Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1980 NO. 1 > Jan 3 1980

(1) Except where prohibited by RCW 42.17.260(5), inspection and copying of an assessor's property tax assessment roll and supporting materials must be allowed unless the specific exemptions covering taxpayer information, as set forth in RCW 42.17.310(1)(c) and RCW 84.40.020, are applicable in a given case.  (2) Real property assessment rolls prepared pursuant to RCW 84.40.020 and 84.40.160 are lists of taxable property and not individuals and, therefore, their disclosure is not prohibited by RCW 42.17.260(5) even for a commercial purpose; whether this is also true of personal property assessment rolls will depend upon their actual form.

AGO 2002 NO. 2 > Apr 10 2002

While associations comprised of counties or local public officers are not “agencies” as defined in RCW 42.17.020, they could in certain circumstances be found to be “functional equivalents” of agencies for purposes of applying particular portions of the Public Disclosure Act; this would be greatly dependent on the facts of a particular case.

AGO 1997 NO. 2 > Mar 13 1997

1.Diet information forms submitted to the Department of Health pursuant to a federal/state program, and computer analyses generated with the information submitted, are public records for purposes of the Public Disclosure Act, RCW 42.17.2.Diet information forms submitted to the Department of Health pursuant to a federal/state program, and computer analyses generated with the information provided, contain personal information which is exempt from public inspection and copying; if this personal information is deleted, the remainder of the records are subject to public disclosure.3.Diet information forms submitted to the Department of Health pursuant to a federal/state program, and computer analyses generated with the information provided, generally do not meet the definition of "official public record" contained in RCW 40.14, the Records Retention Law; however, the Records Committee has authority to classify the records as "official public records" if it wishes to do so.4.The Records Committee created in RCW 40.14.050 has authority to approve a retention schedule for agency records which permits an agency not to retain a record for any time at all beyond the time necessary to generate the record; or the committee may choose to require that such records be kept for such period as the committee deems appropriate.

AGO 1951 NO. 3 > Apr 4 1951

1. Certain state officials only may authorize destruction of juvenile records in state schools.  2. There is no authority to ever "seal" such records.  3. A sound discretion would permit information therein contained being made available to other governmental officials.

AGO 2000 NO. 3 > Jun 13 2000

1.  A farm plan prepared wholly or in part by the staff of a conservation district, and held in the district offices as a document relating to district business, is a “public record” for purposes of the Public Disclosure Law.  2.  Farm plans held by conservation districts are not generally subject to any exemption from public disclosure, although individual information within a document might be exempt in some cases.  3.  The disclosability of farm plans held by conservation districts is entirely a matter of state law; federal law governing similar documents held by federal agencies does not cover conservation districts, nor does it preempt the state's Public Disclosure Act as to records held by state or local agencies.

AGO 1973 NO. 4 > Jan 19 1973

(1) Under the provisions of Initiative No. 276, all records of a school district pertaining to the salaries of its employees and their payroll deductions must be made available for inspection and copying at the request of any person unless disclosure of particular information in such records would violate a right of privacy of the subject employee and this information cannot be deleted from the record without destroying it. (2) The question of whether disclosure of any particular information in a school district's salary or payroll records would violate an employee's right of privacy is to be decided on a case‑by‑case basis in the courts in accordance with procedures set forth in §§ 31, 33 and 34 of Initiative No. 276.

AGO 2007 NO. 5 > Aug 13 2007

1.  RCW 48.02.065(1), making certain records provided to the Insurance Commissioner privileged and confidential, is mandatory and does not grant the Commissioner discretion to release the records in response to a public disclosure request.  2.  The confidential and privileged status conferred by RCW 48.02.065(1) and (6) extends to working papers, documents, materials, or information disclosed in the course of a financial or market conduct examination to a contractor or consultant acting under the direction of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.  3.  Records rendered confidential and privileged under RCW 48.02.065 remain confidential and privileged, even if the Insurance Commissioner does not issue any financial or market conduct examination report relating to such records.

AGO 1991 NO. 5 > Feb 13 1991

1.  The Open Public Meetings Act and public records provisions of the Public Disclosure Act apply to state agencies.  An organization or entity is a state agency for these purposes if it is the functional equivalent of a state agency. 2.  A four-part analysis is used to determine if an organization or entity is the functional equivalent of a state agency:  (1) whether the organization performs a governmental function; (2) the level of government funding; (3) the extent of government involvement or regulation; and (4) whether the organization was created by the government. 3.  The Small Business Export Finance Assistance Center is not the functional equivalent of a state agency under this four-part analysis.  Therefore, the Center is not subject to the Open Public Meetings Act or the public records provisions of the Public Disclosure Act.

AGO 1994 NO. 5 > Mar 31 1994

1.  The State Auditor's authority to audit the records of agencies, including the Legislature, implies authority to require that records be kept in sufficient detail to satisfy audit needs. 2.  The State Auditor has authority to require state agencies, including the Legislature, to maintain records of telephone numbers called from state-owned telephones, for audit purposes. 3.  If the State Auditor maintains files containing legislative telephone records, such records are exempt from public disclosure while the audit investigation is pending; thereafter, the records are generally not exempt from disclosure unless someone can make a showing that particular records fall within some recognized exception to the public disclosure laws. 4.  The State Auditor's authority to audit the Legislature, including the authority to prescribe the keeping of records for audit purposes, extends to the Legislature itself and to committees created by the Legislature (such as the Legislative Transportation Committee and the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee), and to persons or agencies exercising legislative power (such as the State Actuary and the Redistricting Commission).

AGO 1991 NO. 6 > Feb 27 1991

1.   RCW 42.17.270 requires agencies to make identifiable public records promptly available to the public.  To compel with this requirement, agencies should act reasonably expeditiously in light of all the circumstances.   2.  RCW 42.17.300 provides that no fee shall be charged for the inspection of public records.  This statute prohibits any agency from imposing a charge for searching for and retrieving public records.  3.  RCW 42.17.300 permits agencies to impose a reasonable charge for providing copies of public records.  This includes actual costs directly incident to copying.