skip navigation

Ask MRSC Archives

Want to see what questions others have been asking? You can use the drop-down menu to browse some of our frequently asked questions and other selected inquiries by topic. Click on any question to see its answer.


Have a question? Ask MRSC!

Officials and employees from eligible government agencies can use our free one-on-one inquiry service, Ask MRSC. With one call or click you can get a personalized answer from one of our trusted attorneys, policy consultants, or finance experts!

Ask MRSC  or call us at 1-800-933-6772.



Browse Inquiries By Topic

GO

What are the state law and other essential requirements to follow for the role of mayor in a council-manager form of government?
Reviewed: 06/19

In a code city with a council-manager form of government, the city manager is responsible for all day to day operations of the city including, under RCW 35A.13.080(2), “[t]o appoint and remove at any time all department heads, officers, and employees of the code city, except members of the council, and subject to the provisions of any applicable law, rule, or regulation relating to civil service.” RCW 35A.13.120 essentially prohibits city council interference with the administration of the city except for the purpose of inquiry through the manager. Even when one councilmember has been selected as chair or mayor, this person remains a councilmember and part of the legislative branch of the city government.

The role of a mayor in a city with a council-manager form of government is essentially ceremonial. RCW 35A.13.030 sets forth the duties of a mayor in your city:

Biennially at the first meeting of the new council the members thereof shall choose a chair from among their number unless the chair is elected pursuant to RCW 35A.13.033. The chair of the council shall have the title of mayor and shall preside at meetings of the council. In addition to the powers conferred upon him or her as mayor, he or she shall continue to have all the rights, privileges, and immunities of a member of the council. The mayor shall be recognized as the head of the city for ceremonial purposes and by the governor for purposes of military law. He or she shall have no regular administrative duties, but in time of public danger or emergency, if so authorized by ordinance, shall take command of the police, maintain law, and enforce order. (Emphasis added).

The powers and duties of the city manager are set forth in RCW 35A.13.080 and are executive/administrative in nature. His or her role is fundamentally different than the role of a councilmember (including the chair of the council designated as mayor), which is legislative.

Here is a link to an MRSC blog post you may find useful: Balance of Power Struggles in City Government. In addition, here is a link to MRSC’s & AWC’s Publication Mayor and Councilmember Handbook (See particularly Chapter 9, “Resolving and Preventing Mayor-Council conflict,” beginning at page 31.

(Link to this question)

What is the process for third party notification in the course of responding to a PRA request? Does the third party get the opportunity to review the public records?
Reviewed: 06/19

Yes, the third party involved in a PRA third party notification under RCW 42.56.540 does need the opportunity to review the records in question in order to decide whether to seek a court order preventing disclosure. When third party notification is provided, the reason is because the agency has determined the records will otherwise be disclosed to the PRA requester. Third party notice may be advisable because the PRA is to be construed in favor of disclosure, and the agency could otherwise be subject to penalties if a court finds that it improperly denied public disclosure of non-exempt information.

To provide third party notice, the agency would inform the PRA requester in writing that it will provide the requested records, subject to appropriate redactions, if any, but will delay release of the records (and so inform the requester) to give the affected parties the opportunity to seek court protection of possibly exempt information under RCW 42.56.540. See also, WAC 44-14-040(4), part of the PRA model rules, which states:

In the event that the requested records contain information that may affect rights of others and may be exempt from disclosure, the public records officer may, prior to providing the records, give notice to such others whose rights may be affected by the disclosure. Such notice should be given so as to make it possible for those other persons to contact the requestor and ask him or her to revise the request, or, if necessary, seek an order from a court to prevent or limit the disclosure. The notice to the affected persons will include a copy of the request.

This notice gives the third party an opportunity to obtain a court order to block release. For more information, see MRSC’s Public Records Act (PRA) webpage.>

(Link to this question)

What is the applicable statute of limitations for an OPMA violation?
Reviewed: 06/19

We think it’s two years. The Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) does not specify a limitations period for bringing an action under the Act. So, we look to chapter 4.16 RCW, which deals with "limitations of actions.” However, no statute in chapter 4.16 RCW applies specifically to alleged OPMA violations. But, there is a catch-all two-year period in RCW 4.16.130 ("Action for relief not otherwise provided for") that seems to apply. That statute provides as follows: "An action for relief not herein before provided for, shall be commenced within two years after the cause of action shall have accrued."

