a. Clients of the State. This exemption permits nondisclosure of personal information “in any files maintained for students in public schools, patients or clients of public institutions or public health agencies, or welfare recipients.” RCW 42.56.230(1). The exemption is narrow, and limited to information maintained in the collection of individual client files that the agency necessarily maintains for the client. Lindeman v. Kelso School District, 162 Wn.2d 196, 172 P.3d 329 (2007).
The names and addresses of property owners who contract with the city for federal HUD loans are not “clients” of the city, nor are their names and addresses “personal information” under the exemption. Walla Walla Union-Bulletin v. Walla Walla City Council, 7 Med. L. Rptr. 1858 (Walla Walla Cty. July 14, 1981). A patient of a public hospital cannot be denied access to his or her own medical records. Oliver v. Harborview Medical Ctr., 94 Wn.2d 559, 618 P.2d 76 (1980).
b. Employees. The statute permits nondisclosure of personal information about public officials and employees “to the extent that disclosure would violate their right to privacy.” RCW 42.56.230(2). The “right to privacy” refers to matters that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person if disclosed and are not of public concern. RCW Ch. 42.56.050; Hearst Corp. v. Hoppe, 90 Wn.2d 123, 580 P.2d 246 (1978). Agencies must prove both prongs of the test and cannot balance the public interest against the privacy interest. See Tacoma Public Library v. Woessner, 90 Wn. App. 357, 951 P.2d 357 (1998). Release of records related to teacher certification revocations, particularly as they pertain to teachers’ sexual misconduct with students, does not violate the teachers’ right to privacy. Brouillet v. Cowles Publishing Co., 114 Wn.2d 788, 791 P.2d 526 (1990). However, disclosure of the identity of a teacher accused of sexual misconduct violates the teacher’s right to privacy under the statute if the allegation is not substantiated. Bellevue John Does 1-11 v. Bellevue School Dist. #405, 164 Wn.2d 199, 189 P.3d 139 (2008).
The exemption does not cover percentage crop sharing information concerning farm lands registered with the County Assessor, Van Buren v. Miller, 22 Wn. App. 836, 592 P.2d 671, review denied, 92 Wn.2d 1021 (1979), nor does it cover police officer complaints about their police chief’s job performance. Columbian Publishing Co. v. City of Vancouver, 36 Wn. App. 25, 671 P.2d 280 (1983). A discharged school employee can obtain performance evaluations of other employees; however, the names of coworkers will be deleted unless there is a specific showing that the right to privacy should not apply. Ollie v. Highland School Dist., 50 Wn. App. 639, 749 P.2d 757, review denied, 110 Wn.2d 1040 (1988). Disclosure of performance evaluations, which do not discuss any specific instances of misconduct or the performance of public duties, is presumptively highly offensive to a reasonable person and not of legitimate public concern, and thus violative of the employee’s privacy rights and exempt. Dawson v. Daly, 120 Wn.2d 782, 797, 845 P.2d 995 (1993). Beltran v. DSHS, 98 Wn. App.245, 989 P.2d 604. However, evaluations of high level employees, such as city manager, have more significant public interest and are not exempt under Dawson. See Spokane Research v. City of Spokane, 99 Wn. App. 452, 994 P.2d 267 (2000).
The legitimacy of public concern is determined by balancing the public’s interest in disclosure against the public’s interest in the efficient administration of government. Id. Thus, the public has a legitimate concern in seeing a settlement agreement between a city and one of its top employees because “[t]he fact a public body may not be able to keep the specific terms of a settlement agreement confidential does not have such a chilling effect on future settlements so as to affect the efficient administration of government.” Yakima Newspapers Inc. v. City of Yakima, 77 Wn. App. 319, 328, 890 P.2d 544 (1995).
The state Attorney General has stated that public employee salary information is generally not personal information subject to nondisclosure, although individual employee deductions may be protected by a right to privacy. 1973 Op. Atty. Gen. No. 4. Employee identification numbers are exempt, but names must be released. See Tacoma Public Library v. Woessner, 90 Wn. App. 357, 951 P.2d 357 (1998). Information provided by job applicants for a city plumber’s job, however, including reasons for leaving the previous job, criminal convictions and handicaps, may be withheld. Washington State Human Rights Comm’n v. City of Seattle, 25 Wn. App. 364, 607 P.2d 332 (1980). In 1987, the legislature exempted all applications for public employment, including resumes and names included in those applications. RCW 42.56.250(2). The courts also have held that applications are exempt under RCW 42.56.210(1)(b). Beltran v. DSHS, 98 Wn. App. 245, 989 P.2d 604 (1999).
