9611 SE 36th Street
Mercer Island, WA 98040
Contact: Ali Spietz, City Clerk
Email: ali.spietz@mercerg. . .
Hours: 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM (Mon - Fri)
City of Mercer Island Public Records Act Rules of Procedure
The Public Records Act, RCW 42.56, requires public agencies to make identifiable, non-exempt public records available for inspection and copying upon request and to publish rules of procedure to inform the public how access to public records will be accomplished. The purpose of these rules is to provide the public full and timely access to information concerning the conduct of government, mindful of individuals’ privacy rights and the desirability of efficient administration of our City government. The Act and these Rules will be interpreted in favor of disclosure. In carrying out its responsibilities under the Act, the City shall abide by the provisions of the Act describing its purposes and interpretation.
Section 1. Definitions
a. Public record. A writing, regardless of physical form, containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function, prepared, owned, used or retained by the City.
b. Writing. Broadly defined, a writing means handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, and any other means of recording any form of communication, including, but not limited to, letters, words, pictures, sounds or symbols or their combinations; papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, motion picture, film and video recordings, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums, diskettes, sound recordings, and other documents including data compilations from which information may be obtained or translated. An email is a “writing.”
c. Identifiable record. An identifiable record is one in existence at the time the records request is made and that City staff can reasonably locate.
d. Exempt record. All agency records are available for review by the public unless they are specifically exempted or prohibited from disclosure by state law, either directly in RCW 42.56 or in other statutes.
e. Counter document. A frequently requested document retained at City Hall or within departments that is known to be public information and may be released without need to file a written public disclosure request.
f. Email. Electronic mail is an informational transfer system which uses computers for sending and receiving messages. It is comprised of individual units of information divided into an “envelope” and the message contents. The envelope, or message header, contains the mailing address, routing instructions, transmission and receipt information, and other information the system needs to deliver the mail item correctly. Classification of emails as public records is dependent on the content of the message. Email messages are public records when they are created or received in the transaction of public business and retained as evidence of official actions.
Section 2. Description of City Services and Central Office
The City of Mercer Island is a Municipal Corporation in the State of Washington that provides the full range of municipal services through its various departments. These functions include, but are not limited to, maintaining public records. The Public Records Officer shall maintain the process through which the public may obtain information from the City. The City of Mercer Island’s City Hall is located 9611 SE 36th Street, Mercer Island, WA 98040. The City also has several departments at other locations throughout the City.
Section 3. Public Records Officer
Any person wishing to request access to public records or seeking assistance in making a request should contact the City’s Public Records Officer. The City Clerk has been designated by the City Manager as the City’s Public Records Officer (see Appendix A). The Public Records Officer will oversee compliance with the Public Records Act, but may designate other City staff members who may process requests for public records. The Public Records Officer or his/her designees shall provide the fullest assistance to requestors, ensure that public records are protected from damage or disorganization, and prevent fulfilling public records requests from causing excessive interference with the essential functions of the City. When using these Rules, references to the Public Records Officer should be interpreted to also include his/her designees.
a. Requests for records other than Police, Fire, or Court records. Requests to inspect or copy any records maintained by the City, other than Police, Fire, or Court records, should be made to the Public Records Officer at:
Public Records Officer/City Clerk
City of Mercer Island
9611 SE 36th Street
Mercer Island, WA 98040
The City’s Public Records Request form is available by clicking here.
b. Requests for Police or Fire Department records. The Public Records Officer has designated the Police Lead Records Specialist to coordinate and respond to public records requests directly, requests should be made to:
City of Mercer Island
9611 SE 36th Street
Mercer Island, WA 98040
The Police and Fire Public Records Request form is available by clicking here.
c. The Mercer Island Municipal Court is not subject to these Public Records Act Rules. For Court records please contact the Court directly at:
Mercer Island Municipal Court
9611 SE 36th Street
Mercer Island, Washington 98040
The Municipal Court’s regular business hours are: Monday through Thursday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, excluding legal holidays.
