Business Policies and Procedures Manual
Chapter 90: Records

Release of Public Records

BPPM 90.05

For more information contact:
   Finance and Administration

Form: Public Records Request

1.0  Policy

State law requires that identifiable University records must be made available to members of the public for inspection and copying unless exempt from public disclosure. (RCW 42.56)

2.0  Applicability

This section provides general procedures for processing requests for all identifiable public records.

2.1   Student Records

For detailed information regarding disclosure of student records see WAC 504-21 and BPPM 90.06. Student requests for their own education records are to be routed to the Registrar’s Office, rather than the Public Records Office.

2.2   Personnel Records

For detailed information regarding disclosure of personnel records see BPPM 90.07.

3.0  Responsibility

3.1   University Public Records Officer

The University Public Records Officer is the person to whom members of the public may direct requests for disclosure of public records and who oversees the University’s compliance with the public records requirements of RCW 42.56 and WAC 504-45.

3.2   Public Records Office

The Public Records Office processes, tracks, and responds to all public records requests made to the University. The Public Records Office is located at the WSU Pullman campus in Information Technology Bldg. (ITB) 3011, 3013, and 3015; mail code 1225.

3.3   Requester

A requester of public records is responsible for providing a clear written description of identifiable public records and forwarding the written request to the Public Records Office, in accordance with the procedures in Section 5.1 of this policy. Note: The University has no duty to accept automated requests.

A requester is responsible for clarifying their request if such a clarification is requested by the Public Records Officer or designee.

If the requester seeks copies of the records, they are responsible for paying copying, mailing, and other allowable costs involved with the request. The Public Records Office routinely requests prepayment for requests requiring copies and mailing (see Section 5.3.b.)

If records are not copied, the requester is responsible for not damaging or altering records in any manner during the period provided for viewing.

3.4   University Personnel and Departments

University personnel and departments must route all requests from the public for public disclosure of University records to the Public Records Office in accordance with the procedures in this section.

Note: If a request based upon a court order or subpoena is received, the recipient is to immediately contact the Attorney General’s Office; telephone 509-335-2636.

University personnel are to promptly comply with requests for public records from the Public Records Office by gathering all responsive records and forwarding them to the Public Records Office for processing. An employee’s failure to provide all responsive records to the Public Records Office may be a violation of the Ethics in Public Service Act. (RCW 42.52.050). Employees who fail to promptly provide all responsive records also may be subject to disciplinary action.

University personnel are responsible for protecting records from damage and disorganization for the retention periods indicated on approved retention schedules.

4.0  Definitions

The following definitions apply to this policy (BPPM 90.05):

Public Records. A public record includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function that is prepared, owned, used, or retained by the University, regardless of physical form or characteristics.

Writing. Writing as used above means any form of communication or representation, including but not limited to letters, papers, maps, other communication on paper, as well as communication on e-mail, text message, social media posting, Microsoft Teams and similar platforms, tape, film, video, magnetic or punched card, disk, sound recording, and computer data.

5.0  Procedures

5.1     Requesting Records

To initiate a request for access to and/or a copy of public records the requester:

  • Completes and submits an online request through WSU NextRequest (preferred); or
  • Completes and submits a PDF Public Records Request form by e-mail or paper copy; e-mail; mail code 1225; or
  • Sends a letter or email addressed to the Public Records Officer or designee; e-mail; or
  • Makes an in-person request by delivering a copy of the request to the Public Records Office during normal business hours.

A request is identified as a public records request when the Public Records Office receives it.

The University does not accept requests via social media, telephone, or voice mail.

5.2     Response

5.2.a    Respond within Five Days

The Public Records Office responds to a request within five business days of receipt of the request in the Public Records Office. The response may take one of the following forms:

  • Providing the requested records.
  • Providing an internet address and link on the University’s website to the specific records requested.
  • Denying the request and providing an explanation for the denial.
  • Acknowledging the request and providing a reasonable estimate of time within which the Public Records Office will respond to the request. The date may be extended as necessary to accommodate the collection and processing of the records.
  • Requesting a clarification of the request.
5.2.a.i   Reasonable Estimate of Time

When the University receives a public records request, the Public Records Office determines a reasonable estimate of time within which it will respond to the request, factoring in all of the following:

  • The nature, volume, and availability of the requested records.
  • The amount of time necessary to respond to a particular request. The time needed affects the amount of Public Records and non-Public Record staff time available for responding to other public records requests.
  • The impact on essential University functions.

