Washington State University
BUSINESS POLICIES AND PROCEDURES MANUAL

RECORDS
90.05
Revised 7-13
University Communications
335-3928

Release of Public Records

PDF version of section

Form: Public Records Request

POLICY

State law requires that identifiable University records must be made available to members of the public for inspection and copying unless exempt from public disclosure. (RCW 42.56)

APPLICABILITY

This section provides general procedures for processing requests for all identifiable public records.

Student Records

For detailed information regarding disclosure of student records see 90.06.

Personnel Records

For detailed information regarding disclosure of personnel records see 90.07.

RESPONSIBILITY

University Public Records Officer

The Executive Director of University Communications is the University's Public Records Officer. The University Public Records Officer oversees responses to public records requests made to the University.

Public Records Office

The University Communications--Public Records Office processes, tracks, and responds to all public records requests made to the University. The Public Records Office is located in French Administration 446, mail code 1040.

Requester

A requester of public records is responsible for providing a clear written description of identifiable public records and forwarding the written request to the Public Records Office.

A requester is responsible for clarifying his or her request if such a clarification is requested by the Public Records Officer or designee.

If the requester seeks copies of the records, he or she is responsible for paying copying and mailing costs involved with the request. The Public Records Office routinely requests prepayment for requests requiring copying and mailing. See "Costs" below.

If records are not copied, the requester is responsible for not damaging or altering records in any manner during the period provided for viewing.

University Personnel

University personnel must route all requests from the public for public disclosure of University records to the Public Records Office in accordance with the procedures in this section.

NOTE: If a request based upon a court order or subpoena is received, the recipient is to immediately contact the Attorney General's Office; telephone 509-335-2636.

University personnel are responsible for expeditiously responding to requests from the Public Records Office to produce records.

University personnel are responsible for protecting records from damage and disorganization for the retention periods indicated on approved retention schedules. See 90.01.

PUBLIC RECORDS DEFINED

A public record includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function that is prepared, owned, used, or retained by the University, regardless of physical form or characteristics.

Writing

Writing as used above means any form of communication or representation, including but not limited to letters, papers, maps, other communication on paper, as well as communication on e-mail, tape, film, video, magnetic or punched card, disk, sound recording, and computer data.

PROCEDURES

Requesting Records

The requester completes a Public Records Request form or prepares a letter to initiate a request for access to and/or a copy of public records. The request should be in writing. The requester mails, faxes, e-mails, or delivers the request to the Public Records Office. A request is identified as a public records request when it is received by the Public Records Office.

Form

The requester may print the master Public Records Request form on 90.05.6 or complete it on screen and print the form. Copies are also available from the Public Records Office; telephone 335-3928.

Response

Respond within Five Days

The Public Records Office responds to a request within five business days of receipt of the request in the Public Records Office. The response may take one of the following forms:

University Review

The Public Records Office locates, requests, and reviews the requested public records. University personnel are to promptly comply with requests for public records from the Public Records Office by gathering all potentially responsive records and forwarding them to the Public Records Office for processing. The office makes determinations regarding exemption from disclosure based upon applicable state and federal statutes.

An employee's failure to provide all responsive records to the Public Records Office may be a violation of the Ethics in Public Service Act. (RCW 42.52.050)

Access

When the records are ready for disclosure, the requester is notified and arrangements are made for access and/or copying.

Installments

When appropriate, the University may respond to requests by providing records on a partial or installment basis. (RCW 42.56.080, 42.56.120)

Denials

If a record is withheld or a portion of a record is concealed (redacted) under an exemption from disclosure, the Public Records Office provides a written index describing the reason for the denial or redaction.

A requester denied access to a public record may appeal the decision to the Public Records Officer. If the Public Records Officer agrees with the denial, the requester may request review by the Office of the Attorney General. (WAC 504-45-080, RCW 42.56.520, RCW 42.56.530)

See 90.06 for appealing denial of access to student records.

