“Irreparable Damage” — Spokane Police Guild v. Liquor Control Board
Posted by Arroyoribera on August 15, 2007
A very frequently cited case and one of substantial significance and precedence in regard to disclosure of public records by a public agency is the matter of Spokane Police Guild v. Liquor Control Board.
The link highlighted below leads to the full Supreme Court decision on the matter. In addition, I have included the following brief excerpt by way of explaining the context. And finally, I conclude with a quote from the Spokane City Prosecutor on the “irreparable” nature of the damage to the Spokane Police Guild and Spokane Police Department.
In the end, the court sided with the public’s right to know over any broad claim by government to non-disclosure based on a claim to protection of personal privacy of the officials involved.
CITE: 112 Wn.2d 30, 769 P.2d 283
POLICE GUILD v. LIQUOR CONTROL BD.
CAUSE NUMBER: 55432-3
FILE DATE: February 16, 1989
CASE TITLE: Spokane Police Guild, et al, Appellants, v.
The Liquor Control Board, et al, Respondents, The
City of Spokane, Appellant.
FACTS OF CASE
This is an appeal from an order of the Superior Court for Spokane County wherein the court declined to enjoin the Washington State Liquor Control Board from releasing an investigative report to the public and news media. We affirm.
On or about March 19, 1986, a party was held on the Spokane Police Guild Club premises. These were premises licensed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (Liquor Board). The party has been variously referred to as a bachelor party, stag show and strip show. The party was, in any event, given for a prospective bridegroom by his brother. A dancer performed at the party in a manner which, as it was subsequently determined, violated Liquor Board regulations. Forty or more people were in attendance. Following an investigation by an investigator for the Liquor Board, the club’s liquor license was suspended for 21 days.
A reporter for the Spokesman Review and Spokane Chronicle newspapers requested a copy of the Liquor Board’s investigative report. The Liquor Board ultimately determined that it would release its full report on the incident. This suit was thereupon commenced by the Spokane Police Guild to enjoin the release of the records. The publisher of the newspapers, Cowles Publishing Company, and the City of Spokane were permitted to intervene in the suit.
Following consideration of affidavits, briefs and arguments, and after reviewing the investigative report in camera, the trial court filed its memorandum decision stating in part as follows:
“Nothing this court can do will ever erase the fact that this regrettable incident occurred. And probably nothing the news media can do from here on out will really be considered a benefit to this community. But it seems obvious to this court that the full story must be made public, including the names of persons involved.
The trial court then entered an order denying the injunction and ordering that a complete and unedited copy of the investigative report be disclosed. An appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals and the trial court stayed disclosure pending appeal. The Court of Appeals, in turn, certified the appeal to this court and we accepted review.
The appeal presents one primary issue.
Should the Liquor Board’s report of its investigation of liquor law violations at a party held on the premises of one of its licensees be exempt from disclosure under the state freedom of information act?
CONCLUSION. We hold that the trial court properly concluded that the records in question were not exempt from disclosure and that a complete and unedited copy of the Liquor Board’s report should be made available to the public and news media.
This suit was brought under the state freedom of information act, RCW 184.108.40.2060 (the act). The parties concede that the Liquor Board’s investigative report of the event in question is a public record.
(quote from Supreme Court decision) By affidavit, the City Attorney stated that: “Release of this information, under the circumstances presented by this case, will cause substantial and irreparable damage to the Spokane Police Department’s ability to operate as a law enforcement agency, which is a vital governmental function.” (end quote)