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Washington DOC Settles Public Disclosure Suits

Plaintiffs Roger Smith, Donald Miniken, and Karl Twilleager, prisoners at the McNeil Island Correction Center (MICC) near Steilacoom, Washington, settled their consolidated Public Disclosure Act claims against defendants Washington Department of Corrections, MICC, and MICC Public Disclosure Officer, Rosemarie Routson on August 7, 2000.

The controversy arose from the prisoners' requests for documents from their central files under the Washington Public Disclosure Act, RCW 42.17. Routson ignored the prisoners' written requests for a page count so that they could provide completed money transfer forms to pay photocopy fees associated with their requests. Routson refused to provide the documents until the prisoners provided her with signed money transfer forms, which Routson would complete. Providing the signed forms for Routson would have obligated the prisoners to pay any amount Routson recorded. Believing themselves entitled to compare the number of pages to be copied against the copy fee before agreeing to the debt, the prisoners filed suit asking the Pierce County Superior Court to compel disclosure of the documents, alleging that Routson abused the disclosure process.

Routson contended that the prisoners never asked for a page count, and, if they had, that she would have provided it. When confronted with copies of the prisoners' written requests during her deposition, however, Routson conceded that the prisoners had requested a page count. Routson still denied wrongdoing, citing innocent oversight as the culprit. Still, upon completion of the deposition the Attorney General handling the case offered to settle, agreeing that Routson was in need of public disclosure training.

In the end, Smith received $251.81 in costs and $865.00 in damages; Miniken received $894.33 in costs and $700.00 in damages; and Twilleager received $381.67 in costs and $865.00 in damages. See: Smith v. Routson, et al., Pierce County Superior Court Cause No. 002047121. Damages included a $5.00 per day statutory penalty for failure to comply with the Public Disclosure Act.

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Related legal case

Smith v. Routson