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Posts by Paul Sullivan

Legislature Enacts Paid Family Leave

Legislature Enacts Paid Family Leave

September 13, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Leave Policies , New Legislation

The state legislature has adopted a bill that provides most employees in Washington State with paid leave to care for their health conditions, the health condition of a family member, or for the birth or placement of an adopted or foster child. This post summarizes the new legislation and some of the differences between it and the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

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Paid Sick Leave Starts January 1

Paid Sick Leave Starts January 1

September 5, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Leave Policies

Starting January 1, 2018, all employers in the state, including all local government agencies, must provide paid sick leave for their employees. In this blog post, MRSC Legal Consultant Paul Sullivan responds to some possible questions about the new paid sick leave requirements.

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Confidentiality and Executive Sessions

Confidentiality and Executive Sessions

August 10, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Ethics and Conflicts of Interest

In this blog post, MRSC Legal Consultant Paul Sullivan gives an overview of the new formal Attorney General Opinion (AGO 2017 No. 5), issued on August 3, 2017, which provides instruction on the confidentiality of information learned in executive sessions. 

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New Law on Restraining Dogs

New Law on Restraining Dogs

July 10, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Animal Control

In this blog post, Paul Sullivan provides an overview of a new law adopted by the legislature that regulates the tethering of dogs. The new law goes into effect on July 23, 2017. 

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Disqualification: What if a Candidate Doesn’t Meet the Required Qualifications for Office?

Disqualification: What if a Candidate Doesn’t Meet the Required Qualifications for Office?

May 22, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Elections

The candidate filing period for this year's election ended on Friday, May 19. To be qualified for an office, candidates must satisfy certain legal requirements, such as citizenship, residency, and voter registration. But what if they aren't legally qualified?

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Time to Start Thinking About Fireworks . . . for 2018

Time to Start Thinking About Fireworks . . . for 2018

May 2, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Licensing and Regulation

If your community wants to ban the sale or use of fireworks, now is the time for its legislative body to start considering it. It’s too late now for the 2017 season, but if a ban is to be adopted for 2018, it must be adopted by June 28, 2017.

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Paid Sick Leave and Initiative 1433

Paid Sick Leave and Initiative 1433

March 27, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Leave Policies

Initiative 1433, approved by the voters in November 2016, sets the minimum wage for most employees (currently $11.00 per hour). But the initiative does more than that. Starting January 1, 2018, every employer in the state, including local governments, will be required to provide its employees with paid sick leave. This blog post will explore how this new requirement will affect local governments in Washington State. 

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What

What's the Deal with Holidays?

February 10, 2017 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Personnel Policies

Holidays. Just about everyone loves them, and most local governments provide holidays for their employees. But, must a local government provide holidays for its employees? Must holidays be paid days off? What effect does a holiday have on local government operations? This blog tackles these questions and more.

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Year-End Personnel Topics Pop Quiz

Year-End Personnel Topics Pop Quiz

December 16, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Personnel

Here’s a short quiz to test your memory of some common personnel-related legal issues as well as several new employment laws that came into effect in 2016. This is an open-book exam and won’t be graded. A link to the answer will be provided following the question, and the answers will include references or links to additional information related to the question asked.

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New FLSA Overtime Rules Put on Hold

New FLSA Overtime Rules Put on Hold

November 28, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: FLSA

In May, the U.S. Department of Labor adopted final overtime rules for white collar workers, which would increase the salary standards for determining if an employee would be eligible for overtime. The rules, previously scheduled to go into effect December 1, 2016, have been put on hold due to a U.S. District Court preliminary injunction that delays their implementation indefinitely pending further action by the court.

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How Can Local Governments Celebrate the Holidays?

How Can Local Governments Celebrate the Holidays?

November 9, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Governance

With the holidays approaching, many local governments may be considering how to celebrate the holiday season through, for example, such means as holiday decorations, cards, and Christmas trees. Can local governments do this? Maybe, but some caution is probably warranted before proceeding.

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New Rule Requires Notice When Transporting Oil

New Rule Requires Notice When Transporting Oil

September 28, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Pipeline Safety

The Department of Ecology (DOE) recently adopted a new regulation, chapter 173-185 WAC, requiring that the DOE receive advance notification when crude oil is moved to certain facilities in the state by railroad car, as well as biannual reports from the owners of certain oil transmission pipelines regarding the volume of crude oil transported through their pipelines. Local governments can, upon request, get this information from the DOE.

