Frequently Asked Questions

How are the five business days calculated when responding to a public records request?

RCW 42.56.520 provides that a response to a request for public records must be made by the agency within five business days. The day the request is received does not count as one of the five days. As support for that conclusion, RCW 1.12.040 provides: “The time within which an act is to be done, as herein provided, shall be computed by excluding the first day, and including the last, unless the last day is a holiday, Saturday, or Sunday, and then it is also excluded.” The general statute appears to be of application throughout the state statutes.

What public records are exempt from disclosure?

In general, public records that are exempt from public disclosure are those in the categories listed in chapter 42.56 RCW. Reference must be made to any statute to determine on a case-by-case basis whether a particular record is exempt. When a city denies a request for disclosure of a public record, it must identify the specific statutory exemption upon which the denial is based and it must provide a brief explanation of how that exemption applies. It should be kept in mind, however, that certain statutes outside of the public records law also prohibit disclosure of particular records. (See the City of Spokane's Exempt Records listing (PDF 226 KB).)

Must the City copy records at no charge for non-profit organizations?

No. The public records law allows a city to recover a reasonable charge for providing copies of public records to any person. This applies to non-profit corporations as well as private citizens or businesses. The charge may not exceed the amount necessary to reimburse the City for its actual costs and may not include staff time needed to retrieve the documents.

Must the City agree to provide copies of “future records”?

No. A future record is one that does not exist today but may be created in the future. If there is no “writing,” there can be no “public record” and, accordingly, there can be no requirement to allow inspection or copying as a result of a current request. Obviously, if a future request is made and the record then exists, the request will need to be considered. The City's obligation is confined to existing records.

Must the City create a document when responding to a specific request for public disclosure?

No. Although there is no Washington case that has decided whether a duty to create an otherwise non-existent document exists under chapter 42.56 RCW, there is a federal law on this issue. Under the Freedom of Information Act, an agency is not requited to create a record which is otherwise non-existent.