We are not aware of other legal authority (case law or attorney general opinion) on this issue.

(Link to this question)

Is there a state statute or any overarching "rule" on quorums? Our 6 advisory bodies have some inconsistencies in their Rules of Procedure regarding quorums and we want to be sure they are all in compliance.
 

Reviewed: 06/19

Under the OPMA, RCW 42.30.020(3) whenever a body takes “final action” it must do so “by a majority of the members of a governing body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order, or ordinance.”

MRSC has consistently interpreted “quorum” for OPMA purposes to mean a majority of the full membership of the council, not taking into account any vacancies that might exist. For example, a council of seven with two vacancies, the number needed for a quorum does not change – in this example quorum is four members despite the fact that only 5 seats are currently filled. We do not have any Washington appellate court decision directly on this issue, so we rely upon the general rule, as expressed in the McQuillin Law of Municipal Corporations treatise.

The general rule is that a quorum is a majority of all the members of a governing body and that, if a statute or charter prescribes the number that shall constitute a quorum, it cannot be changed by the body. The statute for code cities specifically prescribes the number that constitutes a quorum: “[a]t all meetings of the council a majority of the councilmembers shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.” RCW 35A.12.120.

If your advisory bodies are created pursuant to an RCW, you should look there for any special quorum rules. If there is no RCW or the RCW is silent, it is up to the government entity or the individual boards to establish and define any quorum requirement that differs from the general rule.

(Link to this question)

Does an at-will employee have the right to file an appeal to contest termination?
Reviewed: 05/19

No, “at-will” employees (not covered by civil service or a collective bargaining agreement) do not have administrative appeal hearing rights. We have a very comprehensive page on Employee Termination. Here is an excerpt from that page on at-will employees and termination:

In Washington, many governmental employment relationships are "at will," that is, a person's employment continues at the will or pleasure of the employer. Absent the requirements of civil service or collective bargaining agreements, discussed later, a public employee does not have a property interest in his or her employment, and that employment can be terminated without due process, "at will," without notice, statement of cause, or hearing (Yantsin v. Aberdeen (1959); Nostrand v. Little (1961); Halliburton v. Huntington (1978); Gaar v. King County (1972)).

Note, however, that a name clearing hearing should be provided to even at-will employees if the agency has publicly announced a false, stigmatizing charge during the termination process. Here is the relevant excerpt from that same webpage:

Name-Clearing Hearings
If the employer has publicly announced the grounds for the employee's discharge, it may be necessary to provide a "name clearing hearing" (Owen v. City of Independence). A name-clearing hearing can be required when there has been a false, stigmatizing charge publicly made against the employee during the disciplinary or termination process. If a stigmatizing charge has been made, the employee should be given an opportunity to "clear" his or her name at a public hearing. This hearing may occur either before or after the termination. Obviously, the need for such a hearing can be avoided altogether by the employer not making any public statements about the termination. (Of course, if the announced reason for the termination is true, the terminated employee may choose from a privacy standpoint to avoid any further public airing of the reasons for his or her discharge.)

(Link to this question)

Request for sample code provisions regarding declarations of emergencies in council-manager cities.
Reviewed: 05/19

Please see the following sample code provisions from four council-manager cities:

  • Bainbridge Island Municipal Code, Ch. 2.44, Emergency Management
  • Burien Municipal Code, Ch. 2.75, Emergency Management
  • Normandy Park Municipal Code, Ch. 2.36, Emergency Management
  • Toppenish Municipal Code, Ch. 2.95, Emergency Powers of Mayor, City Council and City Manager

A custom code search of “’city manager’ emergency declare” turns up many more sample code provisions that include procedures for declaring emergencies in council-manager cities for your review. While many of these code provisions have the city manager, acting as the “executive head” of the city, initiating the declaration of an emergency, there are a variety of other approaches that include potential action by the mayor or the city council (if they are in session or to ratify action by the city manager). I am not aware of any attempts to determine what might be considered “best practices” for declaring an emergency in council-manager cities.

You may also be interested in the following related resources:

(Link to this question)

Is it ok to sponsor a bingo game as an employee appreciation event?
Reviewed: 05/19

We think the bingo event as proposed is fine. First, we don’t think this falls within “gambling” as contemplated in state law. The definition of “gambling” at RCW 9.46.0237 states, in relevant part (emphasis added):

"Gambling," as used in this chapter, means staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the person's control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that the person or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.

