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AGO Opinions with Topic: PUBLIC RECORDS
AGO 1991 No. 5 >  February 13, 1991
PUBLIC RECORDS - OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT - CORPORATIONS - SMALL BUSINESS EXPORT FINANCE ASSISTANCE CENTER
PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT ‑- CORPORATIONS ‑- SMALL BUSINESS EXPORT FINANCE ASSISTANCE CENTER 1.  The Open Public Meetings Act and public records provisions of the Public Disclosure Act apply to state agencies.  An organization or entity is a state agency for these purposes if it is the functional equivalent of a state agency. 2.  A four-part analysis is used to determine if an organization or entity is the functional equivalent of a state agency:  (1) whether the organization performs a governmental function; (2) the level of government funding; (3) the extent of government involvement or regulation; and (4) whether the organization was created by the government. 3.  The Small Business Export Finance Assistance Center is not the functional equivalent of a state agency under this four-part analysis.  Therefore, the Center is not subject to the Open Public Meetings Act or the public records provisions of the Public Disclosure Act.
AGO 1991 No. 6 >  February 27, 1991
PUBLIC RECORDS - INITIATIVE NO. 276
PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- INITIATIVE NO. 276 1.   RCW 42.17.270 requires agencies to make identifiable public records promptly available to the public.  To compel with this requirement, agencies should act reasonably expeditiously in light of all the circumstances.   2.  RCW 42.17.300 provides that no fee shall be charged for the inspection of public records.  This statute prohibits any agency from imposing a charge for searching for and retrieving public records.  3.  RCW 42.17.300 permits agencies to impose a reasonable charge for providing copies of public records.  This includes actual costs directly incident to copying.
AGO 1972 No. 20 >  September 12, 1972
OFFICES AND OFFICERS - STATE - COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC LANDS - FUNDS - PUBLIC RECORDS
OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC LANDS ‑- FUNDS ‑- PUBLIC RECORDS The records of funds deposited by the commissioner of public lands in approved state depositories, pursuant to RCW 43.85.130 and 43.85.140, are available for public inspection in accordance with RCW 43.88.200.
AGO 1973 No. 4 >  January 19, 1973
DISTRICTS - SCHOOL - PUBLIC RECORDS - SALARY - ACCESS TO SCHOOL DISTRICT PAYROLL RECORDS
DISTRICTS ‑‑ SCHOOL ‑‑ PUBLIC RECORDS ‑‑ SALARY ‑‑ ACCESS TO SCHOOL DISTRICT PAYROLL RECORDS (1) Under the provisions of Initiative No. 276, all records of a school district pertaining to the salaries of its employees and their payroll deductions must be made available for inspection and copying at the request of any person unless disclosure of particular information in such records would violate a right of privacy of the subject employee and this information cannot be deleted from the record without destroying it. (2) The question of whether disclosure of any particular information in a school district's salary or payroll records would violate an employee's right of privacy is to be decided on a case‑by‑case basis in the courts in accordance with procedures set forth in §§ 31, 33 and 34 of Initiative No. 276.
AGO 1973 No. 10 >  April 16, 1973
DISTRICTS - SCHOOLS - PUBLIC RECORDS - STUDENTS - PARENTAL ACCESS TO SCHOOL DISTRICT RECORDS RELATING TO STUDENTS
DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- STUDENTS ‑- PARENTAL ACCESS TO SCHOOL DISTRICT RECORDS RELATING TO STUDENTS (1) Under the provisions of Initiative No. 276, a public school district may allow the parents of a student enrolled therein to inspect the district's records pertaining to that student in those instances where the student is 18 years of age or older unless to do so will violate a right of privacy of the student who is the subject of the particular record and this information cannot be deleted from the record without destroying it. (2) The question of whether disclosure of any particular information in a school district's records respecting its students would violate the student's right of privacy is to be decided on a case‑by-case basis in the courts in accordance with the procedures set forth in §§ 31, 33 and 34 of Initiative No. 276 (chapter 1, Laws of 1973).
