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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Judge Orders Disclosure of "Town of Residence" In Public Records Case

A judge ordered Kitsap County to release the town of residence of county employees after the Kitsap Sun filed suit to obtain them. The newspaper sought the records to use in a routine database of public employees for various purposes. All the other jurisdictions in the area responded to the same request from the Sun by providing the town of residence records to the Sun.

However, various Kitsap County employees, including prosecutors and sheriffs deputies, filed suit to prevent disclosure because they thought releasing an employee's town of residence (like Bremerton, Silverdale, etc.) would allow people to find their homes. The evidence in the case showed that, as part of the county Assessor's property records, the county's own website provides a Google map to the location of any property owner's home; a declaration in the case described how the county web site provided a map to the home of a prosecutor.

The court ruled that the county employees did not have a "privacy" interest in their town of residence. An exemption from disclosure allows the withholding of a public employee's "residential address" but the court ruled that a town of residence and a full residential address are two different things.

Because the county withheld the records that should have been disclosed, the court awarded the Kitsap Sun its attorneys fees and a daily penalty of between $5 and $100 per day. The amount of the fees and penalty will be determined this month.

Note: Allied Law Group represented the Kitsap Sun in this case.