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INTRODUCTION TO PUBLIC DISCLOSURE RESPONSE. Paula Adams, King County Public Disclosure Officer. SPIRIT OF THE PUBLIC RECORDS ACT. Passed by initiative in 1972 Mandate for open government designed to provide citizens with broad rights of access to public records (RCW 42.56.010).

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Introduction to public disclosure response

INTRODUCTION TO PUBLIC DISCLOSURE RESPONSE

Paula Adams,

King County Public Disclosure Officer


Spirit of the public records act
SPIRIT OF THE PUBLIC RECORDS ACT

  • Passed by initiative in 1972

  • Mandate for open government designed to provide citizens with broad rights of access to public records (RCW 42.56.010).

  • PRA provides that it will be liberally construed to promote the public policy of providing information regarding the activities of government (RCW 42.56.550(3).


What does a pdr look like
WHAT DOES A PDR LOOK LIKE?

  • Request for government records, usually in writing - but it does not have to be!

  • Will use language such as:

    - “public records request”

    - “Freedom of information Act (FOIA)”

    - “formal records request”

  • Beware of hidden requests.


Legal obligations once a request is received
LEGAL OBLIGATIONS ONCE A REQUEST IS RECEIVED

  • A written response to the requestor is required within five business days. RCW 42.56.520.


The 5 day response letter must
THE 5-DAY RESPONSE LETTER MUST:

  • Transmit the requested records; or

  • Acknowledge the request and provide a reasonable estimate of the time needed to produce records; or

  • Deny the request in accordance with the law; or

  • Ask for clarification.


What is a public record
WHAT IS A PUBLIC RECORD?

RCW 42.56.010:

Any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency…


Lessons learned
LESSONS LEARNED

  • There is nothing you can produce in your work environment that isn’t a record.

  • Work-related records created on your home computer are subject to public disclosure.

  • Professionalism is critical. A record cannot be held back simply because it is rude, flippant, or inappropriate.

  • Using the word “confidential” will not protect a record from disclosure.


Lessons learned cont d
LESSONS LEARNED, CONT’D.

  • Subject matter inappropriate for e-mail:

    - personnel actions or issues

    - health information, even if it is well- intended

    - rude, unprofessional, or flippant criticisms

  • If your record ends up in the paper, your

    name will probably be there too!


What is an identifiable record
WHAT IS AN IDENTIFIABLE RECORD?

  • Records are identifiable when there is a reasonable description enabling the government employee to locate the requested records.

  • If you have to guess about what is being requested, then you should ask for clarification.


You do not have to
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO:

  • Create records when no documentation is available; or

  • Research or explain records.


Public disclosure challenges for the procurement community
PUBLIC DISCLOSURE CHALLENGES FOR THE PROCUREMENT COMMUNITY

  • Anticipating PDRs at the time of RFP development can save a great deal of time and energy later.

  • The order of magnitude can be enormous.

  • It can be difficult to determine what exemptions apply, whether they will be asserted, and when they will expire.



Attorney client privilege
ATTORNEY CLIENT PRIVILEGE

  • Exempts legal advice, as well as a client’s questions about that advice.

  • Client must intend for the communication to be confidential.

  • Does not exempt client records just because the lawyer is cc’d.

  • Be mindful of cc’s.


Deliberative process
DELIBERATIVE PROCESS

  • Exempts preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations and intra-agency memorandums in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated or recommended.

  • HOWEVER, once a policy is adopted or a decision is made, the exemption no longer applies and the records must be released.


Healthcare information
HEALTHCARE INFORMATION

Healthcare information is exempt from public disclosure.


Employee personal information
EMPLOYEE PERSONAL INFORMATION

  • Exempt to the extent that that disclosure violates right to privacy.

  • PRIVACY is defined as:

    - would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; AND

    - is not of legitimate concern to the public.

  • BOTTOM LINE: Coordinate with legal counsel.


Personal records not subject to public disclosure
PERSONAL RECORDS NOT SUBJECT TO PUBLIC DISCLOSURE

  • Home street addresses and phone numbers

  • Social security numbers

  • Job application materials

  • Performance reviews (with the exception of discipline)

  • Your personal identification number assigned by your agency


Personal information that is disclosable
PERSONAL INFORMATION THAT IS DISCLOSABLE

  • Your full date of birth.

  • Your salary, including overtime and pay allowances.

  • The number of hours you worked for any time period.

  • The amount of vacation and sick leave you have taken for any time period.


Risks associated with failure to comply with pda
RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH PDA

  • If requestor prevails in a court case, they are entitled to MANDATORY penalties of $5-$100 per day, plus attorney’s fees.

  • Strict liability standard; no exceptions for acting in good faith.

  • Statute of limitations for bringing legal action is one year from agency’s claim of exemption.




1 know your department
#1: KNOW YOUR DEPARTMENT

  • Know the core business(es) of your department.

  • Know the mediums with which records are stored.

  • Know the staff groups responsible for various record types.

  • Know the management structure for assistance with large requests.


#2: STAFF SHOULD NOT WITHHOLD A DOCUMENT BECAUSE THEY ASSUME OR KNOW THAT ANOTHER STAFF PERSON WILL PRODUCE THE SAME DOCUMENT.


#3: STAFF SHOULD NOT WITHHOLD A DOCUMENT FROM THE PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OFFICER BECAUSE THEY KNOW OR ASSUME THAT IT CAN BE LEGALLY WITHHELD.


#4: IF YOU RECEIVE A PUBLIC DISCLOSURE REQUEST FOR PERSONNEL RECORDS OR THE RESULTS OF A PERSONNEL INVESTIGATION, CONTACT YOUR DEPUTY PROSECUTOR BEFORE RESPONDING.


Tips for reducing the public disclosure workload
TIPS FOR REDUCING THE RECORDS OR THE RESULTS OF A PERSONNEL INVESTIGATION, CONTACT YOUR DEPUTY PROSECUTOR BEFORE RESPONDING.PUBLIC DISCLOSUREWORKLOAD

  • You do not have to save cc’s beyond their useful period.

  • Transitory records do not have to be saved.

  • Destroy records that have passed their lawful retention period.


QUESTIONS? RECORDS OR THE RESULTS OF A PERSONNEL INVESTIGATION, CONTACT YOUR DEPUTY PROSECUTOR BEFORE RESPONDING.


THANK YOU. RECORDS OR THE RESULTS OF A PERSONNEL INVESTIGATION, CONTACT YOUR DEPUTY PROSECUTOR BEFORE RESPONDING.


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