AGO 1975 No. 15 >  July 17, 1975
OFFICES AND OFFICERS - STATE - DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES - PUBLIC RECORDS
ACCESS TO LISTS OF INDIVIDUALS UNDER INITIATIVE NO. 276 (1) In the absence of specific legal authorization or direction, a public agency governed by Initiative No.276 (chapter 42.17 RCW) is prohibited by RCW 42.17.260(5) from supplying the names of natural persons in list form when the person requesting such information from the public records of the agency intends to use it to contact or in some way personally affect the individuals identified on the list and when the purpose of the contact would be to facilitate that person's commercial activities.  (2) Application of above principles to several specific factual situations involving records in the custody of the state department of motor vehicles.
AGO 2002 No. 2 >  April 10, 2002
COUNTIES - CITIES - PORT DISTRICTS - STATE AGENCIES - PUBLIC DISCLOSURE ACT - PUBLIC RECORDS
Applicability of public records sections of RCW 42.17 to associations comprised of counties, county officials, cities, and port districts While associations comprised of counties or local public officers are not “agencies” as defined in RCW 42.17.020, they could in certain circumstances be found to be “functional equivalents” of agencies for purposes of applying particular portions of the Public Disclosure Act; this would be greatly dependent on the facts of a particular case.
AGO 1986 No. 7 >  May 9, 1986
PUBLIC RECORDS - STATUTES - TAXATION
AUTHORITY OF STATE AGENCY TO REQUIRE PRODUCTION OF INFORMATION FOR TAX RESEARCH ‑- CONFIDENTIALITY OF TAXPAYER INFORMATION The Department of Revenue has statutory authority to require private businesses to provide information to the Department for research purposes, and information provided pursuant to such a requirement will be confidential and not subject to access by the general public, but the precise limits of the Department's authority depend on judicial determination in specific cases.
AGO 1992 No. 9 >  June 4, 1992
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL AND HEALTH SERVICES - JUVENILE COURTS - CHILDREN - PUBLIC RECORDS
Public Disclosure of Records of Substitute Care Citizen Review Boards 1.  The Legislature created a citizen review board system that functions in an advisory capacity to the juvenile courts, the Department of Social and Health Services, and the Legislature.  The records of each board are the property of the board.  The records must be retained for at least six years unless adequate copies or reproductions are preserved or the board demonstrates to the local records committee that retention of such records for six years is unnecessary and uneconomical.  2.  The records are confidential and may only be disclosed when specifically authorized under the statutes protecting the records of juvenile justice or care agencies found in chapter 13.50 RCW.    3.  The board need not prepare a transcript of its review, so long as a verbatim record is maintained.
AGO 2000 No. 3 >  June 13, 2000
PUBLIC DISCLOSURE LAW - PUBLIC RECORDS - CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
Public disclosure status of farm plan prepared and held by state conservation district when similar record held by parallel federal agency is exempt from public disclosure 1.  A farm plan prepared wholly or in part by the staff of a conservation district, and held in the district offices as a document relating to district business, is a “public record” for purposes of the Public Disclosure Law.  2.  Farm plans held by conservation districts are not generally subject to any exemption from public disclosure, although individual information within a document might be exempt in some cases.  3.  The disclosability of farm plans held by conservation districts is entirely a matter of state law; federal law governing similar documents held by federal agencies does not cover conservation districts, nor does it preempt the state's Public Disclosure Act as to records held by state or local agencies.
AGO 1978 No. 25 >  August 17, 1978
PUBLIC RECORDS - CRIMES - COURTS - DISPOSITION OF RECORDS PERTAINING TO DEFERRED CRIMINAL PROSECUTION
PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- CRIMES ‑- COURTS ‑- DISPOSITION OF RECORDS PERTAINING TO DEFERRED CRIMINAL PROSECUTION Records pertaining to a deferred criminal prosecution under chapter 10.05 RCW, following their removal from the court file in accordance with RCW 10.05.120, are not then required by that law either to be sealed or destroyed; however, limited concealment in a given case may be required either by the provisions of some other law (such as the state public disclosure law) or, conceivably, by court order.
