awards by the trial court in Public Records Act
(PRA) cases are reviewed for abuse of
discretion. In Yousoufian II,  we set forth a
nonexclusive list of aggravating and mitigating factors,
including agency bad faith, to guide trial courts as they
exercise discretion. Petitioner Randall Hoffman argues that
the trial court's finding that the agency respondents
lacked bad faith is reviewable de novo. We decline
Hoffman's invitation to carve out separate standards of
review for specific Yousoufian II factors, and we
hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by
imposing a $15, 498 penalty. We affirm the Court of Appeals.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
neither party challenges the trial court's factual
findings, we accept them as verities on appeal.
Yousoufian II, 168 Wn.2d at 450. On June 29, 2015,
Hoffman submitted a public records request to the Kittitas
County Sheriffs Office seeking all police reports, including
photos and videos, referencing an individual named Erin
Schnebly. The request was processed by Carolyn Hayes, the
office's public records clerk. Hayes performed an initial
search in the office's electronic "Spillman"
case management system and located 7 responsive police
reports. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 891. Hayes did not locate
any photos or videos. A thorough review of the reports in the
Spillman system and the office's physical storage would
have also revealed 95 photographs and 2 videos related to the
telephoned Hoffman for clarification. She was concerned that
she had missed something because she could not find any
involvement by Hoffman in the incidents and had not found any
photos or videos. Based on an interpretation of RCW
42.56.050 that the parties now agree was erroneous,
Hayes told Hoffman that because he was not a party involved
in the reports, she could not provide to him the majority of
the documents requested. Though the parties submitted
conflicting evidence on this point, the trial court found
that Hoffman, relying on this misinformation, agreed to limit
his request to the responsive records' "face
sheets" indicating the type of incident, date, and
location. CP at 896. Hayes then sent Hoffman heavily redacted
copies of the face sheets and an exemption log citing the
inapplicable RCW provision. She did not provide the full
police reports, nor did she provide the photos and videos
that she had failed to locate.
was at that time preparing for retirement and working only
one or two days per week. Earlier that month, she had begun
training Kallee Knudson as her public records clerk
replacement. Knudson overheard part of the phone conversation
and was confused by Hayes' handling of the request.
Knudson asked Hayes to explain her reasoning and did not
fully understand Hayes' response but ultimately deferred
to Hayes' experience.
September 2015, Knudson came across the paper copy of
Hoffman's request while cleaning out Hayes' desk. She
was still troubled by how it had been handled and expressed
her concerns to her supervisors, Kim Dawson and Sergeant
Steve Panattoni. On their advice, she called Hoffman to
follow up. Hoffman informed her that "he did get his
request, " but Knudson did not explain her concerns or
express her belief that he was entitled to more documents.
Id. at 893. Dawson and Panattoni then spoke with
Hayes, who also called Hoffman to confirm he had received
what he needed. Hoffman said that he had but that he was
curious about other incidents that he thought might not have
been reflected in what he received. Hayes remained on the
phone while she looked for further reports and, finding none,
discussed that the incidents might not have been reported to
retired in October 2015. In February 2016, Hoffman visited
the office. He told Knudson that he should have gotten more
documents, that he could sue, and that the reason he had not
received all responsive records was that Hayes and Schnebly
were drinking buddies.
returned on February 29, 2016. He resubmitted his original
request and submitted a second request not at issue in this
appeal. The next day, Knudson provided all 7 responsive
police reports with minor redactions (totaling 29 pages), as
well as the 2 videos and 95 photos, free of charge.
then sued respondents Kittitas County and the Kittitas County
Sheriffs Office (hereinafter collectively County), alleging
that Hayes' initial response violated the
The parties agreed to a bench trial based on stipulated and
conceded facts, with affidavits, declarations, and other
documentary evidence submitted to litigate contested facts.
No oral testimony was given.
trial court found that the County had violated the PRA by
improperly redacting and withholding records for 246
days-that is, from June 29, 2015 (the date of Hoffman's
original request) to March 1, 2016 (when Knudson responded to
the renewed request). The court issued a separate order
setting the amount of the County's penalty after weighing
the aggravating and mitigating factors set forth in
Yousoufian II, 168 Wn.2d at 463-68. The court found,
among other things, that the County had acted negligently,
but not in bad faith. The court imposed a penalty of $0.50
per day per page/photo/video,  for a total of $15, 498.00. The
court also awarded reasonable attorney fees to Hoffman as a
prevailing party against an agency in a PRA action, as
required by RCW 42.56.550(4).
appealed the penalty award (but not the attorney fees award).
Hoffman v. Kittitas County, 4 Wn.App. 2d 489, 422
P.3d 466 (2018). Hoffman's primary argument before the
Court of Appeals was that the trial court erred in finding,
pursuant to its analysis of the Yousoufian II
factors, that the County had not acted in bad faith. As a
result, Hoffman argued, the penalty amount was too
low.Hoffman also asserted that the trial
court's determination of the County's culpability was
subject to de novo review.
Court of Appeals reviewed the trial court's overall
penalty imposition under an abuse of discretion standard,
"f[ound] no reversible error in the trial court's
culpability assessment, " and affirmed the penalty.
Hoffman, 4 Wn.App. 2d at 498. "Looking at the
County's overall level of culpability here, " the
majority held that "the trial court appropriately found
that agency culpability was merely a moderately aggravating
factor, thereby justifying a moderate penalty
assessment." Id. at 499.
argues that when the factual findings in a PRA action that
was tried on solely documentary evidence are accepted as
verities, an appellate court should review de novo the trial
court's determination of agency bad faith (or, as in this
case, lack thereof) that underlies its penalty assessment. He
urges us to review de novo the trial court's
determination that the County lacked bad faith, find that the
County acted in bad faith, and remand to the trial court for
reassessment of the proper penalty amount.
affirm the Court of Appeals. We hold that our task under the
PRA is to review the overall penalty assessment under an
abuse of discretion standard. Using this standard of review,
we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in
setting a per diem penalty of $0.50 per page/photo/video.
appellate court's task is to review the trial court's
overall PRA ...