In addition, residential addresses, telephone numbers, personal email addresses and other specific personal information of public employees or volunteers may be withheld from public disclosure. RCW 42.56.250(3). This exemption applies only to records held in personnel files and public employment records. Thus, a public official’s personal email address is not exempt if it appears in other types of public records. Mechling v. Monroe, 152 Wn. App. 830, 222 P.3d 808 (2009),
Public employees who seek advice under an agency process concerning unfair labor practices, or use internal, informal anti-discrimination procedures, have the right to remain anonymous. RCW 42.56.250(4), (5).
Also exempt are criminal history records checks for certain board staff finalist candidates. RCW 42.56.250(6).
Photographs and birthdates of criminal justice agency employees are exempt from disclosure. This exemption does not apply to the news media. RCW 42.56.250(8).
Even if a court orders release of documents, an employee or other person may sue the agency for common law invasion of privacy. See Corbally v. Kennewick Sch. Dist., 94 Wn. App. 736, 973 P.2d 1074 (1999); but see Corey v. Pierce County, 154 Wn. App. 752, 225 P.3d 367 (2010) (dismissed employee’s claim for “negligent dissemination of harmful information” barred as matter of law). The mere fact that records may not be disclosable under a PRA privacy-based exemption does not in itself give rise to an invasion of privacy action against media entities that report the information contained in the record. See Cawley-Herrmann v. Meredith Corp., 654 F.Supp.2d 1264 (W.D. Wash. 2009).
c. Taxpayer, Financial and Personal License Information. Tax returns, and information that would result in unfair competitive disadvantage to the taxpayer or violate the taxpayer’s right to privacy, are generally exempt. RCW 42.56.230(3). The “right to privacy” refers to matters that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person if disclosed and are not of public concern. RCW 42.56.050; Hearst Corp. v. Hoppe, 90 Wn.2d 123, 580 P.2d 246 (1978). Credit/debit card numbers and other financial account numbers are also exempt. RCW 42.56.230(4), (5). Personal information contained in documents used to apply for a driver’s license or identicard is exempt under RCW 42.56.230(6).
d. Investigative Records. This exemption applies to specific investigative records, the nondisclosure of which is essential to law enforcement or to protect a person’s right to privacy. RCW 42.56.240(1). It covers only ongoing investigations, Ashley v. Public Disclosure Comm’n, 16 Wn. App. 830, 560 P.2d 1156, review denied, 89 Wn.2d 1010 (1977), and once the investigation is complete, the records are open. Hearst, 90 Wn.2d 123. Reports generated as part of routine administrative procedure, not as the result of a specific complaint or allegation of misconduct, are not “investigative reports.” Cowles Publishing Co. v. City of Spokane, 69 Wn. App. 678, 683, 849 P.2d 1271 (police reports regarding contact by any K-9 dog with citizen, generated as matter of course, are not investigative records), review denied, 122 Wn.2d 1013, 863 P.2d 73 (1993). Reports which could trigger an investigation and imposition of sanctions if warranted, but which are not themselves used for “law enforcement,” are not exempt. Id. at 684.
Investigative records related to pending criminal matters are presumptively subject to disclosure once a suspect has been arrested and referred to the prosecutor for a charging decision. Seattle Times Co. v. Serko, 170 Wn.2d 581, 243 P.3d 919 (2010); Cowles Pub’g Co. v. Spokane Police Dep’t, 139 Wn.2d 472, 987 P.2d 620 (1999). The state supreme court at one point created a categorical exemption for “open and active” police investigation files in which disclosure would jeopardize the ability to solve the case. Newman v. King County, 133 Wn.2d 565, 947 P.2d 712 (1997). The court later clarified that such a categorical exemption only exists for “information contained in an open, active police investigation file.” Limstrom v. Ladenburg, 136 Wn.2d 595, 963 P.2d 869 (1998) (refusing to extend a categorical exemption to work product materials under 42.56.290. In Cowles and again in Serko, the court further clarified that the concept of categorical exemption did not apply once the case was referred to the prosecutor’s office, even if the files remained technically open.
