420.000 - Records Management

The College shall be responsible for the efficient and proper disclosure of public records as required by the laws and regulations of the State of Washington. Public records information shall include fully detailed administrative procedures. However, the Board has resolved that providing an index of all public records as specified in RCW 42.56.070 would be unduly burdensome and would interfere with the operations of the College. (The order was published as Clark College Resolution No. 97 by the Board of Trustees). The Board delegates to the president or designee the responsibility to appoint a public records officer who shall administer the process.

420.001 PUBLIC RECORDS

The purpose of this section is to set forth rules by which the College will provide full public access to public records, protect public records from damage or disorganization, and prevent excessive interference with other essential functions of the College in compliance with applicable state law.

Definitions 

  1. “Public records” include any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency, regardless of physical form or characteristics.

  2. “Writing” means handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostatting, photographing, and every other means of recording any form of communication or representation including letters, words, pictures, sounds, symbols, or combination thereof and all papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, motion pictures, film and video recordings, diskettes, sound recordings, and other documents, including existing data compilations such as magnetic or punched cards, disks, drums, and other documents from which information may be obtained or translated.

 Public Records Available

All public records of the College, as defined in WAC 132N-276-020, are available for public inspection and copying pursuant to these rules, except as otherwise provided by Chapter 42.56 RCW and WAC 132N-276-100.

The College is not required to retain every record ever created or used; records of a community college district are maintained in accordance with the retention schedule approved by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. In addition, the College will provide electronic records reasonably locatable using typical search features and organizing methods contained in our current software.

The College is not obligated to create a new record to satisfy a records request.

Public Records Officer

The College’s public records are in the charge of the public records officer, the vice president of administrative services or designee, as designated by the president. The public records officer is responsible for the implementation of the College’s rules and regulations regarding release of public records, coordinating the staff of the College in this regard, and generally ensuring compliance by the staff with the public records disclosure requirements of Chapter 42.56 RCW.

Office Hours

Public records are available for inspection and copying during the customary office hours of the College. For the purpose of this section, the customary office hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding office closures and College holidays.

Request for Public Records

In accordance with the requirements of Chapter 42.56 RCW, that agencies prevent unreasonable invasions of privacy, protect public records from damage or disorganization, and prevent excessive interference with essential functions of the agency, public records may be inspected or copies of records may be obtained by members of the public upon compliance with the following procedures:

  1. A request must be made in writing by completing a Request for Public Records form, which is available at Administrative Services. The form must be presented to the public records officer during customary office hours or mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to:

Mail
Administrative Services BRD 159
ClarkCollege
1933 Fort Vancouver Way
Vancouver, WA  98663-3598

Fax
Administrative Services
(360) 992-2884

E-Mail
prr@clark.edu

Requestors will be required to provide the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Other contact information, including telephone number and any e-mail addresses
  • Identification of the public records adequate for the public records officer or designee to locate the records
  • Date and time of day of the request

Requests must be for identifiable records; an identifiable record is not a request for information. Example: asking how much funding the College receives from the state is a request for information.  Asking for a copy of the College’s current operating budget is a request for an identifiable record. In addition, public records requests are not interrogatories and the College is not required to conduct legal research for a requestor.

Requestors are encouraged to view documents available on the College website (www.clark.edu)prior to submitting a request for public records.

2. The public records officer will reply in writing to written requests within five business days of receipt of the request by either:

a. Providing copies of the requested records;

b. Acknowledging receipt of the request and providing a reasonable estimate of the time the College will require to respond;

c. Seeking clarification from the requestor; such clarification may be requested and provided by telephone, e-mail, or post. Based on the clarification provided, the public records officer or designee may revise the estimate of when records will be available; or

d. Denying the public records request. Denials of requests for public records will be accompanied by a written statement specifying the reason for denial.

3. Additional time to respond to a request will be based on the public records officer’s need to ask that the requester clarify the intent of the request, prioritize the request, to locate and assemble the information, to notify third persons or agencies who are the subject of or affected by the request, or to determine whether any of the information requested is exempt. If the requester fails to clarify the request, the College need not respond to it.

The College public records officer or designee will provide requestors the fullest assistance possible, however, requests will be filled in the most efficient manner allowing the maximum number of requests to be processed. 

Cost of Providing Copies of Public Records

Fees for public records requests can be found at WAC 132N-276-090. In the event of any inconsistency between the WAC and the policy, the provisions of the WAC will prevail.

