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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
c/o Administrative Services
Lake Washington Institute of Technology
11605 132nd Avenue NE
Kirkland, WA 98034-8506
Phone: (425) 739-8201
A public records request must be for identifiable records. A request for all or substantially all records prepared, owned, used, or retained by the College is not a valid request for identifiable records, provided that a request for all records regarding a particular topic or containing a particular keyword or name shall not be considered a request for all of the College’s records.
A request should be made in writing on the Public Records Request Form, or by letter, fax, or email addressed to the Public Records Officer. The request shall include the following information:
The College may deny a bot request that is one of multiple requests from the requestor to the College within a twenty-four hour period, if the College establishes that responding to the multiple requests would cause excessive interference with other essential functions of the College. For these purposes, “bot request” means a request for public records that the College reasonably believes was automatically generated by a computer program or script.
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.
The College is required to respond promptly to your request. Within five business days after receiving a request, the College must either:
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.
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.
There is no fee for inspecting public records.
Calculating the actual costs for charges for providing public records is unduly burdensome because it will consume scarce College resources to conduct a study of actual costs, and it is difficult to accurately calculate all costs directly incident to copying records, including equipment and paper costs, data storage costs, electronic production costs, and staff time for copying and sending requested records. Instead of calculating the actual costs of charges for records, the College shall establish, maintain, and make available for public inspection and copying a statement of costs that the College charges for providing photocopies or electronically produced copies of public records, and such charges for records shall not exceed the maximum default charges allowed in RCW 42.56.120 (2)(b). The College may also use any other method authorized by the Public Records Act for imposing charges for public records including, but not limited to, charging a flat fee, charging a customized service charge, or charging based on a contract, memorandum of understanding, or other agreement with a requester. The College may waive charges assessed for records when the Public Records Officer determines collecting a fee is not cost effective.
Copy charges above may be combined to the extent more than one type of charge applies to copies responsive to a particular request.
As an alternative to the copy charges above, the College may charge a flat fee of up to $2 per any request when the College reasonably estimates and documents that the costs are equal to or more than $2. If applied to the initial installment, additional flat fees shall not be charged for subsequent installments.
Before beginning to make the copies, the Public Records Officer or designee may require a deposit of up to ten percent of the estimated costs of copying all the records selected by the requestor.
Payment may be made by cash, check, or money order to Lake Washington Institute of Technology. The College may require a deposit in an amount not to exceed ten percent of the estimated cost of providing copies for a request, including a customized service charge. If the College makes a request available on a partial or installment basis, the College may charge for each part of the request as it is provided. If an installment of a records request is not claimed or reviewed, the College is not obligated to fulfill the balance of the request. The College will notify the requester when payment is due. The College will close a request upon 30 days when the requester fails by the payment date pay in the manner prescribed for records, an installment of records, or a required deposit.
If the College denies all or part of your public records request, you may petition in writing (including an e-mail) to the Public Records Officer for a review of that decision. The petition should include a copy of the denial and will be considered by the Public Records Officer’s supervisor or other designated College official, who will within two business days affirm or reverse the denial.
If the College denies your request to inspect or copy all or part of a record, you may request Washington State Office of Attorney General review. Direct your written request for Attorney General review, along with a copy of your request to the agency, and the agency's written denial to:
Office of Attorney General
Public Records Review
P.O. BOX 40110
The Office of Attorney General will independently review your request and the College's denial, and provide you with a written opinion as to whether the record you requested is exempt from disclosure. This review by the Attorney General is not binding on the College or upon you. The Attorney General review and response will be conducted as promptly as possible. The Office of Attorney General may have to contact you or the College to get more information before completing the review. The specific timeframe will vary depending upon the complexity of the issues involved, the need to obtain information from the requestor or the College, and the volume of requests received. A guide to reviews on State Agency denials of public records is available upon request. For a copy of the guide, please submit a request to the Public Records Review address immediately above.
If the College denies your request, you and the College may agree to resolve the public records dispute through alternative dispute resolution means such as mediation or arbitration.
If the College denies your request to inspect or copy a record or unreasonably delays responding, you may file a lawsuit in Superior Court in the county where the record is located to require the College to release the record.
The burden is on the College to establish that its denial of inspection is proper or its estimate of time for response is reasonable. If you are successful in reversing the College denial, the court may require the College to pay costs and attorney fees incurred in the court action, and may award you an amount between $5 and $100 a day for each day that inspection was denied.
Washington law makes public records accessible to the people, with some limitations. If you desire to review public records, the procedure described above is quite simple. In order to permit a prompt and adequate response, try to make your request as specific as possible and preferably in writing. Remember, if you want to review the law on public records in detail, consult chapter 42.56 RCW.
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