I have an outstanding public records request. It is not "outstanding" in the manner that I wrote a great request, but "outstanding" in that I haven't received any public records yet from the request. I have been hired by government agencies as a consultant to help the agency find and produce response records on occasion. Mostly, I was hired because the agency did such a bad job in producing records that a court ordered the agencies to hire a third party.
In those instances, I won't talk about what the agencies specifically did wrong, but it was enough to justify a court order to do it right. The interesting thing about working on a public records engagement versus a civil litigation is that the rules are somewhat different, especially the part about a citizen's right to request public records without a need to show damage. Citizens who are curious as to what their governments are doing can simply make a request for specific records. That is pretty cool. Being in Washington (State), the MRSC website is packed with everything anyone ever needs to know about public records requests and laws.
So, back to my public records request...
Well, this request isn't part of an engagement where I have been hired as a consultant, but the subject of the request is surely important to me and should end up being important to others too. I most likely will detail the trials and tribulations of this request as soon as I am provided the start of a rolling production of records. Then I will be able to blog about records requests from the perspective of the requestor as compared to the view of the insider. One personal benefit is that I plan on learning what I can as the requestor and compare the results with what I know from being on the inside of these types of cases/records request. I am expecting that this experience will make me better when hired to search and provide records due to an entirely different perspective.
Yes, I've done public records before
I have helped clients and friends file public records requests, but that was simply helping to fill out forms, craft the request, and tips on what to look for (missing threads or attachments in emails, modified documents, withheld documents, etc...). I have testified on the search for records that were claimed to be 'too difficult', and I have gone through more than enough emails to find where an email was missing. But this time, it's actually me asking for records and me having to make sure everything is done correctly, and making sure the agency stays true to the records law for my sake.
This should be a good learning experience with a hopefully good resolution. I may make the records available online to illustrate some points if I find errors, omissions, or egregious government behavior in the records (hopefully not!).
As far as the timeline...
12/2/2019 Records requested
12/9/2019 Agency replies with no date of completion or start date to producing any records, but instead gives me a date of 12/23/19 just to tell me when they can give me a date that they will start producing records.