Public Records and Open Public Meetings
Pacifica attorneys advise public officials and staff as well as representatives of private corporations on a wide range of matters arising under both the Washington Public Records Act (PRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).
The Washington Public Records Act
With a deep understanding of the PRA, Pacifica lawyers routinely advise both public entity and private clients on all aspects of records act compliance, including:
- policies and protocols relating to record retention,
- record protection and confidentiality,
- determining what information constitutes records that are subject to the act,
- record release, inspection, and copying matters,
- responding to record requests in litigation (and making adequate searches),
- the application of exemptions to record disclosure, and
- whether an entity is the functional equivalent of a public agency (and thus subject to the provisions of the act).
We defend public entities against claims, fees, and penalties in litigation concerning records act non-compliance. We also assist private companies with protecting confidential and proprietary information that may be sought through a public records request.
We additionally advise clients on policies and best practice measures for records retention and responding to requests, including advising on review software and other tools for managing public records issues.
The Washington Open Public Meetings Act
Our representation of clients under the OPMA includes advising public entities on:
- notice and agenda compliance,
- matters that are (or are not) subject to the act,
- matters concerning minutes and record-taking,
- requirements for holding special meetings,
- matters that qualify for executive session,
- proper adjournments and continuances, and
- other matters concerning the OPMA.
Pacifica attorneys frequently train boards and commissions about OPMA compliance. We additionally represent and defend clients against charges of act noncompliance, including claims that discussions, correspondence, or email exchanges between members constituted a meeting under the act.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected significantly the ability of public entities to safely hold in-person meetings. As a result, the Governor has issued proclamations concerning the procedures that public entities must follow to comply with the OPMA, including when holding meetings remotely. We continue to advise public entities on these matters and what must be done to ensure OPMA compliance under applicable proclamations.