Record requests cost taxpayers $1 million some years

Linda Simpson made 16 requests over the past four months, some regarding changes in voting precincts.

Adrian Falla wanted to know about a “peaker plant” he said could affect 567 homes and 7,500 people.

And Anastasia Edwards sought information so neighbors could fight against a mental health/rehab center.

Those are just some of the Public Records Requests filed in Kitsap County the first four months of this year. Those are just a sample of the 70 open cases. More than 500 others already have been closed.

Some requesters want information that goes back years. In one request below Deborah Gates wants information from 1962 and Thomas Auer from 1995. Topics also vary widely. Another request explained more below asks for information alleging fentanyl being given to clients and another wants to know about the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.

Mark Brockman, public records coordinator for Kitsap, said requests have been fairly steady the past four years. Doing the research are two full-timers dedicated to public disclosure and records management; another full-timer in Community Development, a half-timer in Public Works, and the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices have their own staff as well.

Since Kitsap spends more than $100,000 a year on Public Records Requests, it must file an annual report to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee website. Brockman provided the reports for 2019-21. The final two years were during COVID. The numbers do not include information from the sheriff’s department.

Highlights of the JLARC report show costs for the records department ranged from almost $838,000 in 2020 to $1.027 million in 2021. The number of requests went from a high of 2,034 in 2019 to a low of 1,629 the next year. The average cost per request went from about $172 in 2019 to almost $237 the following year. Staff time for departments filling the requests went from about 8,680 hours in 2019 to 5,437 hours in 2021. The number of days it took to close a request went from 34.9 in 2020 to 15 in 2021.

Expenses recovered were just a pittance of the cost: $1,016 in 2019; $166 in 2020; and $274 in 2021.

Not all requests are followed through on.

Over the three years period, reasons for denial included: Inmate records; information reveals investigative details; communication to or from attorney for litigation; personal information violates right to privacy; filer wanted anonymity; juvenile victim, witness names; and child support information.

Some examples of the open cases include:

Linda Simpson asked for 16 requests in the four months. They pertaining to amending voter precincts and all associated with the auditor’s office.

She sought information on county Auditor Paul Andrews submitting an addendum to the certification of the Kitsap Canvass Board that stated, “On October 28, 2021, the Auditor staff attempted to hand deliver ballots to every voter in the affected area. We successfully delivered ⅔ of the ballots and mailed the remaining ⅓ to voters the following day.” PRR: Please provide the names and addresses of the registered voters whose ballot was hand-delivered. Also, please provide the name, title and job description of the individuals who delivered each ballot.”

An extremely long request from Adrian Falla is paraphrased here: On behalf of the board of the 240-member Soundview Estates Home Owners’ Association, I’m researching the biodiesel-fueled “peaker plant” electrical generation installation. The plant would be sited less than half a mile from our 99 new homes and another 468 new homes planned nearby, “deleteriously affecting the health, well-being and property values” of an estimated 3,000-plus newcomers, along with 4,500 already here. “Clearly, the above list likely entails a substantial amount of responsive information, entailing substantial collation and clearance time and effort. We are also cognizant of our urgent need to prepare to deliver informed, timely input within upcoming public comment windows for various relevant regulatory agencies at City, County, State and regional levels.”

Anastasia Edwards seeks all documents concerning 8618 NW Big Bird Drive in Silverdale. “We as neighbors have been trying to fight this all-male mental health/rehab center from moving in.”

Deborah Gates asked for all records mentioning the gravel road off Canyon Road NW in Poulsbo from Dec. 1, 1962 to present, and it’s a continuing request. She asks for information of all types and formats, including, but not limited to, photos, maps, videos, voicemails, webpage and social media content, emails, text messages and tweets, and information from the county commissioners’ phone logs and calendars.

Thomas Auer asks for documents related to Kitsap County’s decision to designate Port Gamble as a Rural Historic Town in 1999 along with plans since 1995 to rezone or develop Port Gamble.

Lisa C. asked for documentation regarding Discovery Behavioral Healthcare REAL Team giving fentanyl to clients from July 1 to Dec. 1, 2022.

Kevin Gross asks for records from all departments and county commissioners involving the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.

JLARC statistics

Comparing 2019, 2020 and 2021

2,034 records, compared to 1,629 and 1,721.

1,903 closed, compared to 1,449 and 1,704.

1,343 closed within five days, compared to 847 and 616.

683 took longer than five days, compared to 682 and 1,129

23.6 average number of days to complete, compared to 34.9 and 15.

Agency fulfill request, staff time 8,683 hours, 7,109 hours and 5,437 hours.

Time per request, 4 hours, 4 hours, 3 hours.

Total cost, $362,516, $415,958 and $443,907.

Average cost per request, $172.46; $236.74; and $233.02.

Agency manage request and retain records, $922,276; $837,870; and almost $1.027 million