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Paper or Plastic? An Overview of Plastic Bag Bans in Washington State

Paper or Plastic? An Overview of Plastic Bag Bans in Washington State

August 17, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Licensing and Regulation

This post aims to provide a general overview of what plastic bag bans look like, how effective they’ve been, and what authority cities and counties in Washington have to implement such bans.

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Regulating E-Cigarettes: The Federal Government Steps In

Regulating E-Cigarettes: The Federal Government Steps In

July 11, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Licensing and Regulation

After months of review, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued final regulations governing the manufacture, distribution, and sale of e-cigarettes, vapor liquids, and some tobacco products. The federal regulations come soon after the passage of a new Washington law (ESSB 6328) that, among other things, also regulates the sale of e-cigarettes and vapor products and prohibits their sale to persons under the age of 18. The federal regulations make additional requirements not covered by the state law, but, where both address the same subject, there does not appear to be any conflict.

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New Overtime Rule Issued for White Collar Workers

New Overtime Rule Issued for White Collar Workers

May 23, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: FLSA

The US Department of Labor (DOL) issued today (5/23/2016) its final rule that changes the “salary test” used to determine whether executive, administrative, and professional (“white collar”) employees are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements for overtime pay.

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New Law Regulates E-Cigarettes and Vapor Products

New Law Regulates E-Cigarettes and Vapor Products

April 20, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Licensing and Regulation

The Legislature adopted new legislation (ESSB 6328) this session to regulate the e-cigarette and vapor product industry in Washington. Here is a summary of some of the key provisions of the new law.

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Three Things You Should Know about FLSA and the MWA (but Maybe You Don’t)

Three Things You Should Know about FLSA and the MWA (but Maybe You Don’t)

March 2, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Leave Policies , Minimum Wage

Although the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state Minimum Wage Act (MWA) are not new, they still raise questions. Here are a few issues you may not be aware of.

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Dealing with Snow and Ice on Streets and Sidewalks

Dealing with Snow and Ice on Streets and Sidewalks

January 20, 2016 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Snow and Ice Removal

It’s winter. Snow likely will be falling. What can or should a city or county do to deal with accumulations of snow and ice on sidewalks and streets? Here are a few questions and answers dealing with snow and ice . . .

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Election Wrap-Up: Bonds, Oaths, Taking Office, and Holding Over

Election Wrap-Up: Bonds, Oaths, Taking Office, and Holding Over

November 18, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials

Now that the election is over, the votes have been counted, and certificates of election issued, it’s time to get down to the business of governing. But wait! There are a few more hurdles that first need to be cleared.

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After the Votes Are Cast:  Recounts, Ties, and Other Post-Election Scenarios

After the Votes Are Cast: Recounts, Ties, and Other Post-Election Scenarios

October 15, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Elections

The 2015 general election is Tuesday, November 3. This post addresses issues or events that will or may arise after that date: recounts, ties, election contests, and assumption of office.

For many offices, the outcome will be certain on Election Day night. One candidate will clearly have more votes than his or her opponent. But that is not always the case. Sometimes the results are cl...

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Answers to Common Election Season Questions Regarding Use of Public Facilities

Answers to Common Election Season Questions Regarding Use of Public Facilities

September 2, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Elections

Election season is here again, and, as with all elections, many questions will arise regarding the use of public facilities in support of or opposition to candidates and ballot issues. To ready myself for the questions that may be asked, I’ve reviewed the responses and other materials MRSC has relied on in the past to answer these questions. 

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Pets + Hot Day + Enclosed Vehicle = Trouble

Pets + Hot Day + Enclosed Vehicle = Trouble

July 13, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Animal Control

With the long daytimes and warm temperatures of summer, it's good to be reminded about the life-threatening hazard of leaving pets in unattended, enclosed vehicles. Animals left in vehicles on a warm day, even for a short time and even with a window slightly open, can quickly suffer heart stroke and die. The 2015 Legislature has recognized this issue and has given law enforcement and animal control clear authority to deal with this situation and has provided a specific penalty to the pet owner who allows it to occur.

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New Amendments to the Public Records Act

New Amendments to the Public Records Act

June 10, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Public Records Act

The 2015 Legislature passed and the Governor signed five bills amending the Public Records Act (PRA) that affect local government public records procedures.

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Contracting – Some General Principles for Cities

Contracting – Some General Principles for Cities

May 27, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Purchasing and Contracting

A number of issues may arise regarding the respective roles of a city (or town) council and the city (or town) administration - whether headed by a mayor or a city manager - when a city contracts for a service or a public work or makes purchases of supplies, equipment, or materials. This blog post concentrates on a few general principles that apply to the contractin...

