and 2014, Donna Zink made a series of requests under the
Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW, seeking
documents pertaining to level I registered sex offenders. She
made one of these requests to Benton County (the County),
which possessed records identifying the plaintiff in this
case, John Doe, as a level I sex offender. Before the County
produced its final installment of records, which contained
John Doe's information, it notified John Doe about Ms.
Doe filed suit against the County, Ms. Zink, and Ms.
Zink's husband to enjoin production of the records
identifying him. In their answer, the Zinks asserted a cross
claim against the County, claiming it violated the PRA by
withholding the requested records to notify John Doe about
the request. The trial court dismissed the Zinks' cross
claim under CR 12(b)(6), and the Zinks appealed. We affirm.
21, 2013, Ms. Zink submitted a public records request to the
County. In it, she sought "the level one [sex] offender
registrations filed in Benton County as well as a list of all
level one [sex] offenders registered in Benton
County." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 352. The County
responded to Ms. Zink and informed her the sheriffs office
would begin processing her request.
week later, the County contacted Ms. Zink and indicated the
documents she requested were potentially exempt from
disclosure under both the "investigative records"
and "other statute" exemptions. The County told
Ms. Zink it was going to notify the affected individuals that
she had requested their records. It stated the notice would
include a copy of her request and her name so that the
affected individuals could seek an injunction if they
believed the records were exempt. The County stated that
absent an injunction, it would release the records.
response to the County's notices, 14 individuals filed a
complaint to enjoin the County from releasing their
information to Ms. Zink. Multiple lawsuits were filed, and
the trial court entered four permanent injunctions
prohibiting the County from releasing the records.
April 17, 2014, Ms. Zink made another PRA request. She sought
"all e-mails sent to or received from anyone or any
person in Benton County staff, officials, council members,
other agencies . . . concerning [her] requests for sex
offender information starting on July 15, 2013 through and
including April 17, 2014." CP at 363. This is the
request at issue in this case.
Ms. Zink's April 17 request, the County began responding
in installments. During this process, the County came across
names of new individuals whose names were not identified in
the initial set of records responsive to Ms. Zink's July
2013 request. By June 2015, the County had e-mailed Ms. Zink
12 installments of responsive records and was close to
completing her April 17, 2014 request.
1, 2015, the County sent a written notice to 72 new
individuals whose identities would be released in its
response to Ms. Zink's April 17, 2014 request. The letter
notified these individuals that the County had received a
request for records that identified them as level I sex
offenders. The letter also stated the County did not believe
the records were exempt from release, but that it nonetheless
was providing notice as permitted by RCW 42.56.540 because
the records identified the individuals. The letter stated the
County would release the records in their entirety on July
17, 2015, unless it was enjoined from doing so. The County
never claimed an exemption for the records associated with
these 72 individuals.
Doe, the plaintiff in this case, received one of these
notices. The County possessed roughly five documents that
contained his information. On July 16, 2015, he filed suit
against both the County and the Zinks, seeking to enjoin the
production of any records that identified him. The next day,
the trial court issued a temporary restraining order
enjoining the County from producing any records whatsoever
associated with Ms. Zink's April 17, 2014 request.
County filed an answer to John Doe's complaint. It stated
that it intended to produce the records Ms. Zink requested,
and that it believed the records were nonexempt.
Zinks also filed an answer to John Doe's complaint. In
it, they asserted a cross claim against the County for
alleged violations of the PRA. They claimed the County was
withholding the records without an applicable exemption and
without providing an exemption log. They further claimed the
County did not "need" to notify the John Does, and
that it did so to delay or deny release of the requested
records. CP at 30. They also claimed the County wrongfully
disclosed their contact information to John Doe.
Doe moved for a preliminary injunction. The County opposed
his motion, arguing that the records did not fall under any
PRA exemption. The trial court entered an injunction and
enjoined the County from releasing any documents responsive
to Ms. Zink's April 17, 2014 records request without
first redacting John Doe's information. Following the
court's injunction, the County produced the responsive
records to Ms. Zink with John Doe's information redacted.
August 26, 2015, the County moved to dismiss the Zinks'
cross claim against it under CR 12(b)(6). The trial court
concluded that the PRA gives the County the option of
notifying third parties of records requests, and that the
County did not violate the PRA by exercising that option. The
trial court further reasoned that the PRA's penalty and
attorney fee provision does not apply when a third party