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Washington DOC Settles Open Records Suit for $15,000

On May 1, 2006, the State of Washington agreed to pay prisoner Allan Parmelee $15,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from the Department of Corrections (DOC) refusal to provide him with records he had requested under the Public Disclosure Act (PDA), RCW 42.17, et seq.

Pursuant to the PDA, Parmelee, a state prisoner, requested records relating to his imprisonment on June 2, 2002. A prison employee, Kay Wilson-Kirby, summarily dismissed Parmelee?s request stating that records provided in an earlier request was all that could reasonably be expected. (Parmelee was previously provided records pursuant to a January 2002 request. He claimed, however, that records had been added and/or modified since his original request and thus sought those documents in the request at issue.)

Parmelee filed repeated requests with prison officials and the state attorney general (AG). The DOC simply ignored his requests. The attorney general?s office contended they could take no action because the DOC did not deny his request, but rather simply failed to respond. As such, they reasoned, there was no specific ?denial? that was subject to review.

Parmelee was ultimately forced to seek judicial relief, and, nearly three years later, filed a claim against the DOC in the Thurston County Superior Court of Washington in Olympia. Parmelee specifically requested $100 per day for each of the 1,096 days--as of June 11, 2005?that the DOC was in violation of the PDA. The state settled instead for $15,000 in penalties and attorney fees.

Parmelee was represented by attorney Michael C. Kahrs of the Kahrs Law Firm in Seattle. See: Parmelee v. Clarke, Thurston County Superior Court, Case No. 05-2-01317-3.

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