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Holding Two Public Offices – The Doctrine of Incompatible Offices

Holding Two Public Offices – The Doctrine of Incompatible Offices

April 1, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Incompatible Offices

We get a lot of questions like this. Is it permissible for a city councilmember to also serve as a police officer for the same city? Can the county clerk be a member of the county’s planning commission? May a hospital district commissioner run for a position on the fire district board?

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What if We Accidentally Overpaid an Employee?

What if We Accidentally Overpaid an Employee?

January 28, 2015 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Compensation

Consider this hypothetical scenario: when I was just starting out as a city employee, I was joined in my office by the city accountant. She informed me that I had been overpaid. (What?! How can that be? If anything, I must have been underpaid!) Sadly, it was true. Due to a mathematical error, my paycheck for the first three months of the year was for an amount greater than it should have been. My first thought likely was “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” Unfortunately for me, that wasn’t the accountant’s first thought; I was expected to repay the amount I was overpaid. Here's why that's the case and how the overpayment should be repaid.

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Nepotism: Bringing the Family to Work

Nepotism: Bringing the Family to Work

October 30, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Selection and Recruitment

Can the parks director hire his brother as a lifeguard at the municipal pool? Is it all right for the county treasurer to hire her spouse as an administrative assistant?  The answer to each of these questions requires a review of the practice of nepotism, as well as conflict of interest law.

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Residency Requirements for City Employees – Is That OK?

October 1, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Personnel Policies

A question we’re asked fairly often is whether a city may require that its employees reside within its jurisdiction?  The answer is that it depends on the form of government the city has and on which employees the requirement would apply to.

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Filling a Vacancy in a City or Town Council

August 13, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Legislative Body

With 281 cities and towns in Washington and with city and town councils typically consisting of five to seven members, there are bound to be vacancies in council positions on a fairly regular basis. Vacancies typically occur due the death, resignation, or loss of residency. If there is a vacancy, a replacement needs to appointed. This post addresses the requirements and process for doing...

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Roles of the Mayor/Manager and the City or Town Council 101: Acquiring Legal Services

July 24, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials

How do local governments obtain legal services?  With county government, it's easy, since the prosecuting attorney provides legal services and prosecuting attorneys are elected officials.  When it comes to cities and towns, though, the answer is not that easy.
The statutes that apply to cities and towns all recognize that legal assistance may be needed.  RCW 35.27.070 provides that a town...

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OFM Defines "Undue Hardship" for Newly Required Unpaid Holidays

June 4, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Leave Policies

Chapter 168, Laws of 2014, which goes into effect on June 12, entitles state and local government employees "to two unpaid holidays per calendar year for a reason of faith or conscience or an organized activity conducted under the auspices of a religious denomination, church, or religious organization." The Office of Financial Management (OFM) was given ...

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Two New (Unpaid) Holidays for Government Employees

April 23, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Leave Policies

Legislation (SSB 5173) passed during the 2014 session entitles local (and state) government employees to two unpaid holidays per calendar year “for reasons of faith or conscience or for an organized activity conducted under the auspices of a religious denomination, church, or religious organization.” The legislation goes into effect on June 12.
A local government employee may select the...

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Online Posting of Regular Meeting Agendas to Be Required (Though Not for All)

April 9, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

New legislation (SHB 2105) amends the Open Public Meetings Act and requires, with some exceptions, that public agencies with governing bodies post online the agenda of each regular meeting of their governing bodies at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. The legislation ...

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Be Cautious Before Disposing of a Public Record

Be Cautious Before Disposing of a Public Record

February 12, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Public Records Act

Recently, a former city official entered a plea for “injuring public records.” Accepting the plea, the judge stated “You will likely never be a city manager again.” What’s that all about?

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Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill Makes It Easier to Reduce Speed Limits

Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill Makes It Easier to Reduce Speed Limits

January 8, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Traffic Regulation and Enforcement

Legislation passed in 2013 provides a simplified process for reducing the speed limit on certain city and town streets (but not on county roads). HB 104, also known as ...

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Do We Really Need to Pass a Budget by Year’s End?

November 20, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Budgets and Budgeting

Is it really necessary for our city or county to adopt a budget by December 31? I mean, how bad could it be if we don’t? It could be bad! State law requires that cities and counties adopt a budget for ...

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E-Cigarettes - Can They Be Used in Public Places or Places of Employment?

November 6, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Licensing and Regulation

In 2005, the voters approved Initiative 901, prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment; that initiative is now codified in chapter 70.160 RCW.  Under RCW 70.160.020(1), the terms “smoke” and “smoking” are...

