A recent Washington State Court of Appeals decision, Fortgang v. Woodland Park Zoological Society, No. 72413-4-1 (Wash. Ct. App. Feb. 01, 2016), illustrates a possible line of analysis for what organizations are functional equivalents of government agencies.
The court looked at whether the Woodland Park Zoological Society (“WPZS”) is the functional equivalent of a government agency for the purposes of the Public Records Act (“PRA”). In 2002 the City of Seattle entered into a 20 year contract with WPZS giving the society the authority (mostly) to manage and operate the zoo. The contract gives WPZS exclusive authority over how the zoo is run and transfers all property to WPZS (including the animals). But the city continues to fund the zoo under a levy and from the general fund which totals millions of dollars each year, and provides an additional $500,000 in maintenance fees, all distributed annually. If all that money is not enough, WPZS can still apply for grants from the City.