Here, you do not intend to ask the employees to pay money or some other type of consideration to participate in the bingo game. Even if the city were collecting money for the opportunity to play bingo for prizes, cities are allowed to conduct bingo, raffles, and amusement games within the limitations set forth at RCW 9.46.0321. Note that although that section says it applies to “bona fide charitable or bona fide nonprofit organizations,” cities are considered to be bona fide nonprofit organizations under the state gambling laws. Per RCW 9.46.0209(3), the definition of a “bona fide charitable or nonprofit organization” includes:

[A] county, city, or town, provided that all revenue less prizes and expenses from raffles conducted by the county, city, or town must be used for community activities or tourism promotion activities

One additional thing to keep in mind is gifting of public funds. While this employee appreciation event is likely fine, any time you are providing gifts, prizes, food, or other items to employees outside the normal scope of employment, there is risk of running afoul of the constitutional prohibition on the gift of public funds. If the city has a policy that includes employee appreciation events, this could be considered compensation or a benefit of employment, which is permissible. Here is an old but still useful memo regarding Eating and Drinking at Public Expense that outlines some things to think about with regard to employee events/gifting of public funds.

(Link to this question)

Is a motion required for a board of county commissioners to approve the minutes or is “approved as presented” enough?
Reviewed: 05/19

One of the only references to minutes in state law is in the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) RCW 42.30.035:

The minutes of all regular and special meetings except executive sessions of such boards, commissions, agencies or authorities shall be promptly recorded and such records shall be open to public inspection.

Some agencies include the approval of minutes on the consent agenda. In that regard, state law says relatively little. RCW 42.30.035 and RCW 85.06.250 clearly require that minutes be taken, but there is no specific requirement under state law about how they must be approved.

RCW 36.32.110 “Clerk of the board” provides:

The county auditor shall be the clerk of the board of county commissioners unless the board of county commissioners designates one of its employees to serve as clerk who shall attend its meetings and keep a record of its proceedings.

RCW 36.32.140 “Record of proceedings” provides:

The board of county commissioners shall cause to be recorded, in a book kept for that purpose, all their proceedings and determinations touching all matters properly cognizable before it; and all books, accounts, vouchers, and papers, touching the business or property of the county shall be carefully kept by the clerk, and be open to public inspection.

State law does not dictate how a county keeps the record of its proceedings. So, your board has discretion to adopt a procedure that works for your county. There is no preferred method, so what method is used is a question of either policy or procedure for your board to decide. If there are local BOCC procedures or meeting rules that have been adopted with procedures or practices related to minutes then they should, of course, be followed. Some boards follow Roberts Rules of Order, others do not. If the practice is to announce “minutes approved as presented” and the other commissioners are in agreement, then we think this is fine.

Here is a link to MRSC’s web page on Council/Board of Commissioners Rules of Procedure where you will find examples of other local rules.

(Link to this question)

Should a city request that all employees add a public records disclaimer at the bottom of their emails they send?
Reviewed: 05/19

There is not a state law requirement that a public records disclaimer be included on all city or other public agency emails. So, this is a policy decision for your city.

If you decide to add a disclaimer then it is, of course, important that the information be accurate. In our opinion, it is accurate to say all city emails are public records and may be subject to disclosure. This leaves open the possibility that exemptions or prohibitions in the PRA may apply to particular emails or portions of emails and/or their attachments. City employees’ emails likely all fit the broad definition of “public records” in RCW 42.56.010(3).

We found two examples of public records disclaimers in our database:

  1. Disclaimer: Public documents and records are available to the public as provided under the Washington State Public Records Act (RCW 42.56). This e-mail may be considered subject to the Public Records Act and may be disclosed to a third-party requestor.
  2. NOTE: This email is considered a public record and may be subject to public disclosure.

(Link to this question)

If the mayor is absent from the town council meeting and a councilmember serves as mayor pro tem to run the meeting, may that councilmember also be counted in the quorum of councilmembers?
Reviewed: 04/19

Yes, the mayor pro tem for your town continues to serve as a councilmember while filling in when the mayor is absent from a council meeting. So, your town council will have a quorum at the council meeting so long as at least three of the five councilmembers are present.

RCW 35.27.160 provides, in relevant part: “A mayor pro tempore may be chosen by the council for a specified period of time, not to exceed six months, to act as the mayor in the absence of the mayor.”

