case involves whether posts by an elected public official on
a personal Facebook page are public records subject to the
Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW. Arthur West made
a PRA request to the City of Puyallup for records relating to
a Facebook page associated with Julie Door, a Puyallup City
Council member. The trial court ruled that Door's
Facebook posts did not constitute public records and granted
summary judgment in favor of the City.
confirm that a public official's posts on a personal
Facebook page can constitute an agency's public records
subject to disclosure under the PRA if the posts relate to
the conduct of government and are prepared within a public
official's scope of employment or official capacity.
However, we hold that Door's particular Facebook posts at
issue in this case were not public records as a matter of law
because she did not prepare them within the scope of her
official capacity as a City Council member. Accordingly, we
affirm the trial court's summary judgment order.
March 25, 2016, West submitted a public records request to
the City that asked for "All City related public records
sent to or received at Council Member Door's 'Friends
of Julie Door' Facebook site, 2014-2016, or any such
records in the possession of the City." Clerk's
Papers (CP) at 215. Door was a member of the Puyallup City
City conducted a search of its official Facebook page for any
records sent to the Friends of Julie Door Facebook page and
located no such records. The City also searched its archiving
system for all documents sent and received with the term
"Friends of Julie Door, " and located one message
to a City email address inviting the recipient to
"like" the Friends of Julie Door Facebook page. The
City produced a copy of that message to West. The City
disclosed no other documents.
filed a PRA action against the City, alleging that the City
violated the PRA by not disclosing posts on the Friends of
Julie Door Facebook page. The City filed a summary judgment
motion, arguing that the posts were not public records.
support of its motion, the City submitted a declaration from
Door. Door's declaration stated that the Facebook page
did not contain any information related to the conduct of
City government or the performance of any government
function. She explained that the Facebook page was not used
or intended to be used to conduct any governmental function
and had not been used or referenced by the City at City
meetings or cited in support of any agency action. She also
stated that the page was publicly accessible, and that the
account had received only one immaterial private message.
Finally, Door stated that the Facebook page was a campaign
site used for campaign purposes or to provide information to
declaration did not state who had made the posts on the
Friends of Julie Door Facebook page. However, Door never
denied that she was the person who prepared the posts.
filed a response to the motion, supported by his own
declaration. He later filed a second declaration. His
declarations included publically available posts from the
Friends of Julie Door Facebook page, which West argued
contained information related to City business and public
comments on a decision before the City Council. These posts
fell into three general categories.
several posts briefly referenced various issues, including
completing a Sound Transit survey; the City's
construction of new sidewalks; a project on a historic piece
of farmland in the City; the Puyallup police chief's
presentation regarding the police department's strategic
plan; Door's participation in the Association of
Washington Cities convention; Door's service on a
scholarship committee; an open house regarding the widening
of Shaw Road in the City; the City's budget document; a
link to another City Council member's Facebook page;
registration for the National Night Out; the ribbon cutting
for a new Pierce Transit connector; Sound Transit's
options for parking improvement, a related survey, and an
invitation to a City council meeting on the issue; Sound
Transit's presentations at a City Council study session
and a City Council meeting; Association of Washington Cities
training; and a City Council meeting agenda.
several posts referenced and contained links to the
City's official Facebook posts about various issues,
including the City's water testing; regional growth; an
open house regarding Sound Transit; a ribbon-cutting event
for a new park; the City's public works department; car
wash awareness month; City Council meeting agendas;
volunteering for City boards and commissions; the city's
Santa parade and tree lighting, the City's Concert in the
Park program, a vacancy on the City's parks and
recreation advisory board; meetings regarding housing focus
groups; the City Council's decision to co-sponsor a
parade for high school state champions; and a City Council
study session and special meeting.
a few posts referenced and contained links to the Puyallup
Police Department's official Facebook posts about the
city's homeless population, a jail camera lawsuit in
federal court, and the block watch program.
addition, the Friends of Julie Door Facebook page contained
comments from individuals regarding a few of the posts. Door
did not respond to any of the comments. After West's PRA
request, Door posted a message stating that she was
prohibited from answering specific questions about the
City's actions on Facebook and that questions should be
directed to Door's work-related email address and
trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the City and
dismissed West's PRA claims. The court ruled that
Door's Facebook posts were not public records because
they were not prepared, owned, used, or retained by the City
and the City had no control over the Facebook page. The court
also refused to adopt a rule that a Facebook post by an
elected official that refers to a public agency is a public
appeals the trial court's order granting summary judgment
in favor of the City.
Standard of Review
review de novo an agency's action in responding to a PRA
request. RCW 42.56.550(3); White v. Clark County,
199 Wn.App. 929, 934, 401 P.3d 375 (2017), review
denied, 189 Wn.2d 1031 (2018). This de novo review
includes summary judgment orders involving the PRA. John
Doe P v. Thurston County, 199 Wn.App. 280, 289, 399 P.3d
1195 (2017). We stand in the same position as the trial court
on PRA matters when the record consists of documentary
evidence. John Doe A v. Wash. State Patrol, 185
Wn.2d 363, 371, 374 P.3d 63 (2016).
summary judgment motion involves factual issues, we view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party
and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.
Zonnebloem, LLC v. Blue Bay Holdings, LLC, 200
Wn.App. 178, 182, 401 P.3d 468 (2017). If a moving defendant
shows the absence of any evidence supporting the
plaintiff's claim, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to
show a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 183.
But when ...