Inspecting and Copying Public Records

Hours

Public records are available for inspection during regular University business hours only. Requesters are requested to set a prearranged inspection time with the Public Records Office.

Costs

The Public Records Office charges requesters fifteen cents per copy and mailing costs. These charges are intended to recover costs associated with responding to the request. Prepayment is required before copies of records are mailed or otherwise provided to the requester. For expansive, voluminous, or serial requests, a deposit not to exceed ten percent of the estimated copying costs may be required by the University. The office has also established a rate for scanning paper records when the requester requires an imaged copy.

EXEMPT INFORMATION OR RECORDS

The Public Records Office and the Public Records Officer determine whether or not a public record or portion of a record is exempt from public disclosure. The following classes of normal University records are generally completely or partially exempt from disclosure, however, other exemptions exist which may also apply. Contact the Public Records Office for information regarding exemptions.

Address/Telephone Data and Personal Data

The residential addresses, residential telephone numbers, personal cellular telephone numbers, personal e-mail addresses, social security numbers, and emergency contact information of University employees, dependents of employees, or volunteers which are held in personnel records, public employment-related records, employment or volunteer rosters, or mailing lists are exempt from public disclosure. In addition, names and dates of birth of dependents of employees or volunteers held in such files are exempt from public disclosure. See also 90.07. (RCW 42.56.230; 42.56.250)

Attorney Advice

Any information that qualifies as attorney/client privileged is exempt from disclosure.

Applications for Public Employment

The names of unsuccessful job applicants, contents of resumes, and other unsuccessful applicant information are exempt from disclosure. (NOTE: The exemption for applicant files does not apply to a successful applicant who becomes an employee.) (RCW 42.56.250)

Investigative Records

Records of active investigation of possible unfair practices under RCW 49.60 or of possible violations of other federal, state, or local laws prohibiting discrimination in employment are exempt from public disclosure. (RCW 42.56.240; 42.56.250)

Library Records

Library circulation records which disclose or could be used to disclose the identity of a library user are exempt from public disclosure. (RCW 42.56.310)

Lists for Commercial Purposes

The University does not have the authority to give, sell, or provide access to lists of individuals which are requested for commercial purposes. (RCW 42.56.070)

Personal Financial Information

Credit card numbers, debit card numbers, electronic check numbers, card expiration dates, or bank or other financial numbers supplied to the University are exempt from public disclosure, except when disclosure is expressly required by law. (RCW 42.56.230)

Personal Student Information

See 90.06.

Preliminary Drafts (Deliberative Process)

Preliminary drafts, notes, and recommendations in which opinions are expressed or policies are formulated or recommended may be exempt from public disclosure. A specific record is not exempt when that record is publicly cited by the University in connection with some University action. (RCW 42.56.280)

A specific record is not exempt if it contains factual information or data only. Placing the word "draft" on a document does not necessarily cause the document to be exempt under this exemption.

NOTE: Record holders may dispose of preliminary drafts in conformance with the All-University Records Retention Schedule (see 90.01). Usually, such drafts may be discarded once a replacement draft has been created or the final draft approved, however, a pending public records request, audit, or legal action supersedes the retention schedule.

Pretrial Records

Records relating to a controversy to which the University is a party are exempt from public disclosure if the records would not be available to another party under the rules of pretrial discovery for causes pending in the superior courts. (RCW 42.56.290)

Research Data

Valuable formulae, designs, drawings, computer source code or object code, and research data obtained by the University when disclosure would produce private gain and public loss must be protected. This exemption applies to data obtained within five years of the request for disclosure. (RCW 42.56.270)

Tests

Test questions, scoring keys and other examination data used to administer any examination are exempt from disclosure. (RCW 42.56.250)

Witnesses, Crime Victims, Complainants

Personally identifiable information may not be disclosed if disclosure endangers any person's life, physical safety, or property. (RCW 42.56.240)

See the PDF form:
90.05.6: Public Records Request
Complete and/or print as needed