AGO 1989 No. 11 >  May 25, 1989
PUBLIC RECORDS - MUNICIPAL BONDS - MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS - COUNTIES
PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- COUNTIES ‑- MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS ‑- MUNICIPAL BONDS Where a county sells municipal bonds to an underwriter to finance a public works project, and subsequent sales of the bonds are made with the identities of the bondholders known only to a registrar appointed pursuant to RCW 43.80.125(1), and the registrar is not a public agency but a bank or trust company as required by statute, and the county has never prepared, possessed, used, or retained any list of bondholders, the records identifying such bondholders are not obtainable from the county through a public records request made pursuant to chapter 42.17 RCW.
AGO 1997 No. 2 >  March 13, 1997
PUBLIC RECORDS - DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH - AUTHORITY OF STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE TO SET RETENTION PERIOD FOR CERTAIN RECORDS PRODUCED BY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
PUBLIC RECORDS ‑ DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH ‑ AUTHORITY OF STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE TO SET RETENTION PERIOD FOR CERTAIN RECORDS PRODUCED BY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH 1.Diet information forms submitted to the Department of Health pursuant to a federal/state program, and computer analyses generated with the information submitted, are public records for purposes of the Public Disclosure Act, RCW 42.17.2.Diet information forms submitted to the Department of Health pursuant to a federal/state program, and computer analyses generated with the information provided, contain personal information which is exempt from public inspection and copying; if this personal information is deleted, the remainder of the records are subject to public disclosure.3.Diet information forms submitted to the Department of Health pursuant to a federal/state program, and computer analyses generated with the information provided, generally do not meet the definition of "official public record" contained in RCW 40.14, the Records Retention Law; however, the Records Committee has authority to classify the records as "official public records" if it wishes to do so.4.The Records Committee created in RCW 40.14.050 has authority to approve a retention schedule for agency records which permits an agency not to retain a record for any time at all beyond the time necessary to generate the record; or the committee may choose to require that such records be kept for such period as the committee deems appropriate.
AGO 1994 No. 5 >  March 31, 1994
LEGISLATURE - STATE AUDITOR - STATE AGENCIES - PUBLIC RECORDS - TELEPHONE RECORDS
State Auditor may require Legislature to maintain detailed telephone records for audit 1.  The State Auditor's authority to audit the records of agencies, including the Legislature, implies authority to require that records be kept in sufficient detail to satisfy audit needs. 2.  The State Auditor has authority to require state agencies, including the Legislature, to maintain records of telephone numbers called from state-owned telephones, for audit purposes. 3.  If the State Auditor maintains files containing legislative telephone records, such records are exempt from public disclosure while the audit investigation is pending; thereafter, the records are generally not exempt from disclosure unless someone can make a showing that particular records fall within some recognized exception to the public disclosure laws. 4.  The State Auditor's authority to audit the Legislature, including the authority to prescribe the keeping of records for audit purposes, extends to the Legislature itself and to committees created by the Legislature (such as the Legislative Transportation Committee and the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee), and to persons or agencies exercising legislative power (such as the State Actuary and the Redistricting Commission).
AGO 1957 No. 84 >  June 19, 1957
PUBLIC RECORDS - POLLUTION CONTROL COMMISSION - INSPECTION OF FILES BY PUBLIC
PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- POLLUTION CONTROL COMMISSION ‑- INSPECTION OF FILES BY PUBLIC Records and files of a commission of this state required by statute to be maintained by that commission are "public records" which legitimately interested members of the public have the right to inspect.  Whether access should be allowed to other records and files of such a commission is a matter of discretion vested with the administrative head of the commission.
AGO 1953 No. 61 >  June 1, 1953
PUBLIC RECORDS - STUDENTS - TRANSCRIPT OF GRADES & CREDITS - STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION - DESTRUCTION - ALTERATION - REMOVAL
PUBLIC RECORDS -- STUDENTS -- TRANSCRIPT OF GRADES & CREDITS -- STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION -- DESTRUCTION -- ALTERATION -- REMOVAL -- INSPECTION -- BOARD OF TRUSTEES 1. Student at state college of education cannot demand removal or destruction of Registrar's transcript of his grades or credits. 2. Inspection of such transcript is subject to regulation by Board of Trustees of such college. 3. Alteration of such transcript also subject to regulation by Board of Trustees.