Revised Policy/Procedure Approved by Executive Cabinet
February 6, 2018

Exemptions/Exceptions 

  1. The College reserves the right to determine that public records requested in accordance with the procedures outlined above are exempt under the provisions of Chapter 42.56 RCW.

  2. In addition, pursuant to Chapter 42.56 RCW, the College reserves the right to delete identifying details in any cases when there is reason to believe that disclosure of such details would be an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy protected by state law or would impair a vital governmental interest.  The public records officer will fully justify the deletion in writing.

  3. The release or disclosure of student educational records is governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Separate and different procedures are established by the College for student educational records. (See Administrative Procedure 710.020 FAMILY EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS AND PRIVACY ACT (FERPA).)

Review of Denials of Public Records Requests

  1. Any person who objects to the denial of a request for public records may petition for prompt review of such decision by tendering in writing, including e-mail, a request for review. The written request must specifically refer to the written statement by the public records officer or other staff member that constituted or accompanied the denial.

  2. Immediately after receipt of a written request for review of a decision denying public records, the public records officer or other staff member denying the request will refer it to the president of the College or designee. The president or designee will consider the College’s obligation to comply with the intent of Chapter 42.56 RCW, the exemptions provided in Chapter 42.56 RCW or other pertinent statutes, and the statutory provisions which require the College to protect public records from damage or disorganization, prevent excessive interference with essential College functions, and prevent any unreasonable invasion of personal privacy by deleting identifying details. The president

    or designee will complete the review within two business days after receiving the written request for review of the decision denying a public record.

  3. Administrative remedies will not be considered exhausted until the College has returned the petition with a decision, provided the requested records, or until the close of the second business day following the denial of inspection has been reached, whichever occurs first.

  4. Whenever the College concludes that a public record is exempt from disclosure and denies inspection and copying, the requester may request a review of the matter by the Office of the Attorney General. A written request for review by the Attorney General’s Office, along with a copy of the request and the College’s written denial, should be sent to:

Office of Attorney General
Public Records Review
PO Box 40100
Olympia, Washington  98504-0100

The Office of the Attorney General will conduct a prompt and independent review of the request and the College’s denial and provide a written opinion as to whether the record requested is exempt from disclosure.  This review is not binding upon the College or the requester.

Protection of Public Records

Requests for public records must be made at Clark College Administrative Services. Public records and a facility for their inspection will be provided by the public records officer. Records may not be removed from the place designed for their inspection. Removal, damage, or destruction of public records is a criminal offense and a violation of RCW 40.16. Copies must be made at the College. If copying facilities are not available at the College, the College will arrange to have copies made commercially.

Records Index

The College will make available for public inspection and copying all indexes maintained for College use under the same rules and the same conditions as applied to public records.

The Office of the President will maintain indexes of orders, Board resolutions by number, and Board actions by date and subject. Administrative Services will maintain indexes of Board policies and administrative procedures by reference number and subject.

Adoption of Form

The form entitled “Request for Public Record(s)” will be used by all persons requesting inspection and/or copying or copies of College records.

Advisory Model Rules

In absence of a specific procedure, the College will look to the advisory model rules adopted by the Attorney General at Chapter 44-14 WAC.

Revised Policy/Procedure Approved by Executive Cabinet
May 10, 2011

420.005 RECORDS RETENTION AND DISPOSITION

Definition and Management Policy

College records include any paper (such as correspondence, reports, studies, completed forms, manuscripts, etc.), book, photograph, map, chart, disk, film, microfilm or magnetic media, or any copy or printout that has been made or received by the College.

In managing such documentation, it is the general policy of the College to:

  1. Create only the records needed for the transaction of public business and service.

  2. Retain the records needed only for administrative, legal, financial, and instructional purposes.

  3. Maintain active and inactive records in appropriately safe but cost-effective storage.

  4. Dispose of records only in accord with established and officially sanctioned records retention schedules.

  5. Identify and protect vital records.

  6. Preserve and transfer to archival custody records of historical significance.

  7. Quickly and efficiently dispose of records no longer required with a regard for confidentiality and privacy.

  8. Provide access to public records in accord with the laws of public disclosure but with proper regard for rights of privacy.

Program Objectives

  1. Protect the public interest by informing College staff of their responsibilities and obligations as public servants for the maintenance and protection of the public records and by encouraging efficiency and economy of resources in records keeping.