RCW 35.27.280 provides that “a majority of the councilmembers shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business”. T his statute also references the authority for the council to appoint a “president pro tempore” (mayor pro tem) to run a council meeting in the absence of the mayor. A councilmember does not cease being a councilmember by virtue of undertaking the additional duties of pro tem to conduct a meeting in the absence of the mayor.

(Link to this question)

Must a code city advertise vacant space for lease in a city building?
Reviewed: 04/19

There is not a state law requirement to advertise the city’s vacant space in the library building for lease. The city could advertise or use an RFP but is not required to do so. So long as the space is not needed for a public purpose, either related to the library or the city, then it should be permissible to use a rental agreement or short term lease to a local church (or other organization) if you are charging a fair market value for the space. If you have a local policy to advertise when the space is vacant then, of course, follow the local policy.

Pursuant to RCW 35A.11.010, a code city’s authority includes the authority to lease or convey real and personal property. Although a city does not want to be in the business of leasing property, when in the short term there is vacant space that is not needed by the city, then the city may lease it to others. Presumably the term of the lease would not be so long as to deny the city the future use of the space when additional space is needed. You could consider adding a term to the lease to accommodate future public need for the space.

Here is a link to MRSC”s webpage Public Facility Rental and Use. Here is a link to MRSC’s webpage Sale of Surplus City or Town Property.

(Link to this question)

Must a code city have its own police department?
Reviewed: 04/19

RCW 35A.12.020 provides in part:

  • The appointive officers shall be those provided for by charter or ordinance and shall include a city clerk and a chief law enforcement officer.

So, someone must fulfill that requirement, although the statute does not indicate whether the position must be full time, how many hours must be spent in that endeavor or that it could not be assigned to someone such as an officer in the county sheriff’s department.

As to the role of the sheriff, see the following attorney general opinion, AGO 1990 No. 4; here is a summary of that opinion:

  1. The county sheriff's duty to enforce state law applies equally in incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county.
  2. If a city is unable to provide for adequate police protection, the county sheriff must take this factor into account in allocating the resources of the sheriff's office. However, the statutes do not obligate the sheriff to provide a city with a specific number of police officers or a specific level of police services.
  3. If a city wants to obtain a specific number of county police officers or level of police services, the Interlocal Cooperation Act empowers the city to contract with the county to provide those services.

While the city could contract with the county to assure a certain level of service, if it did not, the sheriff would still be responsible for providing service within the city. However, without a contract, there is no particular assurance of the level of service that would be provided.

(Link to this question)

Do we have to list whether or not action may be taken on the agenda advertising an executive session?
Reviewed: 04/19

A council generally may not take final action at an executive session. It may convene an executive session to discuss/consider/evaluate certain specified issues, however it should not be making any final decisions on behalf of the city in the executive session. See discussion starting on p. 16 of MRSC’s Open Public Meetings Act publication.

In terms of what should be listed on the agenda, if you know that an executive session is scheduled to discuss potential litigation or to consider the acquisition of real estate, you could include that on the agenda with reference to the specific statutory provision allowing an executive session for that purpose. Many public agencies do state the purpose of an executive session in their meeting agendas, but this is not a legal requirement. Here is a link to a 2012 blog article describing the proper procedures for calling an executive session.

Even if the purpose of the executive session is not included on the agenda, RCW 42.30.110(2) requires that the presiding officer of the governing body state the purpose of the meeting prior to convening the executive session:

Before convening in executive session, the presiding officer of a governing body shall publicly announce the purpose for excluding the public from the meeting place, and the time when the executive session will be concluded. The executive session may be extended to a stated later time by announcement of the presiding officer.

(Link to this question)

What are the requirements for filling a council vacancy that has been vacant for less than 90 days?
Reviewed: 04/19

The city council has 90 days to fill the vacancy before the authority to fill the vacancy transfers to the county. By law, RCW 42.12.070(4), after 90 days if the position has not been filled, then “the authority of the governing body [the city] to fill the vacancy shall cease and the county legislative authority . . . shall appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy.”

Filling non-partisan positions is governed by RCW 42.12.070, which provides that vacancies are filled through appointment by the “governing body,” (the city council). Subsection (6) provides:

  • As provided in chapter 29A.24 RCW, each person who is appointed shall serve until a qualified person is elected at the next election at which a member of the governing body normally would be elected. The person elected shall take office immediately and serve the remainder of the unexpired term. [Emphasis added]

Regarding posting the vacancy, there is no specific requirement for number of days to post the opening to the public or to seek public interest. Posting is not required but may be a good idea.