AGO 1951 No. 003 >  April 4, 1951
PUBLIC RECORDS - DESTRUCTION OF - PERTAINING TO JUVENILES IN INSTITUTIONS AFTER THEY REACH 21 YEARS OF AGE
PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- DESTRUCTION OF ‑- PERTAINING TO JUVENILES IN INSTITUTIONS AFTER THEY REACH 21 YEARS OF AGE

1. Certain state officials only may authorize destruction of juvenile records in state schools.  2. There is no authority to ever "seal" such records.  3. A sound discretion would permit information therein contained being made available to other governmental officials.

AGO 1953 No. 152 >  October 23, 1953
ELECTIONS - PETITIONS - FILING WITH PROPER OFFICIAL - MATTERS OF PUBLIC RECORD - PUBLIC RECORDS - ELECTION PETITIONS
FILING WITH PUBLIC OFFICIAL An election petition requesting the calling of a special election for the purpose of annexing a portion of a city or town becomes a public record when filed with the city clerk.
AGLO 1981 No. 18 >  July 23, 1981
OFFICES AND OFFICERS - STATE - ARCHIVIST - PUBLIC RECORDS
STATUS OF MACHINE READABLE RECORDS UNDER CHAPTER 40.14 RCW The term "public records," as defined in RCW 40.14.010, includes machine readable records, i.e., records on computer magnetic tapes, disc storage files, punch cards and other machine readable media.
AGO 1980 No. 1 >  January 3, 1980
OFFICES AND OFFICERS - COUNTY - ASSESSOR - PUBLIC RECORDS - TAXATION
PUBLIC ACCESS TO PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT ROLLS

(1) Except where prohibited by RCW 42.17.260(5), inspection and copying of an assessor's property tax assessment roll and supporting materials must be allowed unless the specific exemptions covering taxpayer information, as set forth in RCW 42.17.310(1)(c) and RCW 84.40.020, are applicable in a given case.  (2) Real property assessment rolls prepared pursuant to RCW 84.40.020 and 84.40.160 are lists of taxable property and not individuals and, therefore, their disclosure is not prohibited by RCW 42.17.260(5) even for a commercial purpose; whether this is also true of personal property assessment rolls will depend upon their actual form.

AGLO 1976 No. 42 >  June 28, 1976
OFFICES AND OFFICERS - STATE - DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE - STATE PATROL - TAXATION - PUBLIC RECORDS
DISCLOSURE OF TAX RECORDS TO STATE PATROL RCW 82.32.330 does not prohibit the state department of revenue from disclosing to the organized crime intelligence unit of the Washington state patrol, for official purposes under RCW 43.43.854, facts or information contained in a return filed by a taxpayer or disclosed in a departmental investigation or examination of a taxpayer's books and records.
AGLO 1976 No. 47 >  July 28, 1976
INITIATIVE NO. 276 - PUBLIC RECORDS
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE'S ACCESS TO CERTAIN LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD RECORDS Read in the light of Initiative No. 276, RCW 66.16.090 does not now prohibit the liquor control board or its employees from disclosing the identity of, or permitting examination of its records regarding liquor sales to, purchasers of liquor for resale by the drink under RCW 66.24.420-66.24.450; the contents of those records may properly be disclosed to the department of revenue in response to an administrative subpoena issued pursuant to RCW 82.32.110 and such action will not be violative of the protective provisions of RCW 42.17.260.
AGLO 1975 No. 38 >  April 7, 1975
INITIATIVE NO. 276 - PUBLIC RECORDS
ACCESS TO LISTS OF INDIVIDUALS (1) If the welcome service requests the name of individuals who are identified as new to the area on public records, and receives such names in list form, it is requesting a list of individuals for a commercial purpose under RCW 42.17.260(5) with the consequence that a public agency without specific authority by law to provide the list is precluded from doing so by that section. (2) The answer to the first question is not modified in any way by the conclusions that (a) the agency would probably be required to make the same information available to raw (nonlist) ‑ form‑-of AGLO 1973 § 113 [[to George Sellar, State Senator on December 12, 1973, an Informal Opinion, AIR-73613]], and (b) the most economical, practical, and indeed perhaps only way to make the information available is in list form.