  2. Protect College staff by providing a legal mechanism for the identification and disposal of obsolete public records.

  3. Save space by systematically removing records no longer required in daily operations from active office space and equipment and by providing for the legal disposal of obsolete records.

  4. Save money by reducing or eliminating the need for new filing equipment, by releasing surplus filing equipment for reuse, and by providing low-cost storage for less active records.

  5. Save time by improving the management and control over filing systems and by finding active records more easily after the removal of inactive material.

Legal Base

The College records management program is based on the statutory authority of Chapter 40.14 RCW (Preservation of Public Records) and Chapter 40.10 RCW (Protection of Essential Records).

College records are public records and may not be destroyed, microfilmed, or permanently removed without the approval of the State Records Committee.

No employee has, by virtue of his/her position, any personal or property right to public records even though he/she may have helped develop or compile them. The unauthorized destruction, removal, or use of College records is a violation of Chapter 40.16 RCW and is a criminal offense.

Records Management Responsibility

Each College office and department has primary responsibility for the proper and legal management of the records in its custody.

All College employees are responsible for ensuring compliance with state law, community college system policy, and these procedures for the management of College records. Day-to-day responsibility may be delegated to designated records coordinators.

College Records Officer

The College records officer, designated by the president, as required by state law, is responsible for overall program coordination and implementation. The College records officer serves as the College liaison with the State Records Committee, the Division of Archives, and the State Board’s records management office. The vice president of administrative services, or designee, is designated as the College records officer.

The College records officer provides assistance with records management by: 

  1. Updating the records retention schedule.

  2. Transferring records to inactive storage.

  3. Transferring historical records to archives.

  4. Protecting vital or essential records. 

  5. Preparing and recovering from disasters.

  6. Developing microfilm systems.

  7. Accessing public records.

  8. Destroying proprietary or confidential records.

Records Coordinator Responsibilities

Each department or administrative unit is to designate a staff member as “records coordinator.”  The coordinator should be familiar with the office’s operations and files.

The records coordinator is responsible for the department’s records management program.  In particular, the coordinator’s functions are to:

  1. Act as liaison with the College records officer.

  2. Apply and communicate the General Records Retention Schedule, and department-specific procedures, for the appropriate transfer, microfilming, storage, and/or destruction of department records.

  3. Supervise the destruction of department records, particularly those of a confidential or proprietary nature.

  4. Prepare inactive records for storage when appropriate.

  5. Identify and coordinate the protection of essential or vital department records.

  6. Identify and coordinate the transfer of historical records after they have served their administrative and legal purposes.

    Revised Policy/Procedure Approved by Executive Cabinet
    May 10, 2011

420.010 PRESERVATION AND PRODUCTION OF ELECTRONIC RECORDS

Introduction

Court decisions and rules now place substantial obligations on public and private organizations to (1) preserve all electronic materials that could be relevant to pending or anticipated lawsuits and (2) retrieve and produce such materials in the course of such litigation. Failure to meet them may subject the College and the individuals involved to sanctions and liability.

The scope of these preservation and disclosure duties are broad. They apply to business-related electronic information wherever it is stored – at a College work station, on a laptop or PDA, and even at an employee’s home. The information at issue includes all forms of electronic communications and records such as e-mail, word processing, calendars, voice messages, videos, photographs, and other digital information.

Although these legal duties require that information must be preserved, the preserved information need not be disclosed to the requestor without first being appropriately reviewed to be sure that legally privileged information is removed. In other words, the College and its attorneys still can and will take steps to see that information that is legally protected will not be disclosed to the requesting party.

It is worth noting that the rules concerning preservation of hard copies of records have not changed. All printed documents under the control of involved individuals must also be preserved. Also, the new rules do not require the College to change any general records retention policies.

Electronic Discovery Committee

To help meet its obligations, the College uses an Electronic Discovery Committee, made up of representatives from:

  • The Attorney General’s Office
  • College Risk Management
  • Information Technology
  • Records Officer
  • The Public Records Office
  • Human Resources, as appropriate

As discussed below, this committee will serve as a resource to assist the College’s management of these issues consistent with applicable laws and College policies.

The Landscape of District Electronic Records Systems

When the College determines that there is a reasonable anticipation of litigation, responsive electronic records may include e-mail generated or retained by College employees, whether maintained on the College servers or copied in “local folders,” on their individual desktop, or laptop or other “client machine.” In fact, e-mail messages may be stored locally instead of – or in addition to – being kept on an e-mail server.