Section 4. Availability of public records
a. Hours for inspection. Public records are available for inspection during the City’s regular business hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., excluding legal holidays. City staff and the requestor may make mutually agreeable arrangements for times of inspection and copying. However, the City shall have final say regarding hours for inspection.
b. Place of inspection. Records will typically be made available for inspection at City Hall. Records must be inspected at the City offices; however, City staff and the requestor may make mutually agreeable arrangements for inspection if the particular records being sought are maintained at field offices of the City. A requestor shall not take City records from City offices without the permission of the Public Records Officer.
c. Internet access to records. A variety of records are available on the City of Mercer Island web site at www.mercergov.org. Requestors are encouraged to use the search function and view documents available on the website.
d. Records index. The City has determined by formal order (see Appendix B) that maintaining a central index of City records is unduly burdensome, costly, and would interfere with City operations due to the number and complexity of records generated as a result of the wide range of City activities.
e. Organization of records. City departments will maintain records in a reasonably organized manner and the City will take reasonable actions to protect records from damage and disorganization.
f. Retention of records. The City is not required to retain all records it creates or uses. The Washington State Archives (a division of the Washington Secretary of State’s Office) approves a general retention schedule for local agency records (including cities) that is common to most agencies. When reference is made to retention schedule within these Rules, it should be interpreted to reference this schedule. The retention schedule for local agencies is available at: www.sos.wa.gov/archives/RecordsRetentionSchedules.aspx
Section 5. Making a request for public records
a. Reasonable notice that the request is for public records. A requestor must provide the City with reasonable notice that the request being made is for public records. If a request is contained in a larger document unrelated to a public records request, the requestor should point out the public records request by labeling the front page of the document as containing a public records request or otherwise calling the request to the attention of the Public Records Officer to facilitate timely response to the request. A request should be for an identifiable record. A request for information is not subject to the Public Records Act.
b. Form. Any person who wants to inspect or copy identifiable public records of the City is encouraged to make the request using the City’s Public Records Request form or in writing in one of the following ways:
- By using the City’s request form (see Appendix C), available for pickup at City Hall (9611 SE 36th Street, Mercer Island), by clicking here to download it.
- By letter, fax, or e-mail addressed to the Public Records Officer.
The following information should be included in the request:
c. Prioritization of records. The Public Records Officer may ask a requestor to prioritize the records he or she is requesting so that the most important records may be provided first.
- Name and address of requestor;
- Other contact information, including telephone number and email address;
- Identification of the requested records adequate for the Public Records Officer to locate the records;
- The date and time of day of the request.
d. Copies. If the requestor wishes to have copies of the records made, he or she should so indicate and make arrangements to make a deposit or pay for the copies, as further discussed in Section 10 below.
e. Oral Requests. While the City’s Public Records Request form is encouraged, the Public Records Officer shall accept requests for public records by telephone or in person. If an oral request is made, the Public Records Officer will record the substance of the request on the City’s form.
f. Requests made directly to City departments. Requests for public records other than identified “counter documents” that are made directly to departments shall be delivered to the Public Records Officer immediately upon receipt for coordinated processing.
g. Purpose of request. A requestor need not state the purpose of the request. However, in an effort to clarify or prioritize a request and provide responsive records, the Public Records Officer may inquire about the nature or scope of the request. If the request is for a list of individuals, the Public Records Officer may ask the requestor if he/she intends to use the records for a commercial purpose. The City is not authorized to provide lists of individuals for commercial purposes. The Public Records Officer may also seek sufficient information to determine if another statute may prohibit disclosure.
h. Overbroad requests. The City may not deny a request for identifiable public records solely because the request is overbroad. However, the City may seek clarification, ask the requestor to prioritize the request so that the most important records are provided first, and/or communicate with the requestor to limit the size and complexity of the request. The City may also provide the responsive records in installments over time. When a request uses an inexact phrase such as “all records relating to”, the Public Records Officer may interpret the request to be for records which directly and fairly address the topic. When the requestor has found the records he or she is seeking, the requestor should advise the Public Records Officer that the requested records have been provided and the remainder of the request may be cancelled.
