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Business Services

Frequently Asked Questions - Public Disclosure Law

What is a Public Record?

Public records for a state institution include any writing containing information relating to the conduct of University business which is prepared, owned, used, or retained by the University.  Public records may include writing in any physical form, including e-mails, microfilm, magnetic tape and disks.

How do I make a request for public records?
You can request public records by completing a Request for Public Information form;

Forms can be submitted by Mail, Fax, or E-mail:

Central Washington University
Business Services
400 E University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7474.

Fax number (509) 963-1623

Email Address: publicdisclosure@cwu.edu


Do I really need to provide the records being requested?
Yes, it is extremely important that all records (paper, electronic, voicemail, etc.) being requested are produced. As a state agency, we follow the rules under RCW 42.56.  Information concerning the definition of a public record can be found by clicking HERE.

Why are some records not released or blacked out when I receive my copy of a public records request?
Should there be an exemption which will not allow disclosure of the record, the University will redact the exempt information and include the reason for non-disclosure of information in their response as required by RCW 42.56.

Who is paying for time and expense to locate the records?
Each department is responsible for the time and expense of locating their records. The RCW allows the University to charge 15 cents per page for records of which reproduction has been requested.  No charge is allowed when requestor only inspects the records and does not opt for reproduction.

Are there any exceptions to State law R.C.W. 42.56 and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?

Some records are exempt from the public disclosure law.  The following are some examples:

  • Social Security Numbers.
  • Student Identification Numbers.
  • Mailing lists of employees, volunteers and student lists to be used for commercial purposes.
  • All applications for public employment, including the names of applicants, resumes, and other related materials submitted with respect to an applicant.
  • Test questions, scoring keys and other examination data used to administer any examination.
  • Personal information regarding University students including examination results, grades, class schedules, and curricular material, which are protected from disclosure under FERPA without a signed release or lawfully issued subpoena being received by the University.
  • Data or maps which identify locations of archeological sites may be exempt.
  • Internal drafts, notes, and recommendations where opinions are expressed or policies are formulated or recommended may be exempt from disclosure until a decision has been made.  When a decision has been made, they are no longer exempt.
     

Please note: if records are publicly cited in connection with University actions, they will no longer be exempt from disclosure.

What is the University’s response time?

The University will acknowledge the request within five (5) business days.  At that time the Public Records Officer will determine the time-frame for the release.

Is there any cost to obtain public records?

There is a .15 cents per page fee for copying and reproduction of more than 20 pages. There is no fee for 20 pages or less. If you check the “request inspection” box on the request form, there is no fee assessed for inspection of public records. Someone will be present with you in the room to insure protection of records.

Is there a fee for gathering the records to fulfill the request?

No.  It is the University’s obligation to gather the requested records.  We are not obligated to create reports or compile records that do not already exist.

Should a department administrator deny access to any public records?

No. The law requires the Public Records Officer to notify the requester if a record is being held under an exemption from disclosure.

What happens if the University does not comply with R.C.W. 42.56?

The University could be imposed a fine up to $100.00 per day for holding existing records that have been requested.

What about students Right to Privacy?

Student’s Right to Privacy is protected under FERPA, The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Can an employee request to review their personnel file?

Yes.

Where is the formal personnel file kept and maintained?

Human Resources

Are University employees’ salaries exempt from public record?

No. Salaries of University employees are a matter of public record.

Are salary steps for promotion and tenure exempt?

No.  The information is a matter of public record.

Are documents a matter of public record when they are between attorney/client, i.e., University Assistant Attorney General and a University employee?

Yes, but an exemption may apply if an opinion is being provided. Just because part of a record may be exempt does not mean that the entire record will be withheld. In those cases, the University has an obligation to remove the data it has determined to be exempt from disclosure and provide the rest of the document with a brief description of the exemption that was applied. It is very rare that a document is exempt in its entirety.

Are we required to create records to comply with a request?

No. We are only required to produce existing documents.