Access to Public Records
The Public Records Act (“PRA”), RCW 42.56, allows private citizens access to agency and government records. Subject to some limitations, public institutions are required by law to permit prompt access to records upon request. Many governmental agencies recognize and respect a citizen’s right to prompt access to public records. However, some resist production when the records, if provided, would reveal an abuse of power, improper use of public funds, or would be embarrassing. Access is sometimes denied, curtailed or delayed by agency lawyers’ artful application of a myriad of technical and often confusing legal exemptions. Legitimate requests by citizens sometimes go unanswered, are disputed, delayed until the request is abandoned or until the one-year limit for enforcement of the PRA has passed.
You have a right to know what your public officials are doing and how they are spending taxpayer money. You also have the right to find out without drawing undue attention to yourself or your business. The PRA permits citizens to make requests anonymously through their attorney. We can help draft records requests in ways that help avoid challenge by the public agency, evaluate the legitimacy and validity of agency responses to and denials of requests, and are prepared to take legal action on your behalf to obtain wrongfully withheld records via court order.
Open Public Meeting Act
The Open Public Meetings Act, RCW 42.30, requires the decision making bodies of local governments and state agencies to conduct meetings in the open, provide advance notice of those meetings, and follow specific protocols when making agency decisions. We can help guard against infringement of the public’s right of access to meetings by government bodies such as city councils, school boards and other agencies. You have the right to hear and be heard when your elected officials are making important decisions, and we can help you exercise that right.