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Washington DOC Pays Again for Flaunting Open Records Law

The Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) has agreed to pay $65,000 to a state employee who claimed prison officials rejected his attorney’s request for electronic records, instead insisting on providing 38,000 pages of expensive hard copies that would have cost $5,700.

“[The] DOC could have easily avoided this $65,000 payment by copying the records onto a CD for a few dollars when the request was made,” said attorney Stephen Festor.

State employee Doug Moore had requested documents detailing how many hours part-time prison workers were required to work before they met eligibility requirements for health insurance. The records were sought in connection with a separate lawsuit against Washington state agencies that do not provide health benefits to seasonal employees when they’re not working.

In summer 2007, a Thurston County Superior Court judge held that the WDOC had no obligation to provide the records in electronic form. However, when Moore threatened to appeal the ruling the WDOC entered into settlement negotiations.

Despite the court’s ruling, the WDOC delivered the electronic records to Moore on October 15, 2007 and paid him $65,000 to settle the case, inclusive of costs and attorney fees. See: Moore v. Washington State Dept. of Corrections, Thurston County Superior Court, Case No. 06-2-01040-7.

This settlement is the second time in a year the WDOC has paid thousands of tax-payer dollars for not properly releasing public records. On June 8, 2007, the Washington DOC paid $541,000 to PLN to settle a long-standing open-records lawsuit. PLN had filed suit against the WDOC after the department balked at providing documents related to medical errors and discipline against medical providers within the WDOC. For more, see: Prison Legal News v. Washington State Department of Corrections, 115 P.3d 316 (Wash. 2005).

Additional source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Related legal case

Moore v. Washington State Dept. of Corrections