Public Records Information Access

LAKE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Public Records Information Access

Purpose

This information is produced to assist you in understanding Washington law governing access to public records, and obtaining those records. This page is a guide; it is not a legal document. This state's basic law regarding inspection and copying of public records is in its Public Records Act, chapter 42.56 RCW. The act establishes a strong state policy for disclosure of public records. But there are some exemptions and limitations, too. We attempt in this information to give you an overview of your right to access public records. If you desire more specific information, you should refer to the act itself.

What Records Are "Public"?

A public record is any College record relating to the conduct of the College or the performance of a College function, and which is prepared or retained by the College. The record may be in a variety of forms such as writing, a recording, a picture, an electronic disk, a magnetic tape, etc.  This includes all of the following: All budget and financial records; personnel leave, travel, and payroll records; records of board meetings; reports; and any other record designated a public record per state law.

What Public Records Are Available for Inspection?

All public records maintained by the College are available for public inspection unless law specifically exempts them. You are entitled to access to public records, under reasonable conditions, and to copies of those records upon paying the costs of making the copy. In most cases, you do not have to explain why you want the records. However, specific information may be necessary to process your request. The College may require information necessary to establish if disclosure would violate certain provisions of law.

Exempt Records

While the strong policy of the state is for disclosure of public records, state law does allow for some information to be withheld. These "exemptions" are listed in the Public Records sections of the Public Disclosure Act (RCW 42.56.210 - .480). Other exemptions are found elsewhere in Washington law, and in Federal law.

Many of the exemptions are designed to protect the privacy rights of other individuals. Other exemptions are designed to protect vital governmental functions.  You should refer to the Public Records Act itself for specific exemptions. You may also wish to consult with the College's public records officer.

Just because part of a record may be exempt does not mean the entire record can be withheld. In those cases, the agency has the obligation to black out or otherwise remove the information it believes is exempt from disclosure and provide you the rest.

If you are denied access to a public record, the agency must identify the specific exemption or other law it believes justifies its denial and explain how that exemption applies to your request.

Agency Not Required To Create Records

While, in general, the College must provide access to existing public records in its possession, the College is not required to collect information or organize data to create a record not existing at the time of the request. The more precisely you can identify the record you seek, the more responsive the College can be.

How To Request Records

A request for public records can be initiated in person, by email, by mail or fax, or over the telephone. The College is required to provide assistance to citizens in obtaining public records and to explain how the College's public records process works. If you request certain public records, the College must make them available to you for inspection and copying during customary office hours of the College. You should make your request as specific as you can. A written request helps to identify specific records you wish to inspect.  For this purpose, requests should be submitted on the Public Records Request Form.

Please direct any request for public records to the College as follows:

Public Records
c/o Administrative Services
Lake Washington Institute of Technology
11605 132nd Avenue NE
Kirkland, WA 98034-8506
Phone: (425) 739-8201
Fax: (425) 739-8250
Email: publicrecords@lwtech.edu

You must claim or review the records within 30 days notice to you of their availability.  After your inspection of records, you may identify those records you desire and, if copying does not disrupt College operations, copies promptly can be made for you. The College may enact reasonable procedures to protect records from damage or disorganization and to prevent disruption of College operations.  If copies cannot be made immediately due to the volume of the requested documents or resulting disruptions of College operations, documents will be copied as soon as possible and made available to you then.

College Response To A Request

The College is required to respond promptly to your request. Within five business days after receiving a request, the College must either:

  1. Provide the record(s); or

  2. Acknowledge your request and give you a reasonable estimate of how long it will take to respond; or

  3. Deny the request in writing, with reasons for the denial (this could also include a denial of part of your request and a granting of the remainder). The College must tell you the specific exemption or other law it relies upon for its denial.

If you do not hear back from the College within 5 days you are encouraged to contact the College's Public Records Officer to determine the reason for the failure to respond.

If a request is not clear, the College may ask you for further clarification.  If you fail to respond the College will have no further obligation to respond or to produce unidentified records.

If the College denies your request, it must conduct an internal review of its denial within two business days after denial. At that time, the College's denial is considered final. In the event of denial, your options are described elsewhere in the pamphlet.

College May Notify Affected Persons And May Seek Court Protection

The College may notify persons to whom the record pertains that release of the record has been requested, to permit them the opportunity to seek a restraining order against disclosure of the records.

The College, or a person to whom the record applies, may ask a superior court to prevent an inspection of the record. If a protective order is sought the records request is on hold until further order of the court.

Fees

There is no fee for inspecting public records, but the College may charge a fee for the actual costs of copying the records.