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How may I obtain public records from a state or local agency?

How may I obtain public records from a state or local agency?

(Public Records Act) Permanent link

I have for several years now been asking a county office for certain specific information, and not once have I received any of this information requested. I have not even gotten any response at all to my requests, they have been just plain ignored. I have been told there is a law for this problem but I could never find it. Could you tell me where to find it?

State and local agencies must “make available for inspection and copying all public records”.  RCW 42.56.070(1).  The Public Records Act is a “strongly worded mandate for broad disclosure of public records”.  Hearst Corp. v. Hoppe, 90 Wn.2d 123, 127 (1978).  The Public Records Act is codified at Ch 42.56 RCW  The Attorney General has an Open Government Internet Manual that explains much of the Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act.

Many citizens seeking information don’t know that they have a right to public records.  However, an agency does not have a duty under the PRA to create a record that does not exist.  Therefore when you are making requests for information, be sure to request “public records” which contain the information you seek.  A typical request may be:

Dear Records Officer:

Pursuant to the Public Records Act, Ch 42.56. RCW, please provide me the opportunity to inspect public records related to _________ (be specific as possible as it will reduce the time for an agency to provide you the documents).  I may choose to copy specific records after my inspection.  Please contact me at the following ________________(email/fax/phone/address).



An agency receiving a public records request must promptly respond within five business days.  RCW 42.56.520.

Posted by Open Government Ombudsman at 07/15/2009 02:56:33 PM 

DISCLAIMER: The "Unredacted" webpage and its content is not intended or offered to provide legal advice or legal representation by the Office of the Attorney General. The attorney general's office provides information, technical assistance, and training on the provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act pursuant to RCW 42.30.210 and provides information to records requestors and state and local agencies about "best practices" for complying with the Public Records Act consistent with the adoption of model rules pursuant to RCW 42.56.570. Send Feedback
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