Attorney General’s Office updates Public Records Act Model Rules

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed updates to the Public Records Act (PRA) Model Rules, reflecting changes in state law and helping the public and agencies navigate changing technology. The amended model rules are effective April 2, 2018.

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

In August 2017, the AGO filed proposed amendments to the model rules, which went through a public notice and public comment process concluding with a public hearing in October 2017. The Administrative Procedure Act requires the AGO to file the final model rules by March 5.

Among other things, the 2018 updates to the model rules:

Confirm that the public is entitled to request public records stored on personal devices if those records concern agency business;

Address relevant court rulings and legislative changes to the PRA including, for example, those concerning copy fees and required records training;

Address technology changes such as online records portals used at some agencies, and give examples of how agencies can provide records electronically; and,

Significantly reduce the PRA exemptions and judicial review discussions, referring readers to opinions, statutes and to other resources on the law.

The model rules also state that an agency should reasonably organize its records and maintain an index of records. Agencies are encouraged to refer to the extensive guidance published by the Secretary of State for advice regarding records management.

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