Records compiled for William Sheehan of Edmonds sit on a table in the Clallam County Courthouse. Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said it would likely take hundreds of hours to fulfill Sheehan’s records requests. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Edmonds man issues more requests for records from Clallam County sheriff, prosecutor

PORT ANGELES — An Edmonds man who asked the county to provide animal license information July 31 has made more records requests to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and Clallam County prosecuting attorney this week.

In total, William Sheehan has made five broad records requests to the two offices in the past two weeks: two to the prosecutor’s office and three to the Sheriff’s Office.

He made the newest requests via email Monday.

“I have no plans with the data until such time I receive it,” Sheehan said in an interview Thursday. “It doesn’t make sense to make a plan with something I don’t have [yet].”

Sheehan has asked the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to make available for inspection “any and all” documents providing information about all employees, agents and temporary workers, including phone numbers, compensation, employee files and personal records.

He also requested “any records that show terminated employees in the last 5 years and any records you may have that will lead to the requested data, including all cell phone records.”

And he asked for information regarding public defense.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols said he plans to fill the request pursuant to the state Public Records Act and will look at case law to determine what could be exempt from the request.

“Much of the information that has been requested by Mr. Sheehan has been deemed to be public record through court opinion and statute,” Nichols said.

Sheehan also has asked the Sheriff’s Office to provide “any and all” records that show where money collected for the pet licensing program goes and how much money was collected for the entire life of the program.

In an email Thursday, Sheriff Bill Benedict said his office last year directly collected $410 for dog and cat licenses.

Including fees collected by the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society and veterinarians in Sequim and Port Angeles, he estimated the program brings in $5,000 to $10,000 annually.

The county pays OPHS a little more than $104,000 annually for contractual services relating to caring for abandoned animals in the county, Benedict said.

He said he is more than happy to provide records to anyone who has a legitimate reason for the records — even if that reason is just curiosity.

“I don’t want to call [Sheehan’s requests] frivolous,” Benedict said. “It’s malicious.”

He said the broad scope of the requests is a waste of taxpayer money and his staff’s time.

“These requests take a lot of our time and money,” Benedict said in an interview. “People that are doing this … are taking away from the taxpayers in Clallam County.”

Sheehan said it’s his right under the state Public Records Act to request the documents and that he doesn’t have to provide any reason for his request.

He said he doesn’t care if anyone considers his requests frivolous because the law is clear that he has the right to make such requests.

“That’s not a reason in court to deny the request, so I don’t care,” he said. “I’ve heard that every time I’ve issued a request.”

Sheehan said he’d prefer not to talk on the record about why he is requesting information about pet owners, county law enforcement and staff, but on a Facebook post, Sheehan wrote part of the reason for the first request regarding animal licenses was because Benedict “shamed the original requester.”

Adam Chamberlin, who does not know Sheehan, rescinded a request in July that he had made for pet license information, which he said would have been used for a free pet-retrieval service. The Sheriff’s Office issued a news release on Facebook naming Chamberlin.

Benedict suspended the county’s pet licensing program after Chamberlin’s request, citing privacy concerns.

If the Sheriff’s Office “shames” him, Sheehan wrote, “I will retaliate by publishing your home address and your SSN …”

Sheehan has a history of publishing law enforcement officers’ addresses, home phone numbers and Social Security numbers, The New York Times wrote in 2003.

On Thursday, Benedict’s office was preparing to mail notifications to licensed pet owners in the county to let them know about the request and the steps they can take to block Sheehan from getting their information. The mailing will cost the county about $1,500.

Benedict expects it to take “hundreds of hours” to fill Sheehan’s requests and said it’s hard to estimate how much money the county will spend on the requests. The public records officer earns roughly $25 per hour, and others involved in the process earn more, he said.

The county is allowed under state law to ask Sheehan to pay for copies, but he has only asked to inspect the records.

Sheehan said none of the information he has requested is legally considered private, something he feels the public needs to understand.

“Everyone is up in arms about me requesting data, but nobody knows what I’m going to do with it,” he said. “You gave [the information] out. Once you give out information, you lose control of it.”

Benedict said Sheehan doesn’t have to make the records requests if his intent is to make that point.

“You don’t need to encumber the taxpayers with a frivolous request to make that point,” he said. “That [point] is well-known.”

Benedict said he believes Sheehan’s request illustrates the problem with the broadness of the state Public Records Act.

He said other jurisdictions have been hit with requests for all records ever created and that the Public Records Act has been among the top concerns for many jurisdictions.

“For the record, I would be thrilled if our government would not collect any of this data,” Sheehan said in a Facebook message. “I think this is a serious issue.”


Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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