income data in property tax records held by assessor
  • RCW 84.40.020 Confidential income data supplied to assessor regarding real property

Federal Statutes and Regulations

  • 18 USC Sec 2721 Driver's Privacy Protection Act 20
  • 20 USC § I232g Family Education Rights and Privacy Act
  • 42 USC 29odd-2 Confidentiality of Substance Abuse Records
  • 42 USC 405(c)(2)(vii)(l) Limits on Use and Disclosure of Social Security Numbers.
  • 42 USC 654(26) State Plans for Child Support
  • 42 USC 671(a)(8) State Plans for Foster Care and Adoption Assistance
  • 42 USC 13963(7) State Plans for Medical Assistance
  • 5 USR Sec. 552(a) Social Security Numbers
  • 7 CFR 272.1(c) Food Stamp Applicants and Recipients
  • 28 CFR Sec. 513.20(b) FBI and WA Rap sheet
  • 34 CFR 361.38 State Vocational Rehabilitation Services Programs
  • 42 CFR Part 2 (2.1-2.67) Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records
  • 42 CFR 431.300-307 Safeguarding Information on Applicants and Recipients of Medical Assistance
  • 42 CFR 483.420 Client Protections for Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded
  • 42 CFR 5io6a(b)(2)(A) Grants to States for Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and Treatment Programs
  • 45 CFR 160-164 HIPAA Privacy Rule

 

Policy History

APPROVED BY:
Executive Director, September 25, 2019

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