WAPRO Public Records 101 Seminar, January 26, 2010

The Washington Association of Public Records Officers (WAPRO) is sponsoring an all-day seminar entitled Public Records 101 in Lakewood on Tuesday, January 26, 2010. Steve DiJulio, a member of our firm’s Public Disclosure Team, is participating on a panel in the afternoon. The panel will review the latest Public Records Act court opinions and provide insights and ideas on compliance with the Act. 

The WAPRO agenda and registration form contains more information about the training.   

Open Government Year in Review 2008-2009

The First Annual "Open Government Year in Review 2008-2009" is now available for download.  The Year in Review collects articles on case developments and other open government issues during the last year.  Below is a partial list of articles.   Download your copy here.

Open Government Year in Review 2008-2009 partial table of contents:

Case Law Updates

  • Parmelee v. Clarke:  Court Holds Agencies Can Enforce Their Public Records Act Policies

  • RHA v. City of Des Moines:  Supreme Court Underscores the Requirement to Produce an Exemption Log Under the Public Records Act

  • Yousoufian v. Office of Ron Sims:  Supreme Court reverses the LARGEST court-assessed Public Records Act penalty in Washington State history – because it was TOO SMALL:  What agencies can learn

  • Sitterson v. Evergreen School Dist.:  Washington Adopts the Inadvertently Disclosing Doctrine for Privileged Records

  • Bellevue John Does v. Bellevue School Dist. No. 405:  The Supreme Court Re-Affirms Privacy Rights for Public Employees

  • West v. Thurston County:  Attorney Fee Bills Must Be Disclosed

  • West v. Port of Olympia:  All Deliberative Process Documents Must Be Disclosed After Decision Is Final

  • O’Neill v. City of Shoreline:  “Metadata” Is Subject to Disclosure

  • Clark v. Tri-Cities Animal Care & Control Shelter:  Is Your Independent Contractor Subject to the PRA?

Open Government legislative update

Articles on Open Government Issues

  • End the “Gotcha” Nature of the Public Records Act

  • Addressing the “executive sessions” question

  • The Open Public Meetings Act, “Serial” Meetings, and Email Exchanges

  • Five Issues You Should Consider Before You Decide to Use Your Personal Email or Personal Computer for Official Public Business

  • Lessons from Mesa:  Seven Tips to Avoid Being Overwhelmed by the Repeat Public Records Requester (updated 9/08)

  • Cautionary lessons from 2009 from around the country 

To Blog or Not to Blog -- that is the question

Last month I had the pleasure of teaching two classes to city officials at the Association of Washington Cities Conference in Spokane.  One hot issue raised by the city councilmembers was the use of blogs and Web 2.0 cites.  I cautioned against their use because the Public Records Act issues are unresolved. 

Another topic at the conference, however, was about the use of blogs and Web 2.0 cites.  The presenter, Lakewood City Councilmember Walter Neary, has his own blog, Electing2Blog, Blogging by Elected Officials, dedicated to this topic. 

When some of the councilmembers who attended my sessions cautioned about the risks of blogging created by the PRA,  ... well here is Councilmember Neary's take "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Public Outreach.

Here is another take on the exchange from the Olympia Time blog:  "The secret key to why city council members are told not to blog

Someone has also started a WIKI page on the topic entitled "Social Web handbook for Washington State local electeds"

I will post the questions I have asked Tim Ford, the AG Open Government Ombudsman, about the legality of this topic shortly. 


Washington State Supreme Court rules in Morgan v. City of Federal Way

Approximately 48 hours after oral argument, a unanimous Washington State Supreme Court issued an order in Morgan v. City of Federal Way that authorized the City of Federal Way to release the "Stephson Report."  An opinion will follow in the next few months.  (The order was slightly revised on Friday -- here is the final amended order.)  This is the relief sought by the City and the Tacoma News Tribune. 

Here is an analysis of the order from the Supreme Court of Washington Blog by EFF. 

Here are posts on the ruling at the Bellingham Herald,  Washington Policy Blog, the Og-Blog and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press blog.

