City claims records are redacted due to attorney client privilege | Letter

Mar 23, 2016

Editor, The Beacon:

City of Edmonds Resolution No. 853 establishes a procedure for keeping and retaining minutes of City Council executive sessions.

Resolution No. 853 documents that the 1996 council was aware that no provision of state law required the city to keep minutes of executive sessions.

Despite this, the city council found it to be in the public interest to maintain summary minutes of executive sessions subject to release in accordance with the provisions of state law, if and when, the reason for the executive session expired.

Many of my public record requests for executive session minutes from many years ago have been returned to me greatly redacted under the claim that they are attorney- client privileged.

The Supreme Court of Washington State stated the following in Hangartner v. City of Seattle:

The attorney-client privilege is a narrow privilege and protects only “communications and advice between attorney and client;” it does not protect documents that are prepared for some other purpose than communicating with an attorney. Kammerer v. W. Gear Corp., 96 Wash.2d 416, 421, 635 P.2d 708 (1981).

Thus, should an agency prepare a document for a purpose other than communicating with its attorney, and then claim that the document is protected by the attorney-client privilege, the requesting party might well claim that the agency has acted in bad faith.

I believe that the minutes of City Council executive sessions are clearly kept for a purpose other than communicating with an attorney.

Resolution No. 853 documents why the minutes are kept: “in order that, at some future date, the public may be advised of the substance of an executive session and in situations where such release is not appropriate, to have a record of the nature of the executive session in the event that its decision to close a session is judicially challenged.”

With the above in mind, I think that there is more to the story than in the article titled:

“Public records requests can tie up city clerk’s office for years” [The Beacon, page 2, March 10].

I hope the Edmonds Beacon will reach out to citizens and get additional input on this important topic.

Is the City of Edmonds acting in good faith by claiming that many executive session minutes can be redacted as attorney-client privileged long after the reason for the executive session has expired?

 

Ken Reidy,

Edmonds

 

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