There is no process required by state law for filling a vacancy. The city council decides what process to use and how to find a qualified person. Many councils advertise that there is a vacancy and then ask interested persons to write letters of interest or to complete an application form. Typically a council will interview candidates in open session (as required by the Open Public Meetings Act) before making an appointment. The vote to make the appointment must also be in open session. If there is a tie then the mayor breaks the tie.

For more information on the process that a city must follow to fill a vacancy on a city council please see our MRSC blog post Filling a Vacancy in a City or Town Council.

(Link to this question)

What is the process for elected officials to be covered under a city's health insurance plan?
Reviewed: 04/19

RCW 41.04.180 authorizes cities to provide health insurance to its employees. RCW 41.04.190 gives cities the option to provide health coverage to its elected officials. One important feature of that statute is that the cost of providing the coverage to a city’s elected officials is not “additional compensation.” This language means that the coverage may be provided to elected officials during an existing term of office instead of waiting until the commencement of a new term, because providing the coverage is not a salary increase.

Although RCW 41.04.180 states that the coverage may be authorized by a city’s “principal supervising official or governing body,” MRSC recommends that the coverage be authorized by the city council instead of the mayor, especially in cases where the action will result in the mayor receiving coverage.

(Link to this question)

Are office hours for a code city required to be codified by ordinance?
Reviewed: 04/19

Yes, for code cities, the applicable state law requires the office hours be codified by ordinance. The key provision of state law is RCW 35A.21.070, which states:

All code city offices shall be kept open for the transaction of business during such days and hours as the legislative body of such city shall by ordinance prescribe.

You also mention surrounding cities you have checked with that do not seem to have a similar ordinance for business hours. However, for non-code cities and towns, RCW 35.21.175 is almost identical to the code city provision:

All city and town offices shall be kept open for the transaction of business of during such days and hours as the municipal legislative authority shall by ordinance prescribe.

(Link to this question)

Must a city hold a public hearing prior to adopting the original ordinance stating their intent to budget on a biennial basis?
Reviewed: 03/19

The change from an annual budget process to a biennial budget process does NOT require a public hearing. Chapter 35A.34 RCW is the statutory reference and RCW 35A.34.040 only requires that the city adopt an ordinance to establish a biennial process. The statute reads in part:

All code cities are authorized to establish by ordinance a two-year fiscal biennium budget. The ordinance shall be enacted at least six months prior to commencement of the fiscal biennium and this chapter applies to all code cities which utilize a fiscal biennium budget.

Which simply means that the city must adopt an ordinance to establish a biennial budget process and that the ordinance must be adopted at least 6 months prior to first biennial budget period.

(Link to this question)

With voter approval, can a city raise the utility tax rate on outside utilities (natural gas, electricity, telephone and cable) above 6%?
Reviewed: 03/19

Yes. Voter approval is required if a city raises electricity, natural gas, steam energy or telephone tax rates above 6%. See RCW 35.21.870(1):

(1) No city or town may impose a tax on the privilege of conducting an electrical energy, natural gas, steam energy, or telephone business at a rate which exceeds six percent unless the rate is first approved by a majority of the voters of the city or town voting on such a proposition.

There is not an explicit limitation on cable utility taxes, but the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 requires that the rate not be "unduly discriminatory against cable operators and subscribers,” so the rate should not be higher than what the city charges other utilities.

(Link to this question)

What is the legal authority for awarding comp time?
Reviewed: 03/19

Local governments may adopt policies to provide compensatory or “comp” time to employees. Public employers are allowed to provide compensatory time off in lieu of paid overtime. Employers are not required to provide a comp time option for employees, but it is an available alternative. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides a cap on comp time which may be accumulated by employees. The cap for employees in public safety activities is 480 hours of comp time, and for all other employees, the cap is limited to 240 hours. Local governments may place a lower cap on accrued comp time if desired.

Exempt employees are not eligible for overtime pay but may be provided a comp time option. The Washington State Public Employer Overtime Guide has the following to say on the subject:

Comp time for exempt personnel: Many Washington employers have formal or informal policies of paying comp time to exempt personnel. As a basic matter, an employer is free to set any terms concerning accrual and use of comp time for employees not covered by the FLSA . . . . The Ninth Circuit, the Department of Labor and the Washington Supreme Court (interpreting the Washington Minimum Wage Act) have all concluded that comp time on top of salary is legal.

