Questions and Answers
What is a public record?
Answer: A public record includes 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 agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. This includes, but is not limited to e-mail, text messages, electronic media, paper and video. Only existing documents are releasable.
Why would the University provide my records to the public?
Answer: It is the policy of the Western Washington University to comply with Washington State Public Records Act. Therefore, all public records in University custody are open for inspection by any person and copies of public records shall be provided within a reasonable time and upon payment of applicable charges.
What is the purpose of the request?
Answer: Agencies shall not distinguish among persons requesting records, and such persons shall not be required to provide information as to the purpose for the request” (except to determine if the request is seeking a list of individuals for a commercial use or would violate another statute prohibiting disclosure or restricting disclosure to only certain persons). See RCW 42.56.080
Why does the requestor want to know?
Answer: For transparency and accountability in government. The Public Records Act is based on three principles stated on RCW 42.56.030, “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created”.
How do I submit a public records request?
Answer: Public records requests may be made in writing, by telephone or by fax, see https://rcps.wwu.edu/request-a-public-record/
What is the cost?
Answer: There is a cost of 15 cents per page for photocopies and 10 cents per page for electronic copies of scanned paper records. For additional information about cost, see enclosed link https://rcps.wwu.edu/cost/
Can I get a waiver for the cost of public records?
Answer: Fees may be waived when the public records officer determines collecting a fee is not cost effective for the university. See WAC 516-09-070
How long does it take to fulfill a public records request?
Answer: The University responds to public records requests within 5-business day of receipt of the public records request. The response may take one of the following forms:
- Acknowledge the request and give a reasonable date for providing the records
- Provide the requested records
- Deny the request and provide an explanation for the denial
- Request a clarification about the request where the request is unclear or does not sufficiently identify the requested records
What are my options for receiving records?
- Electronically (email or CD)
- Paper copy (mailed or in-person pick up
- Review in person
Are public records requests confidential?
Answer: No. If requested, public records requests are public records and not subject to any exemption. However, public records requests are sent to employees only on a need to know basis.
Can I have the public record in a specific format?
Answer: The university is required to retain public records in the medium they were created. Except as necessary to process, the University does not ordinarily reformat its public records to provide them in a particular form for a requester.
Are there any records I can’t get?
Answer: Some information may be exempt, in part or in whole, from disclosure and cannot be released. Such records will either be exempt in its entity or parts of the records will be redacted
- An exemption log/letter explaining the legal basis for exemptions applied will be issued to the requestor
- For a complete list of exemptions under the Public Records Act, see RCW 42.56.210 through 480.
What if I don’t agree with the exemptions applied or my request is denied?
Answer: Requestors are encouraged to work with the Public Records Officer to reach a resolution. Other options are:
- Office of Attorney General review- The Office of Attorney General will independently review your request and the agency’s denial, and provide you with a written opinion as to whether the record you requested is exempt from disclosure. This review by the Attorney General is not binding on the university or upon you.
- Judicial review of agency actions- You may file a legal action in Superior Court in the county where the agency record is located to require the agency to release the record.
What is a third party notice and why would the university provide one?
Answer: Where there is a reasonable belief that the records may be exempt or a substantive privacy right may be infringed upon, the University may notify third parties or agencies affected by the request.