L&I ordered to release gun-range records
King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer orders the state Department of Labor and Industries to release to The Seattle Times investigative records on lead exposure of workers at the firing range Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop in Bellevue.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Records of a state investigation into workers’ exposure to toxic lead at a Bellevue indoor gun range must be released to The Seattle Times, a King County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Catherine Shaffer found that the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) violated the state Public Records Act by failing to provide records requested by The Times and by favoring the interests of two companies that sued to block their release.
Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop sued The Times and the state in August to try to block the release of the records. S.D. Deacon, a general contractor working for Wade’s, also filed suit.
L&I must produce the records promptly, pay attorney’s fees and costs, and pay a fine yet to be determined, the judge ordered.
The Times filed a request in January for all records on possible exposure of workers and customers to lead at Wade’s after one of the most serious incidents of workplace lead poisoning in recent state history.
Forty-seven employees of Wade’s and construction contractors were found to have elevated amounts of lead in their blood, and 24 reported health symptoms consistent with lead poisoning, Public Health — Seattle & King County reported.
Several workers have sued Wade’s, claiming they suffered health effects because they weren’t adequately protected last year while “mining” lead fragments from a sand berm or while adding a second floor to the firing range.
L&I fined Wade’s and S.D. Deacon in May after finding serious violations of worker health and safety standards.
Wade’s fine was reduced from $23,480 to $17,920 in a settlement with L&I last month. Deacon did not appeal its $10,750 fine.
L&I notified Wade’s, Deacon and other subjects of related inspections in July that it would release records to The Times unless L&I received a motion by Aug. 9 for a court order protecting the records.
Wade’s went to court opposing the release of any records, saying they contained sensitive information about its business practices and should be kept confidential.
Deacon sought to block the release of seven records that it said contained employee telephone numbers or information that could help its business competitors.
Shaffer rejected motions by Wade’s and S.D. Deacon to keep those papers private.
The Times argued that its readers were improperly deprived of access to government records and asked that L&I be fined as much as $100 per record for each day it was improperly withheld.
In its filings with the court, L&I denied violating the Public Records Act.
“We applaud the court for sending the message that businesses and state agencies must not only respect the public’s right to know, but should pay a price for failing to do so,” Seattle Times Managing Editor Kathy Best said Thursday.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org