Washington justices uphold $502,000 public records fine against state

The Washington Supreme Court has upheld a $502,000 penalty for Public Records Act violations by the state Department of Labor and Industries, in a ruling that affirms judges can calculate such fines based on each page of a withheld record.

The 5-4 decision Thursday came in a lawsuit by The Seattle Times. The newspaper sought records about workers' or customers' exposure to lead dust at a gun shop in Bellevue as part of a broader examination that found outdated industry-safety standards, reckless shooting-range owners and lax regulation have contributed to hundreds of lead-poisoning cases nationwide.

Labor and Industries said it withheld documents under a categorical Public Records Act exemption for records that might jeopardize a law enforcement investigation. The majority said that was inappropriate because the department's cases are unlike active criminal investigations, largely because employers already know if they're being investigated. Continue…