The “right to privacy” refers to matters that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person if disclosed and are not of public concern. RCW 42.56.050, eff. 7/1/06); Hearst, 90 Wn.2d 123. In a torturous opinion, a Washington court has held that whether statements in public records are “true” bears on whether the records are of legitimate concern to the public. City of Tacoma v. Tacoma News Inc., 65 Wn. App. 140, 827 P.2d 1094, review denied, 119 Wn.2d 1020, 838 P.2d 692 (1992) (police records of investigation based on unsubstantiated allegation of child abuse against political candidate not of legitimate public concern). But see Hudgens v. City of Renton, 49 Wn. App. 842, 746 P.2d 320 (1987) (arrest report, citation, and patrol report must be disclosed despite acquittal), review denied, 110 Wn.2d 1014 (1988). In Bellevue John Does 1-11 v. Bellevue School Dist. #405, 164 Wn.2d 199, 189 P.3d 139 (2008), the Washington Supreme Court held that the identities of teachers accused of sexual misconduct are not subject to disclosure in cases where the allegations were not substantiated.
Criminal records on charges that have not resulted in conviction or other adverse disposition and for which formal proceedings are over are closed to the public. RCW 10.97.050, .030(2). Internal police investigations are considered exempt, even though no criminal charges are involved and no right to privacy is violated. The Washington Supreme Court has said that public disclosure of such investigations would render law enforcement ineffective. Cowles Publishing Co. v. State Patrol, 109 Wn.2d 712, 748 P.2d 597. Nevertheless, an investigative report concerning liquor law violations at a Police Guild party is not exempt on grounds that public disclosure would render law enforcement ineffective or violate the officers’ privacy. Spokane Police Guild v. Liquor Control Bd., 112 Wn.2d 30, 769 P.2d 283. In addition, internal investigation records are not exempt if requested as part of the discovery process, because a trial court can craft a protective order to alleviate law enforcement concerns. State v. Jones, 96 Wn. App. 369, 979 P.2d 898 (1999).
e. Identity of Witnesses, Victims, and Persons Filing Complaints. The identity of witnesses, victims, and persons who file criminal or quasi-criminal complaints with agencies other than the Public Disclosure Commission if the complainant indicates at the time of filing the complaint that the complainant desires for it to be confidential, is exempt if disclosure would endanger a person’s life, property or physical safety. RCW 42.56.240(2).
One appellate decision, under review by the Washington Supreme Court, has found that victim impact statements are investigative records that are exempt as essential to effective law enforcement. Koenig v. Thurston County, 155 Wn. App. 398, 229 P.3d 910 (2010), review granted 170 Wn.2d 1020 (Jan. 5, 2011).
f. Test Questions. An agency may withhold “[t]est questions, scoring keys, and other examination data used to administer a license, employment, or academic examination.” RCW 42.56.250(1).
g. Real Estate Appraisals. Real estate appraisals made in connection with the purchase or sale of property are exempt from disclosure until the earlier of (1) three years from the date of the appraisal, or (2) consummation or abandonment of the transaction. RCW 42.56.260.
h. Commercially Valuable Information. An agency may withhold any valuable formulae, designs, drawings or research data obtained within five years of the request for disclosure if disclosure would produce private gain and public loss. RCW 42.56.270(1). “Research data” is defined as “a body of facts and information collected for a specific purpose and derived from close, careful study, or from scholarly or scientific investigation or inquiry.” Servais v. Port of Bellingham, 127 Wn.2d 820, 832, 904 P.2d 1124 (1995) (cash flow report prepared for Port’s use in negotiations with developers exempt). Research data includes raw data and the guiding hypotheses that structure the data, Progressive Animal Welfare Soc’y v. University of Wash., 125 Wn.2d 243, 255, 884 P.2d 592 (1994), partial reconsideration denied (Feb. 1, 1995), and is not limited to scientific facts. Servais, 127 Wn.2d at 831. The exemption does not cover accounting reports developed to secure a federal loan. See Spokane Research v. City of Spokane, 96 Wn. App. 569, 994 P.2d 267 (1999).
i. Deliberative Process. This exemption allows nondisclosure of intra-agency deliberative materials. RCW 42.56.280. Inter-agency materials are not exempt. Columbian Publishing Co. v. City of Vancouver, 36 Wn. App. 25, 671 P.2d 280 (1983). The exemption applies to opinions, such as faculty tenure evaluations, Hafermehl v. University of Wash., 29 Wn. App. 366, 628 P.2d 846 (1981), but does not include purely factual matters, Hearst Corp. v. Hoppe, 90 Wn.2d 123, 580 P.2d 246 (1978), or the raw data on which a decision is based. PAWS, 125 Wn.2d at 256. Deliberative materials are exempt only until the policies or recommendations contained in such records are implemented. Dawson v. Daly, 120 Wn.2d 782, 793, 845 P.2d 995 (1993).