At any time while processing a response, the Public Records Office may provide the requester with a revised reasonable estimate of time within which the University will respond to the request. In addition, a revised reasonable estimate of time may be based on:

  • Any unexpected or unforeseen delays encountered during the request processing.
  • Additional requests submitted by the same requester while the initial request(s) remain pending.
  • Changed circumstances or other considerations ascertained during processing.
5.2.b    University Review

The Public Records Office locates, requests, and reviews the requested public records. To ensure the University’s compliance with the Public Records Act, the office may request assistance from Information Technology Services (ITS) or another appropriate WSU office in gathering responsive records.

University employees are required to provide all records within the scope of the request to the Public Records Office and may not withhold or redact records, even if they believe an exemption may apply. The Public Records Office, in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office as necessary, makes all determinations regarding exemption from disclosure based upon applicable state and federal statutes.

To provide fullest assistance to all requesters, the Public Records Office may allocate specific amounts of time and resources to responding to an individual or grouped request and/or to a particular requester. The Public Records Office may, at any time, revise the estimate based on the criteria described under Section 5.2.a.i.

5.2.c    Access

When the records are ready for disclosure, the requester is notified and arrangements are made for access and/or copying.

5.2.d    Installments

When appropriate, the University may respond to requests by providing records on a partial or installment basis. (RCW 42.56.080, 42.56.120)

The University may elect to provide records on an installment basis to an individual or grouped request. The Public Records Office provides a reasonable estimate in the initial written response concerning when the first installment will be available, and if possible, a schedule for future installments. The Public Records Office may require a deposit prior to processing the request as provided in Section 5.3.b.

5.2.e    Denials

If a record is withheld or a portion of a record is concealed (redacted) under an exemption from disclosure, the Public Records Office provides a written index describing the reason for the denial or redaction.

A requester denied access to a public record may appeal the decision to the Public Records Officer, who refers the matter to their supervisor or the supervisor’s designee. The supervisor or designee reviews the denial and responds within two business days. If the supervisor or designee agrees with the denial, the requester may request review by the Office of the Attorney General. (WAC 504-45-080, RCW 42.56.520, RCW 42.56.530)

See BPPM 90.06 for appealing denial of access to student records.

5.3     Inspecting and Copying Public Records

5.3.a   Hours

Public records are available for inspection during regular University business hours only. Requesters are requested to set a prearranged inspection time with the Public Records Office.

5.3.b   Costs

The Public Records Office publishes a fee schedule setting forth fees for copies of public records, in accordance with RCW 42.56.120 and WAC 504-45-070. Prepayment of fees or a deposit, as authorized by WAC 504-45-070, may be required. For payments made by debit or credit card, a service fee equivalent to the cost of processing the payment is charged.

5.4    Abandoned Requests

The University deems a request abandoned and closes the request when the requester:

  • Withdraws the request;
  • Fails to provide clarification within 30 days of a request by the Public Records Office for clarification;
  • Fails to inspect the records within 30 days, which includes opening and downloading the records;
  • Has elected to inspect records and:
    • Fails to contact the Public Records Office within 30 days of notice that the records are ready to arrange for the review of the first installment; or
    • Misses an appointment to inspect responsive records and fails to contact the Public Records Office to arrange another appointment within 30 days of the missed appointment; or
    • Fails to pay the deposit or final payment for requested copies within 30 days of invoicing.

5.5   Records Delivery

The primary delivery methods are electronic through NextRequest or the University’s secure server. Alternative methods of delivery include:

    • E-mail
    • Inspection (by appointment only)
    • In-person pick up (by appointment only)
    • Paper copies
    • U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delivery
    • Electronic records, including scanned copies, on portable media (e.g., CD, DVD, thumb drive, or portable hard drive)

Due to the potential for introducing an information security threat or otherwise damaging University systems or equipment, the Public Records Office does not allow requesters to attach or insert personal devices or cables into any University computer system, equipment, or USB port. Copying of records from a University system or equipment is done by Public Records Office staff. The requester is charged for the cost of the storage media.