Public employers' authority to set their own terms governing the payment of comp time to exempt employees, as stated above, appears to stem from 29 C.F.R. §§ 553.28(c), (d), and (e). Generally, the FLSA, at 29 U.S.C. § 207(o), limits the amount of comp time that non-exempt employees can be given. However, FLSA exempt employees are not subject to these limitations because the FLSA does not provide for exempt employee comp time. Instead, pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 553.28(c), exempt employee comp time would likely be considered to be "other" compensatory time, because it is accrued pursuant to a policy adopted by the employer, rather than from a provision of the FLSA. Specifically, C.F.R. § 553.2829(e) states that:

The requirements of section 7(o) [i.e., 29 U.S.C. § 207(o)] of the FLSA, including the limitations on accrued compensatory time, do not apply to "other" compensatory time as described above.

So a public employer is free to set its own procedure governing comp time given to exempt employees. Once adopted, any such procedure should be clearly outlined in the employer's personnel policy. It also appears that comp time for exempt employees can be posted on an hour-for-hour basis. 29 C.F.R. § 553.28(d) states as follows:

The FLSA does not require that the rate at which "other" compensatory time is earned has to be at a rate of one and one-half hours for each hour of employment. The rate at which "other" compensatory time is earned may be some lesser or greater multiple of the rate or the straight-time rate itself.

Public employers may provide compensatory time off in lieu of paid overtime. Employers are not required to provide a comp time option for employees, but it is an available alternative. Under both federal and state law, an employee cannot be required to accept comp time rather than overtime pay but may choose to do so. An employee may choose, with the employer’s agreement, to take comp time rather than overtime pay, but the employer may not require it.

Limits may be placed on the number of hours of comp time accumulated and the time by which it must be used. A sampling of comp time restrictions from other cities shows that 40 hours is a common limit on accumulated time. The range is from 24 to 160 hours. Limits on the time period for the use of comp time (or overtime is paid instead) include 30 days, 60 days, 12 months, and within the same pay period.

For more information including a section explaining comp time, here is a link to MRSC’s webpage Fair Labor Standards Act. Here is a link to Washington State Labor & Industries webpage Understanding Overtime where there is a section about “comp time” also called “exchange time”. According to this page:

Comp or exchange time must be at the employee’s request and must be agreed to by the employee. Compensatory time is considered a benefit to the employee and the employer may not impose the requirement on any employee who has not made such a request.

(Link to this question)

Can we reimburse expenses incurred by volunteers?
Reviewed: 03/19

There are no differences between reimbursing expenses incurred by employees, 'volunteers', 'non-employees' or vendors. The issue is whether the expense is a true and just claim against the city. Did the city receive the good or service that it is reimbursing? What are the internal controls in place to assure that the good or service received was in fact received? In this particular case, what is the good that was purchased by the volunteer? Was this a purchase that was needed by the city and was it authorized by the appropriate department head prior to making the purchase?

Does the city have an adopted policy for purchases and reimbursements to employees? If the city has appropriate internal controls and procedures in place to assure that the purchases made by volunteers and other non-employees are pre-authorized by city personnel and that the purchase meets the requirements of the city's purchasing policies, there should not be a problem.

While there are no WACs or RCWs that speak specifically to reimbursements to volunteers, there are requirements by statute that all claims against the city must be audited and authenticated by the auditing officer (RCW 42.24.080). The city will need to look to its own policies for guidance and if this is an area that has not previously been addressed by local policy, consideration should be given to adopting a protocol that will assure the appropriate use of public funds.

(Link to this question)

Does RCW 39.92 authorize a code city which is not required or choosing to plan under RCW 36.70A.040 to develop a transportation program involving the collection of transportation impact fees?
Reviewed: 02/19

RCW 39.92 could be used by your city to impose transportation impact fees, even though your city does not plan under the Growth Management Act. As you point out, reference is made in RCW 82.02.020 to impact fees under RCW 39.92. The second reference is the operative one for your purposes. RCW 82.02.020 prevents a city from imposing certain fees, charges and taxes, but it also sets out certain exceptions, including:

Nothing in this section prohibits counties, cities, or towns from imposing transportation impact fees authorized pursuant to chapter 39.92 RCW.