j. Discovery Exemption. If an agency is a party to a lawsuit, it may withhold any records relevant to that suit that would be protected under rules of pretrial discovery. RCW 42.56.290. Civil, rather than criminal, discovery rules apply. Limstrom v. Ladenburg, 136 Wn.2d 595, 963 P.2d 869 (1998). This exemption applies to “reasonably anticipated litigation,” id. at 791, and to records created to evaluate an agency’s potential liability, Overlake Fund v. City of Bellevue, 70 Wn. App. 789, 794, 855 P.2d 706 (1993), review denied, 123 Wn.2d 1009, 869 P.2d 1084 (1994), but it does not apply where the records may only have some possible relevance to a future hypothetical dispute with a third party. Yakima Newspapers Inc. v. City of Yakima, 77 Wn. App. 319, 325, 890 P.2d 544 (1995). As reflected in the work product rule, the exemption also applies after the termination of litigation. Dawson, 120 Wn.2d at 790. A settlement agreement is not protected under the work product rule and, thus, this exemption, because it is not prepared in anticipation of litigation but in an attempt to conclude litigation. Yakima Newspapers, 77 Wn. App. at 326-27. The courts have refused to create a blanket work product exemption to everything in a prosecutor’s litigation file. Limstrom v. Ladenburg, 136 Wn.2d 595, 963 P.2d 869 (1998); but see Koenig v. Pierce County, 151 Wn. App. 221, 211 P.3d 423 (2009) (transcript of a witness statement was exempt under work product exemption because it was sought by the prosecutor in anticipation of litigation). In Seattle Times Co. v. Serko, 170 Wn.2d 581, 243 P.3d 919 (2010), the Supreme Court held that police investigative records generally are not exempt from PRA disclosure as prosecutorial work product. The Court expressly rejected the argument that “a law enforcement agency is merely an arm of the prosecutor’s office for purposes of a work product analysis.”
In Morgan v. Federal Way, 166 Wn.2d 747, 213 P.3d 596 (2009), the Supreme Court held that a city’s report investigating a hostile work environment complaint against a municipal judge was subject to disclosure, and did not qualify as work product because at the time of the investigation, no litigation had been threatened or anticipated.
k. Archaeological Site Protection. Records identifying the location of archaeological sites may be withheld to avoid looting or degradation of sites. RCW 42.56.300.
l. Library Records. Library records that are used primarily to maintain control of library materials may be withheld to protect the identity of the user. RCW 42.56.310.
m. Construction Bidders. Qualifying financial information provided by bidders in connection with the ferry system or highway construction may be withheld. RCW 42.56.270(2).
n. Railroad Contracts. Railroad contracts filed prior to 1991 with the utilities commission, but not summaries of those contracts, may be withheld. RCW 42.56.480(1).
o. Export Services. Certain financial and commercial information supplied by private persons in connection with state sponsored export services may be withheld. RCW 42.56.270(3).
p. Private Vocational Schools. Certain financial disclosures that private vocational schools must file by law may be withheld from public disclosure. RCW 42.56.320(1).
q. Utilities and Transportation Records. Certain records filed with the state Utilities and Transportation Commission that a court has determined are confidential are exempt. RCW 42.56.330(1).
r. Loan Information. Certain financial and commercial information supplied by businesses in applying for loans or program services in connection with state sponsored development programs may be withheld. RCW 42.56.270(4); see also Spokane Research v. City of Spokane, 96 Wn. App. 569, 994 P.2d 267 (1997) (accounting reports and lease used to secure federal loan exempt while loan application was pending). RCW 42.56.270 contains numerous other exemptions for loan and other financial information submitted to specified agencies.
s. Timeshare Condominiums. Membership lists in timeshare projects that must be filed by law may be withheld from public disclosure. RCW 42.56.340.
t. Utility and Transit Customers. Residential addresses and telephone numbers of customers of a public utility may be withheld from public disclosure. Personal records related to carpool programs, transit passes, toll transponders and the like are also exempt. RCW 42.56.330(2)-(8).