In addition to e-mails, College faculty and staff create and use a myriad of other electronic materials ranging from traditional word-processing documents and spreadsheets to databases, digital images, audio, video, web pages, instant messages, blogs, calendars, technical drawings and more. While many records are stored on network servers that the College can monitor, individual users are often able to store them (or copy or move them) to individual desktop and portable devices that are beyond the College’s field of observation or control.

The College Maintains a system of tapes or other storage media that periodically copy the system’s data to enable the system and its contents to be restored in the event of an emergency. This backup system recycles the storage tapes on a regular basis. For normal preservation purposes, emergency recovery copies of data are not practically accessible and interrupting their recycling would be impractical and expensive. As a result, such disaster recovery systems will usually be considered outside the scope of a Notice of Records Preservation, unless otherwise directed.

As required by RCW 40.14.040, the College Records Officer manages and oversees College compliance with state and federal laws and regulations relating to the preservation and destruction of electronic and paper information.

Special Preservation of Records

When a lawsuit is filed – or reasonably anticipated – the College must take special precautions to prevent the loss of potentially-relevant electronic data. Unless circumstances require a different approach, the following protocol will be followed.

  1. Document Preservation Plan

When a lawsuit is commenced against the College – or information is received such that a lawsuit is reasonably anticipated – the lead unit (typically, Risk Management, Human Resources, or the Assistant Attorney General assigned to the College) should develop a Preservation Plan outlining the immediate steps that need to be taken. The plan should generally include some or all of the following steps:

a. Identify the operating unit and individuals who might possess potentially relevant electronic data.

b. Send a Litigation Hold to the individuals identified.

c. Designate a specific person to coordinate and serve as a contact.

Where the matter is complex or unusual, the following steps may also be considered:

a. Gather a summary of the hardware and software involved.

b. Determine whether more aggressive steps (such as “imaging” or sequestering computers, stopping rotation of disaster recovery tapes, or taking snapshots of network folders) are warranted.

c. Establish a method for following up, which may include sending out reminders, conducting preservation compliance checks, and addressing new questions or issues from agency employees with potential evidence.

The Electronic Discovery Committee should be consulted for assistance with any questions about an appropriate Preservation Plan.

2. Litigation Hold

A Litigation Hold will typically include:

a. A definition of what constitutes a “record” and direct owners of potentially-relevant records to preserve them from destruction or modification.

b. Direction to preserve relevant electronic records and general information on how to do so.  This may include directing the administrator(s) of relevant system(s) to avoid any centralized or automatic destruction or alteration of such records,

c. Identification of the categories of information to be preserved,

d. Contact information for the attorney(s), risk management professional, College technology or other IT professional, and any other contacts.

3. Responsibility of Persons Receiving a Litigation Hold

Receipt of a Litigation Hold does not necessarily mean the recipient is directly involved in the matter. Rather, it means the potential evidence which the College must preserve may be in the person’s possession or scope of responsibility and that the person, as an employee of the College, must immediately take reasonable steps to preserve such information. In particular, the person must:

a. Suspend any College or divisional policies or procedures that might call for the routine destruction of electronic records under the recipient’s control.

b. Discontinue personal practices regarding the deletion of electronic records. For example, the deletion of possibly-relevant e-mails, voice mails, drafts of documents, and the like must also be suspended.

c. Disable any “janitorial” functions, such as the automatic deletion of e-mails or other electronic records.  The designated computer support person should be immediately contacted if assistance is required to disable such functions.

d. Protect and preserve all potentially relevant electronic records in their original electronic form so that all information within it, whether visible or not is available for inspection. In other words, electronic records must be preserved, regardless of whether they have also been reduced to a hard-copy or whether a hard-copy already exists.

e. Protect and preserve any hard-copies of electronic records.

f. Protect and preserve any new documents that are generated or received that may be relevant to the litigation after receipt of a Litigation Hold.

g. Advise the designated IT representative of any personal information that may potentially be affected by the Litigation Hold.

h. Follow all other specific instructions in the Litigation Hold.

I. Consult with the designated contact person regarding any questions involving electronic records.

4. Litigation: Actual or “Reasonably Anticipated”

The obligation to preserve potential evidence arises most suddenly when a lawsuit has already been filed.  However, the obligation can also arise when one knows — or should know — that future litigation is “reasonably likely.” Determining when facts or circumstances are reasonably likely to lead to litigation requires a case-by-case understanding of the facts and the application of experience and professional judgment.