AGLO 1977 No. 21 >  May 25, 1977
OFFICES AND OFFICERS - COUNTY - ASSESSOR - TAXATION - PROPERTY - PUBLIC RECORDS - ACCESS TO COMPARABLE LEASES
OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- COUNTY ‑- ASSESSOR ‑- TAXATION ‑- PROPERTY ‑- PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- ACCESS TO COMPARABLE LEASES

(1) In the event that a county assessor has utilized one or more leases of comparable lands to establish the "net cash rental" for certain farm and agricultural land under RCW 84.34.065, those leases (or copies), if retained in his custody, constitute "public records" under the public disclosure law (chapter 42.17 RCW); accordingly, the owner of such land will be governed by the provisions of that law in seeking to require the assessor to permit inspection of the contents of those documents.

(2) If, however a petition for review under chapter 84.48 RCW has been filed, such a landowner may utilize the provisions of RCW 84.48.150 to obtain the same material or information from the assessor.

AGLO 1973 No. 9 >  January 16, 1973
INITIATIVE NO. 276 - OFFICERS AND OFFICERS - REPORTS OF FINANCIAL INTEREST - PUBLIC RECORDS
INITIATIVE NO. 276 ‑- OFFICERS AND OFFICERS ‑- REPORTS OF FINANCIAL INTEREST ‑- PUBLIC RECORDS (1) Section 24 (1) (e) of Initiative No. 276 is applicable to the prosecuting attorney of a county with respect to his preparation of legislation for his county. (2) In order to comply with the reporting requirements of § 24 (1) (f) of Initiative No. 276, in the case of a prosecuting attorney, it will be sufficient simply to include that during the reporting period the individual performed the duties and functions of prosecuting attorney of his county in return for his statutory compensation. (3) Section 26 (1) of Initiative No. 276 requires each county to adopt rules governing the availability for public inspection and copying of its public records.
AGLO 1973 No. 99 >  October 15, 1973
INITIATIVE NO. 276 - PUBLIC RECORDS - FEES - CORPORATIONS
INITIATIVE NO. 276 ‑- PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- FEES ‑- CORPORATIONS (1) The provisions of RCW 42.17.300 which relate to the charges that may be imposed for providing copies of certain "public records" under Initiative No. 276 do not supersede the preexisting fees for copies of UCC security transaction filings under RCW 62A.9-407 or of corporation papers under RCW 23A.40.030, RCW 24.03.410 and RCW 24.06.455 in any cases because those documents do not constitute "public records" within the meaning of that initiative.
 
(2) RCW 42.17.300 does not supersede the preexisting fees for copies of state records provided for in RCW 43.07.120 in those cases where the individual seeking such copies is asking for them as a matter of right under RCW 43.07.030(7), supra, rather than merely requesting to inspect them and then to be allowed to use the secretary of state's facilities to himself make the copies he desires.
AGO 2007 No. 5 >  August 13, 2007
INSURANCE - INSURANCE COMMISSIONER - PUBLIC RECORDS - PUBLIC DISCLOSURE LAW
Extent to which RCW 48.02.065, making certain records confidential and privileged, mandates nondisclosure of the records in response to a public records request 1.  RCW 48.02.065(1), making certain records provided to the Insurance Commissioner privileged and confidential, is mandatory and does not grant the Commissioner discretion to release the records in response to a public disclosure request.  2.  The confidential and privileged status conferred by RCW 48.02.065(1) and (6) extends to working papers, documents, materials, or information disclosed in the course of a financial or market conduct examination to a contractor or consultant acting under the direction of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.  3.  Records rendered confidential and privileged under RCW 48.02.065 remain confidential and privileged, even if the Insurance Commissioner does not issue any financial or market conduct examination report relating to such records.
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