County prevails in state Supreme Court public records case

Former Everett Councilman Ron Gipson was seeking records about a personnel investigation at Denney.

EVERETT — The state Supreme Court decided a public records case 8-1 Thursday in favor of Snohomish County over former Everett City Councilman Ron Gipson.

The ruling settles a dispute over records Gipson had been seeking about a sprawling personnel investigation at Denney Juvenile Justice Center, where he worked as a corrections officer and had been accused of harassment by female coworkers.

Gipson filed his request in 2014 and the county closed it the next year, after providing five installments. The county withheld hundreds of pages of records, reasoning they were exempt because they related to the ongoing personnel investigation at Denney.

In 2016, Gipson filed a complaint in King County Superior Court to challenge the county’s decision to withhold those records.

This week, a majority of Supreme Court justices agreed with the county. That decision upheld a state appellate court ruling from last year.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Debra Stephens argued for greater disclosure. Stephens said the majority erred by extending a public records rule about “no standing requests” to justify an expired temporary exemption as a basis for withholding records.

Gipson, who was first elected to the City Council in 1995, was defeated in the 2015 election by Cassie Franklin, who was later elected Everett’s mayor. He continued to work at Denney.

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