Factors to consider in deciding whether litigation is “reasonably foreseeable” or “reasonably likely” include:

a. Historical Experience: Look at whether similar situations have led to litigation in the past.

b. Filed Complaints: Be aware of complaints filed with the College or an enforcement agency, which may indicate a likelihood of future litigation.

c. Significant Incidents: Pay attention to events resulting in known and significant injury.

d. Attorney Statements: Examine any statements by an individual’s attorney regarding a dispute with the College.

e. Employee Statements: Consider statements by College employees and officials regarding the potential of litigation.

f. Initiation of Dispute Resolution Procedures: Give considerable weight to an action by a contractor to initiate a dispute resolution clause in a contract.

g. Public Disclosure Requests: Consider whether a public disclosure request suggests the likelihood of future litigation. Although the College routinely receives public disclosure requests that are unrelated to litigation, some reasonably foreshadow a lawsuit.

h. Event Reported in the Press: Take stock of particularly bad events that are reported in the press, where history suggests litigation is likely.

I. Common Sense: Use your powers of observation of human behavior and common sense. If an unfortunate or bad event occurs, especially if it is an unusual event or causes significant damage or distress, it may be reasonably anticipated that litigation will follow.

j. Risks & Rewards: If the situation is uncertain, consider the relative costs of preservation against the likelihood of future litigation. Also consider the risks associated with the possibility of sanctions if preservation efforts are not undertaken.

5. Ending Preservation Responsibilities

When the litigation, or the threat of litigation that prompted the Litigation Hold, has ended, the person issuing the Litigation Hold will inform those who received the notice that they are no longer under any special obligations to preserve the identified categories of materials. At that point, only the College’s normal retention schedules will apply to the documents. The Office of Risk Management and the College’s attorneys will be responsible for applying their own special retention schedules for “litigation” records.

Retrieval of Electronic Records for Discovery

In most cases, the need to actually produce preserved electronic records will come weeks or months after the preservation has occurred. When the College receives a request from an opposing party for production (“discovery”) of electronic records, the College’s counsel and primary College contact (Risk Management, Attorney General’s Office or other unit) will determine the best approach to take in order to efficiently produce a complete and accurate response. The response may consist of any or all of the following: (1) supplying the requested information, (2) attempting to obtain a modification of the request (e.g., by narrowing the request’s scope or obtaining agreement as to specific search terms), (3) declining to provide some or all of the requested data based upon expense of production, or other basis, (4) conferring with the Electronic Discovery Committee.

The Electronic Discovery Committee is available for consultation on such issues.

  1. Options for Records Retrieval

Where some or all of the requested records must be retrieved, reviewed, and potentially disclosed, the following options should be considered in selecting the best approach to the specific request:

a. Relying on the Computer User: In many instances, it is reasonable and sufficient to simply ask the computer user to identify, copy, and provide potentially-responsive electronic records and to certify that these steps have been taken. In these instances, the production of electronic data resembles the typical production of physical documents.

b. Enlisting College Technical Support: Sometimes the system administrator or other College technical support personnel will directly retrieve the responsive records due to particular concerns about an individual user’s time, skill, or dependability in identifying the universe of responsive records. Such personnel are often able to bring to bear sophisticated tools for searching and extracting large volumes of responsive records.

c. Using Outside Consultants:  Where identification or recovery of records requires technical expertise beyond that readily available from internal resources, an outside firm may be called upon for some or all of the work.

2. Factors to Consider in Records Retrieval

a. Thoroughness: The approach in a specific case needs to be reasonably calculated to gather all potentially relevant records.

b. Operational Efficiencies: The activities required should be operationally efficient to ensure timely preservation and processing of the data.

c. Individual Privacy: The processes implemented to respond to electronic discovery must take into account personal privacy concerns.

d. Risk of Data Loss: Reasonable steps will be needed to protect data from loss through inadvertent or intentional deletion of files or loss of data storage media.

e. Individual Disruption: Procedures should take into account potentially significant impacts in terms of time and effort for individuals named in the lawsuit.

f. Procedural Consistency: The College will require that procedures developed to meet these new rules are consistently followed and executed.

3. Post-Retrieval Review

As potentially-responsive electronic records are gathered, they will be provided to the College attorneys for further processing.

4. Post-Production Duties

Preservation and production of information related to a lawsuit does not end with an initial production of records. Potentially relevant records generated after the Litigation Hold must be preserved for possible future retrieval.

New Policy/Procedure Approved by Executive Cabinet
April 7, 2009