Section 6. Processing public records requests
a. Providing “fullest assistance.” These rules and any related policies or procedures identify how the City will provide full access to public records, protect records from damage or disorganization, prevent excessive interference with other essential functions of the agency, provide fullest assistance to requestors and provide timely possible action on public records requests. All assistance necessary to help requestors locate particular responsive records shall be provided by the Public Records Officer, provided that the giving of such assistance does not unreasonably disrupt the daily operations of City Hall or other duties of any assisting employee(s) in other City departments.
b. Order for processing requests. The Public Records Officer will process requests in the order that allows the most requests to be processed in the most efficient manner.
c. Acknowledging receipt and fulfilling requests. Within five business days of receipt of the request, the Public Records Officer will do one or more of the following:
d. Reasonable estimate of time to fully respond. If not able to respond within the five business day period, the Public Records Officer must provide a reasonable estimate of the time it will take to fully respond to the request. Additional time may be needed to clarify the scope of the request, locate and assemble the records, redact confidential information, prepare a withholding index, notify third party persons or agencies affected by the request and/or consult with the City Attorney about whether the records are exempt from disclosure. The Public Records Officer should briefly explain the basis for the time estimated to respond. Should an extension of time be necessary to fulfill the request, the Public Records Officer will provide a revised estimate and explain the circumstances that make it necessary.
- Make the record available for inspection or copying;
- Respond to a request to provide access to a public record by providing the requestor with a link to the City’s website containing an electronic copy of that record if it can be determined that the requestor has agreed and has internet access;
- If copies are requested and payment of a deposit for the copies, if any, is made or terms of payment are agreed upon, send the copies to the requestor;
- Acknowledge that the request has been received and provide a reasonable estimate of when records will be available;
- If the request is unclear or does not sufficiently identify the requested records, request clarification from the requestor. Such clarification may be requested and provided by telephone;
- Deny the request and provide the statutory authority for such denial.
e. Notification that records are available. If the requestor has sought to inspect the records, the Public Records Officer will notify him or her that the entire response or an installment is available for inspection and ask the requestor to contact the City to arrange a mutually agreeable time for inspection. If the requestor seeks copies, the Public Records Officer should notify him or her of the projected costs and whether a deposit is required before making the copies.
f. Delayed response from the City. If the City does not respond in writing within five business days of receipt of the request for disclosure, the requestor should contact the Public Records Officer to determine the reason for the delay.
g. Consequences of requestor’s failure to clarify a request. If the requestor does not respond to the City’s request for clarification within 30 days of the City’s request, the Public Records Officer may consider the request abandoned, send a letter closing the response to the requestor, and re-file the records.
h. Good faith compliance with the Public Records Act. The City, and it officials or employees are not liable for loss or damage based on release of a public record if the City, official or employee acted in good faith in attempting to comply with the Public Records Act.
i. Searching for records. The City must conduct an objectively reasonable search for responsive records. The Public Records Officer will determine where responsive records are likely to be located and involve Records Coordinators in other departments, as needed, to assemble the records. After the records are located, the Public Records Officer should take reasonable steps to narrow down the number of records assembled to those that are responsive.
j. Preserving requested records. Upon receipt of a public records request the Public Records Officer will notify each department that may have records associated with the records request. If a requested record is scheduled shortly for destruction under the City’s records retention schedule, the record cannot be destroyed until the public disclosure request has been resolved. Once a request has been closed, the Public Records Officer can destroy the record or will notify the department that the record can be destroyed in accordance with the retention schedule.