The University is not required to provide records in a particular electronic format.

6.0  Exempt Information or Records

The Public Records Office and the Public Records Officer determine whether a public record or portion of a record is exempt from public disclosure. The following classes of normal University records are generally completely or partially exempt from disclosure, however, other exemptions exist that may also apply. Contact the Public Records Office for information regarding exemptions.

See also Section 7.0 for references.

6.1   Address/Telephone Data and Personal Data

The following information held in personnel records, public employment related records, volunteer rosters, or included in any mailing list of employees or volunteers is exempt from public disclosure:

  • Employees or Volunteers. Residential addresses, telephone and cell phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, identification card numbers, photographs, month and year of birth, and emergency contact information.
  • Dependents of Employees or Volunteers. Names, dates of birth, residential addresses, telephone and cell phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses, social security numbers, and emergency contact information.

6.2   Attorney Advice

Any information that qualifies as attorney/client privileged is exempt from disclosure.

6.3   Applications for Public Employment

The names of job applicants, contents of resumes, and other applicant information are exempt from disclosure. (RCW 42.56.250)

6.4   Investigative Records

Records of active investigation of possible unfair practices under RCW 49.60 or of possible violations of other federal, state, or local laws prohibiting discrimination in employment are exempt from public disclosure. (RCW 42.56.240; 42.56.250)

6.5   Library Records

Library circulation records which disclose or could be used to disclose the identity of a library user are exempt from public disclosure. (RCW 42.56.310)

6.6   Lists for Commercial Purposes

The University does not have the authority to give, sell, or provide access to lists of individuals which are requested for commercial purposes. (RCW 42.56.070)

6.7   Personal Financial Information

Credit card numbers, debit card numbers, electronic check numbers, card expiration dates, or bank or other financial numbers supplied to the University are exempt from public disclosure, except when disclosure is expressly required by law. (RCW 42.56.230)

6.8   Personal Student Information

See BPPM 90.06.

6.9   Preliminary Drafts (Deliberative Process)

Preliminary drafts, notes, and recommendations in which opinions are expressed or policies are formulated or recommended may be exempt from public disclosure. A specific record is not exempt when that record is publicly cited by the University in connection with some University action. (RCW 42.56.280)

A specific record is not exempt if it contains factual information or data only. Placing the word “draft” on a document does not necessarily cause the document to be exempt under this exemption.

Note: Record holders may dispose of preliminary drafts in conformance with the All-University Records Retention Schedule (see BPPM 90.01). Usually, such drafts may be discarded once a replacement draft has been created or the final draft approved, however, a pending public records request, audit, or legal action supersedes the retention schedule.

6.10   Pretrial Records

Records relating to a controversy to which the University is a party are exempt from public disclosure if the records would not be available to another party under the rules of pretrial discovery for causes pending in the superior courts. (RCW 42.56.290)

6.11   Research Data

Valuable formulae, designs, drawings, computer source code or object code, and research data obtained by the University when disclosure would produce private gain and public loss must be protected. This exemption applies to data obtained within five years of the request for disclosure. (RCW 42.56.270)

6.12   Tests

Test questions, scoring keys and other examination data used to administer any examination are exempt from disclosure. (RCW 42.56.250)

6.13   Witnesses, Crime Victims, Complainants

Personally identifiable information may not be disclosed if disclosure endangers any person’s life, physical safety, or property. (RCW 42.56.240)

7.0   References

Address/Telephone and Personal Data

Exempt Information or Records

Revisions:  May 2024 (Rev. 627); Dec. 2023 (Rev. 620); Nov. 2018 (Rev. 523); Sept. 2016 (Rev. 478); Mar. 2016 (Rev. 467); July 2013 (Rev. 414); Aug. 2008 (Rev. 327); Sept. 2007 (Rev. 303); Nov. 2006 (Rev. 290); Dec. 2000 (Rev. 175); Dec. 1998 (Rev. 135); Aug. 1993 (Rev 92); July 1987 (Rev. 67); July 1985 (Rev. 60); Dec. 1983 – new policy (Rev. 54).