RCW 39.92.040 provides for transportation impact fees, provided the requirements of the chapter are met. RCW 39.92.040 predates the Growth Management Act. It was not repealed by the Growth Management Act and, moreover, it is stated that nothing prohibits its use.

Here is an excerpt from our Impact Fees webpage:

Separate legislation (the Local Transportation Act, chapter 39.92 RCW, whose initial passage predated GMA by two years) authorizes all counties, cities, towns, and transportation benefit districts across the state - including those not planning under GMA - to impose transportation impact fees, but MRSC is not aware of any jurisdictions that currently do so under that authority.

(Link to this question)

What are the statutory guidelines for adopting an ordinance? Is reading it twice or three times a requirement?
Reviewed: 02/19

There are no statutory requirements to have multiple readings of an ordinance prior to adoption, however some cities have adopted such procedures. You will need to refer to your city’s municipal code to determine whether there are any local procedural requirements. For a good overview of the ordinance initiation and adoption process, see our Local Ordinances publication starting at p. 20. For mayor-council code cities, see RCW 35A.12.130 and RCW 35A.12.150 regarding state law requirements for enacting ordinances.

(Link to this question)

Are we required to have 2 readings on a budget amendment ordinance? Also, are we required to hold a public hearing when amending the budget?
Reviewed: 02/19

The issue of whether to have 2 readings on a budget amendment or any ordinance of the city is a matter of local policy. State law does not require multiple readings of the ordinance for budget amendments. Additionally, there is no requirement to hold a public hearing on a budget amendment. State law sets forth the minimum process requirements but nothing prevents a government entity from providing for multiple readings or a public hearing.

(Link to this question)

Can the city pay for a meal for councilmembers if they will be in back-to-back meetings all evening (i.e., through the dinner hour)?
Reviewed: 02/19

The Office of the Attorney General issued a memorandum in 1987 on Eating and Drinking at Public Expense. This memorandum, while over thirty years old now, is still what MRSC cites as the leading authority on questions related to municipalities paying for food and drink. It goes into considerable depth on the issue and includes various scenarios for eating and drinking at public expense, with explanations of when and why it may or may not be justified. With regard to your specific question, the analysis on pp. 5-6 may be helpful. The fundamental question is whether providing meals is reasonable and necessary. When the council meets for an extended period of time through the normal dinner hour, it seems reasonable for a city to provide dinner to the councilmembers.

(Link to this question)

Can a councilmember be removed from office other than through a recall?
Reviewed: 01/19

Recall is the primary method by which councilmembers can be removed from office against their will. The process for recall is set forth in RCW 29A.56.110.270. Elected officials in Washington are subject to recall by voters for malfeasance, misfeasance, or violation of the oath of office.

However, the occurrence of certain events may create a vacancy without a recall. RCW 42.12.010 provides that every elective office shall become vacant on the happening of any of the following events:

(1) The death of the incumbent;

(2) His or her resignation. A vacancy caused by resignation shall be deemed to occur upon the effective date of the resignation;

(3) His or her removal;

(4) Except as provided in RCW * 3.46.067 and 3.50.057, his or her ceasing to be a legally registered voter of the district, county, city, town, or other municipal or quasi municipal corporation from which he or she shall have been elected or appointed, including where applicable the council district, commissioner district, or ward from which he or she shall have been elected or appointed;

(5) His or her conviction of a felony, or of any offense involving a violation of his or her official oath;

(6) His or her refusal or neglect to take his or her oath of office, or to give or renew his or her official bond, or to deposit such oath or bond within the time prescribed by law;

(7) The decision of a competent tribunal declaring void his or her election or appointment; or

(8) Whenever a judgment shall be obtained against that incumbent for breach of the condition of his or her official bond.

Subsection (3) refers to the recall process. The remaining subsections do not require a recall process to create a vacancy—the statute declares the office “shall become vacant” when those events occur. Of course, if there is disagreement over whether the criteria for a vacancy has been met, then the issue may need to be addressed through court action.

In addition, a council position may become vacant if that councilmember is absent for three consecutive regular council meetings without the permission of the council. See RCW 35.27.140(1) (Town Councilmembers); RCW 35.23.101 (Second Class City Councilmembers); RCW 35A.12.060 (Code City Councilmembers).

(Link to this question)

 more