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Klinkert v. Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

February 9, 2015

John F. Klinkert, Appellant
v.
The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, Respondent

Oral Argument January 13, 2015

Appeal from Snohomish Superior Court. Docket No: 13-2-06531-1. Judge signing: Honorable Mary Elizabeth Dingledy. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 01/02/2014.

John F. Klinkert, pro se.

Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and John C. Hillman, Deputy, for respondent.

Authored by Mary Kay Becker. Concurring: J. Robert Leach, Ann Schindler.

OPINION

 Mary Kay Becker, J.

[185 Wn.App. 833] [¶1]  By statute, an investigative file sent by a law enforcement agency to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission is exempt from public disclosure. Because the appellant in this case brought his action more than one year from the Commission's properly stated claim of exemption, the trial court did not err by dismissing the action as time barred.

[¶2] The Commission licenses all Washington police officers. RCW 43.101.085(6). Officers must be certified by the Commission as a condition of continuing employment. RCW 43.101.095(1). If an employer terminates an officer's employment for " disqualifying misconduct," the Commission may revoke the officer's certification. RCW 43.101.105(1)(d). Washington law enforcement agencies are required to notify the Commission when an officer is so terminated. RCW 43.101.135. The Commission may request the agency's investigative file documenting the misconduct leading to the termination,

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and the terminating agency is required to comply with such a request. RCW 43.101.135. Commission records that are exempt from public disclosure include " investigative files of the commission compiled in carrying out the responsibilities of the commission." RCW 43.101.400(1)(c).

[¶3] On October 27, 2009, appellant John F. Klinkert submitted a public records request to the Commission, [185 Wn.App. 834] asking for documents involving a King County sheriff's deputy. The deputy had been terminated from his job after an internal investigation found he used excessive force against a juvenile arrestee in a holding cell. Klinkert asked the Commission to produce " any and all documents, transcripts, emails, handwritten notes, recordings or images" relating to that incident.[1]

[¶4] On November 18, 2009, the Commission responded to Klinkert with a one-page exemption log for two documents that were being withheld. Both had been received from the King County Sheriff's Office. The first document was identified as a one-page " Notice of Hire/Termination" for the deputy dated September 24, 2009. The log explained, " This is a personnel action report and such reports are confidential and exempt from public disclosure under 43.101.400(1)."

[¶5] The second document was identified as a 713-page investigative file on the deputy with a cover letter dated September 30, 2009. The log explained that it was " additional documentation or information related to the personnel action report" regarding the deputy and " these are records that may be used by WSCJTC in an investigation of his certification. These documents cannot be disclosed under RCW 43.101.400(1)."

[¶6] On November 30, 2009, Klinkert sent an e-mail advising the Commission that in his opinion, the exemption log did not meet the requirements of the law as stated in Rental Housing Ass'n of Puget Sound v. City of Des Moines, 165 Wn.2d 525, 199 P.3d ...


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