Washington government personnel records subject to public records law

Washington State Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor ordered the City of Spokane to release documents pertaining to its misconduct investigation of a firefighter who confessed to having sex with a 16 year old, at the firehouse.

Reported by the Spokesman-Review:

In her decision Wednesday, O’Connor also ruled that Ross’ statements during the investigation were not confidential despite a formal agreement between the union and the city.

The so-called “Garrity” rights require as a condition of employment that firefighters must answer questions triggered by misconduct investigations. But the agreement says that answers obtained from the interviews cannot later be used against union members in a criminal proceeding.

The union agreement “cannot trump matters of public policy…the (state’s) Public Disclosure law is required to be construed liberally,” O’Connor said.

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