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September 03, 2015

Using personal cell phones in the course of conducting “official business”


Using personal cell phones in the course of conducting “official business”
Glenda Nissen v Pierce County, Supreme Court of the State of Washington, Docket #90875~3

In 2010 the Supreme Court of the State of Washington ruled that the State’s Public Records Act (PRA) applied to a record stored on a personal computer. The court explained that "[i]f government employees could circumvent the PRA by using their home computers for government business, the PRA could be drastically undermined."*

In the Nissen case the Washington Supreme Court considered a similar issue: Does the PRA apply when a public employee uses a private cell phone to conduct government business?

The court held that "text messages sent and received by a public employee in the employee's official capacity are public records of the employer, even if the employee uses a private cell phone.”

Presumably any record regardless of its format concerning or related to “official business” found or stored on the private cell phone of a public officer or employee would be viewed by the court as a public record subject to the State of Washington’s PRA.

* O'Neill v. City of Shoreline, 170 Wn.2d 138

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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