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PRA Requests for Lists of Individuals “for Commercial Purposes”

October 2, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Public Records Act

A number of jurisdictions across the state recently received a public records request from an “online information service” that was seeking documents detailing all purchases the jurisdictions had made from 2008 to present. The information requested included the name, address, contact person, and email of vendors.  Part of the Public Records Act (PRA), RCW 42.56.070(9), prohibits a public agency...

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Exempting or Redacting a Record? Give a Brief Explanation.

September 11, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Public Records Act

A recent state Court of Appeals decision, City of Lakewood v. Koenig, held the City of Lakewood liable for costs and attorney fees when the city redacted information from a requested public record but failed to provide a "brief explanation" for the redaction.

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New Traffic Laws and the MTO

New Traffic Laws and the MTO

August 8, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Traffic Regulation and Enforcement

While a county, city, or town can adopt its own traffic code - and some cities have - many cities and towns, and a few counties, have instead adopted the Model Traffic Ordinance ("MTO") to serve as their own.  The MTO is a...

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Use of Social Networking in Employment Decisions

July 5, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Selection and Recruitment

Legislation has been enacted that will prohibit an employer's ability to require that job applicants and current employees  provide social media passwords or other account information as a condition of employment or continued employment.  The legislation, chapter 330, Laws of 2013, goes into effect July 28, 2013.
Here is an excerpt from the Final Bill Report for the legislation:

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Announcing Our Newly Revised Publication: City Bidding Book

Announcing Our Newly Revised Publication: City Bidding Book

June 11, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Purchasing and Contracting


MRSC is pleased to announce its newly revised publication, the City Bidding Book.
This publication is designed to assist city and town officials in determining whether competitive bids are required for purchasing supplies, materials, equipment, or services, or when contracting for public...

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What Can Be Done if an Elected Official Divulges Information from an Executive Session?

April 19, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

Believe it or not, but there are good reasons for a local elected governing body such as a city council or port district board of commissioners to discuss some matters in a confidential, private setting - in an executive (closed) session. This is recognized in the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), which provides that certain specific subjects may be discussed by such bodies in executive session.

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How Is Employee Travel Time Treated Under the Fair Labor Standards Act?

February 19, 2013 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Compensation

When an employee travels to work in the morning and then travels home at the end of the work day, that travel time is not “work time.” But what if the employee, at home after work, is then called back to work? Or if the employee must travel to another city for training? Does it matter if the employee drives his or her own car to an out-of-town assignment? Or if he or she travels as a passenger...

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Collecting Delinquent Water Bills and Terminating Service

November 20, 2012 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Utilities - Billing and Collection

Many cities and towns operate their own public utilities, including water service. Unfortunately, sometimes utility customers do not pay their bills. What can be done to collect unpaid accounts and, more specifically, when can water service be terminated?
The relationship between a city or town and its utility customers is contractual. If utility service is provided, and a customer does not...

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Wearing Uniforms in Political Advertisements

September 4, 2012 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Elections

This fall’s election is only a couple of months away, and candidates for office or proponents/opponents of ballot measures may be wondering if their advertisements may make use of photographs showing police officers, deputy sheriffs, firefighters, or other uniformed employees dressed in their agency uniforms. State law, specifically RCW 42.17A.555, prohibits the use of public facilities for the...

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It’s Not Too Early to Start Thinking About Elected Officials’ Salaries

August 15, 2012 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials , Administrative and Elected Officials-County

The fall election is still a ways off and the 2013 budget won’t be on the agenda for some time.  Nevertheless, this might be a good time to start thinking about the salaries your jurisdiction pays its elected officials.  Why?  Under the state constitution, there are restrictions as to when some elected officials’ salaries may be increased, or decreased.
Article 11, section 8 of the state...

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“We’re Going into Executive Session to Discuss Personnel.” Is That Okay?

July 3, 2012 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

I've attended several local government meetings where the chair has announced that the board or council will be going into an executive session to “discuss personnel.”  It sounds as if that might be permissible, but it is not necessarily so.  Although governing bodies may conduct executive sessions to discuss some personnel issues, that ability is limited.  The fact that the discussion may touch...

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Roles of the Mayor/Manager and the City or Town Council 101: Hiring

May 24, 2012 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Selection and Recruitment

A city  or town government does not run on its own; it requires employees to perform the work the public expects and depends on.  How and by whom are its employees hired?  While the easy answer is that it’s the city or town’s chief executive officer - either the mayor or the city or town manager - who makes the hiring decision, in reality, the answer is more complicated than that. ...

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