u. Health Care Providers. The Social Security numbers, residential addresses, and phone numbers of health care providers may be withheld from disclosure. RCW 42.56.350. Records obtained from or on behalf of HMOs, entities providing disability insurance or health care services, pharmaceutical manufacturers, or other entities who purchase, dispense or distribute drugs may be withheld. RCW 42.56.360(1)(b). Also, records created for and maintained by a heath care provider’s quality improvement committee are exempt. RCW 42.56.360(1)(c).
v. Drug Manufacturers’ Samples. Information required by law to be gathered in connection with drug manufacturers’ drug sample programs may be withheld from public disclosure. RCW 42.56.360.
w. Industrial Development Corporations. Financial information, business plans, examination reports and information submitted by businesses seeking certification as industrial development corporations are exempt. RCW 42.56.270(5).
x. State Investment Board. Financial and commercial information supplied to the state Investment Board relating to the investment of public trust or retirement funds may be withheld if disclosure would result in loss. RCW 42.56.270(6).
y. Workers’ Compensation Contractors. Financial and valuable trade information provided to the state Department of Labor and Industries by health care providers who have contracts pursuant to the workers compensation program are exempt. RCW 42.56.270(7).
z. Domestic Violence. Client records maintained by a domestic violence shelter or rape crisis center are exempt. RCW 42.56.370.
aa. Agricultural Information. Business information related to organic food product certification is protected from public inspection and copying. RCW 42.56.380(1). Other exemptions for personal and business information submitted in connection with specified agricultural programs are set out in RCW 42.56.380(3)-(10).
bb. Recycled Products Marketers. Financial, commercial, operations, technical, and research information submitted to or obtained by the Clean Washington Center is exempt. RCW 42.56.270(8).
cc. State Contacts Abroad. Personal information maintained in the state database of Washington contacts abroad is exempt. RCW 42.56.480(2).
dd. Medical Records. Health care information of patients is exempt except for certain directory information. RCW 42.56.360(2).
ee. Check Casher/Seller. Residential addresses, telephone numbers, and financial statements in applications for check casher/seller licensing are exempt. RCW 42.56.450.
ff. State Colleges, Libraries and Archives. Any state college, library or archive that receives a gift or grant which by its terms restricts public access to certain records may withhold such records. RCW 42.56.320(4).
gg. Impaired Physicians. Certain records involving disciplinary action under the impaired physicians program may be withheld from public disclosure. RCW 42.56.360(1)(e).
hh. Commercial Fertilizer. Semi-annual reports submitted to the Agricultural Department by persons who distribute commercial fertilizer are exempt from disclosure. RCW 42.56.380(2).
ii. Concealed Pistol Licenses. License applications for concealed pistols are exempt from public disclosure. RCW 42.56.240(4).
jj. Investment Opportunities Office. Financial or proprietary information supplied by investors or entrepreneurs under RCW 43.31 is exempt from public disclosure. RCW 42.56.270(12).
kk. Child Victims. Information revealing the identity of child victims of sexual assault who are under age 18 is confidential. RCW 42.56.240(5).
ll. Gang database. The statewide gang database is exempt from disclosure. RCW 42.45.240(6).
mm. Pseudoephedrine sales tracking data. Data from this system is exempt from disclosure. RCW 42.56.240(7).
nn. Sex offender notification. Identifying information submitted to the statewide unified sex offender notification and registration program for the purpose of receiving notification regarding a registered sex offender is exempt from disclosure. RCW 42.56.240(8).
oo. Infant Deaths. Documents in files of local health departments pertaining to infant mortality reviews are not subject to public disclosure, although statistical compilations may be released. RCW 42.56.360(1)(f).
pp. Life Insurance Policy Holders. Names and identifying information of owners of life insurance policies regulated by the insurance commissioner are exempt. RCW 42.56.400(3).
qq. Insurance Antifraud Plans. Information concerning insurance antifraud plans filed with the insurance commissioner is exempt from disclosure. RCW 42.56.400(4).
rr. Insurance Information Regarding Material Transactions. Information provided to the insurance commissioner by Washington insurers, health plans, health care service contractors, or HMOs regarding material acquisitions or dispositions of assets, or material nonrenewals, cancellations, or revisions of ceded reinsurance agreements is exempt. RCW 42.56.400(5).
ss. Fireworks Records. Records produced pursuant to the state Fireworks Law are exempt from disclosure. RCW 42.56.460.
tt. Fish and Wildlife. Specified commercial and recreational fish and wildlife data are exempt under RCW 42.56.430.