Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Aug 23 2017

Proposed rule changes improve agency responsiveness and address the use of personal communications devices

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed a proposed update to the Public Records Act (PRA) Model Rules, reflecting changes in state law and helping the public and agencies navigate changing technology.

The model rules provide information about the PRA and some suggested best practices. They are advisory and do not have the force of law, but can be a useful guide as governments develop their public records policies. In 2017, the Legislature amended the PRA to say local public agencies should consult the model rules when establishing PRA ordinances.

The proposed update to the model rules:

  • Confirms that the public is entitled to request public records stored on personal devices if those records concern agency business;
  • Provides a model policy for handling requests with greater efficiency and transparency based off policies pioneered by the cities of Kirkland and Pasco; and
  • Addresses relevant court rulings and changes to state law made by the Washington State Legislature.

“I am committed to enhancing transparency in government,” Ferguson said. “Open government is vital to a free and informed society. These proposed changes will help the public access the information they are entitled to and help governments process their requests effectively.”

The AGO last revised the model rules in 2007. Since then, there have been a number of developments in statutes, case law and technology with respect to public agency records. The proposed updates look to modernize the model rules and make them a more functional resource for requestors, public agencies, the courts, the Legislature and others navigating the PRA.

The proposal addresses the use of personal devices to conduct agency business. For example, the proposed updates explain that public records on personal devices, such as smart phones or home computers, are subject to the PRA.

The proposed updates also outline a framework for agencies to assign requests a prioritization category to triage and manage records requests in order to more efficiently respond to requestors. The proposal will enable, for example, a government agency to handle a simple, urgent request before moving on to a complex, non-urgent request, rather than processing whichever came in first. This will allow requestors who urgently need easily accessible information to get it more quickly, while the agency still addresses non-urgent and/or complex requests in a timely manner as required by law.

Click here to read the complete proposal.

The public may comment on the proposed changes by Sept. 29 through this online form, or by emailing Open Government Ombuds Nancy Krier at NancyK1@atg.wa.gov with the subject line “Model rules.”

Public comment may also be submitted at an Olympia public hearing on Oct. 4 in the Legislative Building’s Columbia Room from 6 to 8 p.m.

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