September 28, 2011

Court Upholds Huge Penalty on State Agency for Failing to Disclose Records

The Washington Court of Appeals issued a published decision last week in the matter of Ken Bricker v. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. In this case, Mr. Bricker sued a state agency after it failed to release public records to him. The trial court imposed a $90 per day penalty for the untimely disclosure of sixteen documents and a $15 per day penalty for the untimely disclosure of three additional documents based on the Washington Public Records Act. The total penalty was $29,445. It was upheld on appeal.

While the Washington Public Records Act does not apply to Washington condominium and homeowners associations, those entities are similarly required by other state laws (and frequently their own governing documents) to make their records reasonably accessible to owners. If those associations fail to promptly disclose records, then they are subject to court-imposed financial penalties. The Bricker decision demonstrates why boards should take owners’ requests to review association records seriously.