Foster Pepper represented the City of Federal Way in this case.

Foster Pepper in the Washington State Supreme Court

On Tuesday, June 9, the Chair of Foster Pepper's Public Disclosure Team and editor of this blog, Ramsey Ramerman, will be arguing two cases on behalf of the City of Federal Way in the Washington State Supreme Court.  Here are the issue statements from the Supreme Court's website:

City of Federal Way v. Koenig:

Open Government—Public Disclosure—“Local Agency”—What Constitutes—Municipal Court

Whether the Federal Way Municipal Court is a “local agency” subject to the disclosure requirements of the Public Records Act, chapter 42.56 RCW.

Morgan v. City of Federal Way:

Public Records—Exemptions to Disclosure—Municipal Court Judge—City Investigative Report—Court Records—Attorney Work Project—Attorney-Client Communications

Whether a City of Federal Way investigative report concerning a municipal court judge is a court record, attorney work product, or attorney-client communication exempt from disclosure pursuant to Public Records Act, chapter 42.56 RCW.

 You can download PDF copies of the briefs here.  You can watch the arguments live starting at 1:30 on Tuesday on TVW.


Sunshine Committee Delays Its Recommendation on the Legislature's Exemption to the Public Records Act ... Again

Update 5/21

Here's a good editorial from the Longview Daily News.  Thanks to the Og-Blog for pointing it out.

Original Post 5/15

As noted in this article from the Spokesman Review, the Sunshine Committee voted on Tuesday, May 12 to delay any vote on the Public Records Act "exemption" that makes most records of state legislators exempt from the PRA.  The article quotes Ramsey Ramerman, the editor of this blog and member of the Sunshine Committee. 

Here are more details from the Washington Policy Blog.  And here's a post from the Open Records blog giving the issue some national attention.

The vote was influenced by several factors, including that only 8 of the 13 members were present; and, a concern that some legislative records may have constitutional protections. The matter will be on the Committee's July agenda. 

Here are two earlier blog posts on this subject:

Sunshine Committee considers clearing the clouds over the capitol

How the Legislature has exempted itself from the Public Records Act




Foster Pepper's Public Disclosure Team Holds Its First Comprehensive Public Records Officer Training and Certification Class

On April 15, Foster Pepper's Public Disclosure Team held its first Comprehensive Public Records Officer Training and Certification Class. There was a sold-out crowd of 80 attendees from cities, counties, PUDs, PDFs, Schools, Ports, Housing Authorities, Parks and even two state agencies. From the evaluations, the class was universally popular, so Foster Pepper is actively planning to put on additional classes in locations throughout the state. Stay tuned for more information.

Here is the course outline. Attendees also received a thumb drive loaded with sample policies, a guide to the 365+ exemptions to the PRA, and a model public records policy in word format. 

Session (1) Public Records Act 101

  • An overview of the Act
  • Clear guidance on the initial response including practical tips for building a working relationship with requesters
  • Checklist for gathering responsive records
  • Menu of what you can and cannot charge
  • Details on e-records issues including metadata
  • Tips on how to teach employees about the Public Records Act
  • Includes electronic version of the PowerPoint that you can use to train your staff

 Session (2) Third party records

  • Tips for communicating the PRA requirements to vendors and other third parties
  • Sample contract language to protect your agency

Session (3) Personnel Records, step by step

  • Step by step process for reviewing personnel records
  • Special emphasis on performance reviews and discipline records
  • Tips for protecting privacy without hurting transparency

Session (4) Exemptions, exemptions, exemptions

  • Review of some of the most common exemptions
  • Focus on when they apply AND why they benefit the public
  • Provide a roadmap through the 365 plus exemptions

Session (5) A layman’s guide to the Attorney-Client privilege

  • Thorough analysis of the rules without legal jargon
  • Tips on black and white lines and tips on when to go see the attorney

Session (6) Records retention, creation and indexing

  • And overview of the state archivist’s new December 2008 retention guidelines
  • Answers to questions about emails, drafts, primary v. secondary copies and other common questions
  • Sample policies on email use and producing electronic records