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162-04-033  <<  162-04-034 >>   162-04-035

PDFWAC 162-04-034

Processing of public records requestsGeneral.

(1) Providing "fullest assistance." The human rights commission is charged by statute with adopting rules which provide for how it will "provide full access to public records"; "protect records from damage or disorganization"; "prevent excessive interference with other essential functions of the agency"; provide "fullest assistance" to requestors; and provide the "most timely possible action" on public records requests. The public records officer or designee will process requests in the order allowing the most requests to be processed in the most efficient manner.
(2) Upon receipt of a request, the public records officer designee will log the text of the request, the name of the requestor, and the date of the request.
(3) The public records officer or designee will evaluate the request according to the nature of the request, volume, and availability of requested records.
(4) Access to public records can be provided by allowing inspection of the record, providing a copy, or posting the record on the human rights commission's website and assisting the requestor with finding it.
(5) A requestor must request an "identifiable record" or "class of records" before the human rights commission must respond to it. RCW 42.56.080 and 42.56.550(1). An "identifiable record" is one that is existing at the time of the request and which agency staff can reasonably locate. A request for all or substantially all records prepared, owned, used, or retained by an agency is not a valid request for identifiable records.
(6) Acknowledging receipt of request. Following the initial evaluation of the request under subsection (3) of this section, and within five business days of receipt of the request, the public records officer or designee will do one or more of the following:
(a) Make the records available for inspection or copying including:
(i) If copies are available on the human rights commission's internet website, provide an internet address and link on the website to specific records requested;
(ii) If copies are requested and payment of a deposit for the copies, if any, is made or other terms of payment are agreed upon, send the copies to the requestor;
(b) Acknowledge receipt of the request and provide a reasonable estimate of when records or an installment of records will be available (the public records officer or designee may revise the estimate of when records will be available);
(c) Acknowledge receipt of the request and ask the requestor to provide clarification for a request that is unclear, and then to provide, to the greatest extent possible, a reasonable estimate of time the human rights commission will require to respond to the request if it is not clarified.
(i) Such clarification may be requested and provided by telephone and memorialized in writing.
(ii) If the requestor fails to respond to a request for clarification and the entire request is unclear, the human rights commission need not respond to it. The human rights commission will respond to those portions of a request that are clear; or
(d) Deny the request.
(7) Consequences of failure to respond. If the human rights commission does not respond in writing within five business days of receipt of the request for disclosure, the requestor should contact the public records officer to determine the reason for the failure to respond.
(8) Protecting rights of others. In the event that the requested records contain information that may affect rights of others and may be exempt from disclosure, the public records officer may, prior to providing the records, give notice to such others whose rights may be affected by the disclosure. Such notice should be given so as to make it possible for those other persons to contact the requestor and ask the person to revise the request, or, if necessary, seek an order from a court to prevent or limit the disclosure. The notice to the affected persons will include a copy of the request.
(9) Records exempt from disclosure. Some records are exempt from disclosure, in whole or in part. If the human rights commission believes that a record is exempt from disclosure and should be withheld, the public records officer will state the specific exemption and provide a brief written explanation of why the record or a portion of the record is being withheld. If only a portion of a record is exempt from disclosure, but the remainder is not exempt, the public records officer will redact the exempt portions, provide the nonexempt portions, and indicate to the requestor why portions of the record are being redacted. A description of the records being withheld and the reasons for withholding, and the date of the final disposition of the request shall be logged.
(10) Inspection of records.
(a) A requestor may request to inspect records at the human rights commission office in Olympia. The records will be assembled and redacted of exempt information. Consistent with other demands, the human rights commission shall then provide space to inspect public records. No member of the public may remove a document from the viewing area or disassemble or alter any document.
(b) The requestor must review the assembled records within thirty days of the human rights commission's notification to them that the records are available for inspection or copying. The agency will notify the requestor in writing of this requirement and inform the requestor that they should contact the agency to make arrangements to review the records. If the requestor or a representative of the requestor fails to review the records within the thirty-day period or make other arrangements, the human rights commission may close the request and refile the assembled records. Other public records requests can be processed ahead of a subsequent request by the same person for the same or almost identical records, which can be processed as a new request.
(c) Providing copies of records. After inspection is complete, the requestor requests copies of documents, the public records officer or designee shall make the requested copies or arrange for copying. If documents are copied, the copying charges outlined in WAC 162-04-037 will apply.
(11) Providing records in installments. When the request is for a large number of records, the public records officer or designee will provide access for inspection and copying in installments, if they reasonably determine that it would be practical to provide the records in that way. If, within thirty days, the requestor fails to inspect or provide payment for one or more of the installments, the public records officer or designee may stop searching for the remaining records and close the request.
(12) Completion of inspection. When the inspection of the requested records is complete and all requested copies are provided, the public records officer or designee will indicate on the log and in the last communication with the requestor that the human rights commission has completed a reasonable search for the requested records and made any located nonexempt records available for inspection or has provided the requested copies or electronic documents.
(13) Closing withdrawn or abandoned request. When the requestor either withdraws the request, or fails to clarify an entirely unclear request, or fails to fulfill their obligations to inspect the records, pay the deposit, pay the required fees for an installment, or make final payment for the requested copies, the public records officer or designee will close the request and, unless the agency has already indicated in previous correspondence that the request would be closed under the above circumstances, indicate to the requestor that the human rights commission has closed the request.
(14) Later discovered documents. If, after the human rights commission has informed the requestor that it has provided all available records, the human rights commission becomes aware of additional responsive documents existing at the time of the request, it will promptly inform the requestor of the additional documents and provide them on an expedited basis.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 42.56.120 and 42.56.040. WSR 21-18-025, § 162-04-034, filed 8/23/21, effective 9/23/21.]
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