k. Inspection of records. To the extent possible due to other demands, the Public Records Officer shall promptly provide space to inspect public records at City Hall. The requestor must claim or review the assembled records within thirty days of the Public Records Officer’s notification that the records are available for inspection or copying. The Public Records Officer will notify the requestor in writing of this requirement and suggest that he or she contact the agency to make arrangements to claim or review the records. If the requestor or a representative of the requestor fails to claim or review the records within the thirty-day period, or make other arrangements, the Public Records Officer may close the request and re-file the assembled records. Members of the public may not remove documents from the viewing area or disassemble or alter any document.
l. Providing copies of records. The requestor shall indicate which documents he or she wishes to have copied using a mutually agreed upon non-permanent method of marking the desired records. After inspection is complete, the Public Records Officer will arrange for copying. Making a copy of an electronic record is considered copying and not creation of a new record.
m. Providing records in installments. When the request is for a large number of records, the Public Records Officer will provide access for inspection and copying in installments if he or she reasonably determines that it would be practical to provide the records in that way. If the requestor fails to inspect the entire set of records of one or more of the installments within 30 days, the Public Records Officer may stop searching for the remaining records and close the request. The Public Records Officer will provide the requestor a description of what documents are included in each installment and notice when each installment is available.
n. Completion of inspection. When the inspection of the requested records is complete and all requested copies are provided, the Public Records Officer will indicate that the City has completed a diligent search for the requested records and made any located non-exempt records available for inspection.
o. Closing withdrawn or abandoned requests. If the requestor withdraws the request, fails to fulfill his or her obligations to inspect the records, or fails to pay the deposit or final payment for the requested copies, the Public Records Officer will close the request and indicate to the requestor that the City has closed the request. The Public Records Officer will document closure of the request and the conditions that led to closure.
p. Later discovered documents. If, after the Public Records Officer has informed the requestor that the City has provided all available records, the City becomes aware of additional responsive documents that existed on the date of the request, the Public Records Officer will promptly inform the requestor of the additional documents and provide them on an expedited basis.
q. No duty to create records. The City is not obligated to create a new record to satisfy a records request; however, the City may, in its discretion, create such a new record to fulfill the request where it may be easier for the City to create a record responsive to the request than to collect and make available voluminous records that contain small pieces of information responsive to the request.
r. No duty to supplement responses. The City is not obligated to hold current records requests open to respond to requests for records that may be created in the future. If a public record is created or comes into the possession of the City after a request is received by the City, it is not responsive to the request and will not be provided. A new request must be made to obtain later-created public records.
Section 7. Processing requests for electronic records.
The process for requesting electronic public records is the same as for requesting paper public records.
a. Format. When a requestor requests records in an electronic format, the City will provide the nonexempt records or portions of such records that are reasonably locatable in an electronic format, or in a format that is reasonably translatable from the format in which the City keeps the record.
b. Electronic copy of record. The City may provide access to public records by providing links to the web site containing an electronic copy of the record, provide records on disk, or transmit the responsive record via e-mail. The Public Records Officer will work with the requestor to determine the most appropriate method for providing electronic copies of responsive records.
Section 8. Retention of records.
The City will retain its records in accordance with retention schedules approved by the State Local Records Committee and any amendments to those schedules that the City of Mercer Island has made. Public records may not be destroyed per a retention schedule if a public records request or actual or anticipated litigation is pending.
Section 9. Redactions, exempt from disclosure, personal privacy and protecting rights of others
a. Redactions. If only a portion of a record is exempt from disclosure, but the remainder is not exempt, the Public Records Officer will redact (strike out) the exempt portions, provide the nonexempt portions, and indicate to the requestor why portions of the record are being redacted. For example, to prevent an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy, the Public Records Officer shall redact identifying details such as social security numbers when she makes available or publishes any public record. In each case, the justification for the deletion shall be explained in writing in a redaction log.
b. Exempt from disclosure. Some records are exempt from disclosure, in whole or in part. The City is not required to permit public inspection and/or copying of records for which public disclosure of the record is prohibited, restricted or limited by state or federal statute or regulation. If the City believes that a record is exempt from disclosure and should be withheld, the Public Records Officer will state the specific exemption and provide a brief explanation of why the record or a portion of the record is being withheld in an exemption log. If only a portion of the record is determined to be exempt, the Public Records Officer will redact the exempt portions and provide the non-exempt portions.
