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Corrections agency settles records dispute for $65,000

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  1. Freedom of Information
Nov. 1, 2007  ·   The Washington state Department of Corrections agreed Wednesday to pay $65,000 to settle a lawsuit…

Nov. 1, 2007  ·   The Washington state Department of Corrections agreed Wednesday to pay $65,000 to settle a lawsuit over its refusal to provide electronic versions of inmate benefits records.

The settlement comes on the heels of a September directive from the governor’s office, calling on officials to “make electronic copies of nonexempt public records available.”

In a statement released on Wednesday, the prisons agency said it “believes in the importance of open government and is committed to disclosing public records under all appropriate circumstances.”

The case began when a Tacoma man requested documents relating to employee health care coverage from several state agencies. While 10 agencies provided electronic databases in response to the requests, the corrections department said it didn’t have the means to redact personal employee information from electronic records.

Instead, the agency offered free inspection of the data, and had offered to make paper copies of the records for almost $9,000.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Pomeroy ruled in June that offering paper printouts of the database records was an acceptable response.

“There is no clear right to electronic copies under the Public Disclosure Act,” Pomeroy said. “I think it is a question that should be met by the Legislature, not the courts.”

That decision was being appealed when the case was settled. The corrections agency said that it delivered electronic copies of the records to the man earlier in the month.

Jennifer Koons

© 2007 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press   ·   Return to: RCFP Home; News Page

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