Public Disclosure Requests
Snohomish County believes government should be transparent, accountable, and responsive.
Many county documents are “public records”, and can be reviewed by contacting the county office or department that holds the record. Many of the these public records are available on Snohomish County Web sites. County staff can help you locate the documents you need - see How to Obtain Snohomish County Public Records below.
Access to some records, however, is restricted by county, state and federal law.
What is a public record ... what records can be inspected ... and what records are exempt from inspection?
The state Attorney General’s Office provides comprehensive information on defining public records, describing what records are available for public inspection and what records are exempt from inspection. The following brief selection is excerpted from the Attorney General's web site.
Office of the State Attorney General
What Public Records Are Available for Inspection?
All records maintained by state and local agencies are available for public inspection unless law specifically exempts them. You are entitled to access to public records under reasonable conditions, and to copies of those records upon paying the costs of making the copy. In most cases, you do not have to explain why you want the records. However, specific information may be necessary to process your request. An agency may require information necessary to establish if disclosure would violate certain provisions of law.
While the state strongly encourages disclosure of public records, state law does allow for some information to be withheld. These “exemptions” are listed in the Public Records Act (RCW 42.56). Other exemptions are found elsewhere in Washington law, and in federal law.
Many of the exemptions are designed to protect the privacy rights of other individuals. Other exemptions are designed to protect the investigative functions of law enforcement and other agencies with investigative responsibilities, as well as the legitimate business interests of other citizens.
You should refer to the Public Records Act itself for specific exemptions. You may also wish to consult with an agency’s records officer.
Just because part of a record may be exempt does not mean the entire record can be withheld. In those cases, the agency has the obligation to black out or otherwise remove the information it believes is exempt from disclosure and provide you the rest.
If you are denied access to a public record, the agency must identify the specific exemption or other law it believes justifies its denial and explain how that exemption applies to your request...
An Agency Is Not Required to Create Records
While, in general, an agency must provide access to existing public records in its possession, an agency is not required to collect information or organize data to create a record not existing at the time of the request. The more precisely you an identify the record you seek, the more responsive the agency can be...
Before starting a search for accessible Snohomish County public records, please review the background information (referenced above) available in its entirety on the Attorney General's web site - see Obtaining Public Records.
For information on how to access Snohomish County Public Records, please consult Snohomish County's Public Records Contact List web page and contact either the Public Records Officer or the Public Records Specialists for the department or agency that holds the record.
To submit a written request for records fill out a Public Record Inspection/Copy Request Form.
Public records made available for inspection may be viewed during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, except for legal holidays. Snohomish County’s offices are located at 3000 Rockefeller Avenue, Everett, Washington 98201.
All publicly available records maintained by Snohomish County may be freely inspected on site. However, if you wish to make copies, the department is required to charge for that service.
A completed and signed Public Disclosure Request form may be necessary. Snohomish County staff will assist you.
If requesting a public record that contains a list of individuals, a written statement verifying that such lists will not be used for commercial purposes may be necessary. Snohomish County staff will assist you.
Access to public records is provided in compliance with applicable laws. For further information, see the Public Records section of the Revised Code of Washington, Chapters 42.56.001 through 42.56.903 and Chapter 2.51 of Snohomish County Code, and the Snohomish County Public Records Policy.
Detailed information on the state Public Records Act (RCW 42.56) is also available at the Office of the Attorney General.