Requesting Public Records
Request Form available at the County Executive’s Office (Suite 108 – County Courthouse) or on-line at http://www.whatcomcounty.us/publicrecords/
For assistance, or to make requests by letter, email, or phone, contact:
311 Grand Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98225
Telephone: (360) 676-7694
Fax: (360) 715-7466
Public Records requests must include:
- Name and address and contact information for requestor.
- Description of public records adequate to locate the records.
- Date of request.
You will receive a response within five business days.
Local governments are not required to create documents to comply with a request for specific information. Rather, they must produce existing records for review and copying. Also, local governments are not obligated to compile information from various records so that information is in a form that is more useful to the requestor.
NOTE: Many public records are currently available on the County’s web site at no cost. Examples include real property searches, Comprehensive Plan, critical areas and shoreline updates, Budget, County Council meetings (current and past), ordinances, resolutions, Home Rule Charter, County Code, RCW’s, WAC’s, jail press releases, sex offender registry, budget, law & justice, and other reports.
The Public Records Officer will make records available for inspection and copying by appointment during normal business hours, excluding legal holidays. Requestors will not remove documents from the viewing area or disassemble or alter any document.
The requestor will indicate which documents he or she wishes the County to copy.
Cost for Public Records
There is no fee for inspecting public records.
- Black & white copies $.15 per page
- Mailing Actual cost of postage and shipping container
- Other media Actual cost of reproduction
(Color, electronic and/or information provided on a disk or CD-ROM)
Payments by cash, check, or money order payable to “Whatcom County.”
For large requests, the County may:
- Require a deposit of up to ten percent of estimated cost before making copies
- Provide copies in installments
- Require advance payment before providing further installments.
Role of Public Records Officer
- Oversee compliance with the Public Records Act
- Administer program consistent with Administrative Policy AD115001Z
- Provide the “fullest assistance” to requestors
- Coordinate response to requests with departments and offices
- Provide most timely possible & efficient action on requests
- Fulfill requests without excessive interference with county business
- Protect public records from damage or disorganization
There is no single index of County records. Whatcom County government has three branches and numerous departments and offices. The records are complex and stored in multiple locations. The Public Records Officer (link) will coordinate with departments to assure compliance with the Public Records Act.
Response to Records Requests
Within five business days of receipt of the request, the Public Records Officer or designee will do one of the following:
- Make the records available for inspection or copying.
- Send copies to requestor if payment has been received.
- Provide a reasonable estimate when records will be available.
- Contact requestor to request clarification.
- Deny the request citing reason for denial.
If a requestor does not receive a response within five days, he or she should contact the Public Records Officer to determine the reason.
Some Records Exempt from Disclosure
The Public Records Act and other statutes, list types of documents exempt from public inspection and copying.
Whatcom County will NOT disclose lists of individuals for commercial purposes.
If only a portion of a record is exempt from disclosure, the Public Records Officer or designee will redact the exempt portions before providing the document.
If a requestor has not reviewed or claimed records within thirty days of notice that records are available or fails to make payment, the Public Records Officer may close the request.
If requested records contain information that may affect rights of others, before providing the records, the Public Records Officer or designee may give notice and allow time for action by the other parties.
After a request has been filled, If the Public Records Officer becomes aware of additional documents existing at the time of the request, these will be provided to the requestor on an expedited basis.
Requesting Review of Denials
A requestor may send a written petition to the Public Records Officer in order to have any disclosure denial reviewed. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office – Civil Division will consider petitions and affirm or reverse the denial within two business days following the receipt of the petition by that office.
Within two business days of an initial denial, a requestor may obtain court review. See the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) for more information.