c. Commercial Purposes. Pursuant to RCW 42.56.070(9), the City of Mercer Island is prohibited from disclosing lists of individuals for commercial purposes.
d. List of Exemptions. The Public Records Act, RCW 42.56, provides that a number of document types and information are prohibited from being disclosed or are exempt from public inspection and copying (see WA State Attorney General's exemption list). In addition, there are other statutes not listed in Chapter 42.56 RCW which may exempt or prohibit disclosure of certain documents [see exemption list outside RCW 42.56 (Appendix C to “Public Records Act for Washington Cities, Counties, and Special Purpose Districts,” Municipal Research and Services Center, March 2016, and as amended)].
e. Personal privacy. When a public record is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act, the exemption does not apply if the information that might violate personal privacy or vital government interests can be deleted from the records being sought.
f. Protecting rights of others. If the requested records contain information that may affect rights of others and may be exempt from disclosure, prior to providing the records the Public Records Officer may give notice to those whose rights may be affected by the disclosure. Generally two weeks notice will be given in order to make it possible to contact the requestor and ask him or her to revise the request or, if necessary, allow affected individuals to seek an order from a court to prevent or limit the disclosure. The notice to the affected person(s) will include a copy of the request.
Section 10. Costs of providing copies of public records
Per RCW 42.56, the City can not charge for locating a public record or for making records available for review or inspection. The City may charge, however, for the actual costs of copying public records, including the staff time spent making the copies. This provision includes responses to public records requests for electronic records.
a. Fee schedule. Pursuant to State Statue the current charge for standard black-and-white photocopies is fifteen cents per page. If the City has to pay an outside firm for duplicating records in non-routine formats such as photographs, blueprints or tape recordings, the actual cost will be passed along to the requestor.
b. Certified copies. Where the request is for certified copies, an additional charge may be applied.
c. Costs for copies of electronic records. The actual cost to the City for scanning and producing electronic documents on various media shall be charged to the requester. There will be no charge for emailing electronic records to a requestor, unless other costs apply, such as a scanning fee.
d. Faxing and mailing charges. The City may also charge actual costs of long distance facsimile transmission and/or mailing, including the cost of the shipping container.
e. Sales tax. The City will not charge sales tax on copies of records.
f. Use of other copying services. The City is not required to copy records at its own facilities and may determine to use a commercial copying center. The City may request a deposit and will bill the requestor for the amount charged by the vendor.
g. Deposit or payment by installments. Before beginning to copy records, the Public Records Officer may require a deposit of up to ten percent (10%) of the estimated costs of copying the records selected by a requestor. The Public Records Officer may also require the payment of the remainder of the copying costs before providing all the records, or the payment of the costs of copying an installment before providing that installment.
h. Method of payment. Payment may be made by cash, check, or money order to the City of Mercer Island.
i. Waiver of copying charges. The Public Records Officer has the discretion to waive copying charges for small requests, or for individuals or government agencies doing business with the City if the Public Records Officer determines that this action is in the best interest of the City.
Section 11. Denials of requests for public records
a. Petition for internal administrative review of denial of access. Any person who objects to the initial denial or partial denial of a records request may petition in writing (including by e-mail) to the Public Records Officer for a review of that decision. The petition shall include a copy of or reasonably identify the written statement by the Public Records Officer or designee denying the request.
b. Consideration of petition for review. The Public Records Officer shall promptly provide the petition and any other relevant information to the City Attorney or his or her designee to conduct the review. The City Attorney or his or her designee will promptly consider the petition and either affirm or reverse the denial within two business days following the City’s receipt of the petition, or within such other time to which the City and the requestor mutually agree.
c. Judicial review. Any person may obtain court review of denials of public records requests pursuant to RCW 42.56.550 at the conclusion of two business days after the initial denial regardless of any internal administrative appeal.