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Posts by Jim Doherty

The Distinction between ‘Legal’ and ‘Ethical’ Behavior

The Distinction between ‘Legal’ and ‘Ethical’ Behavior

December 11, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Ethics and Conflicts of Interest

The line between what is legal and what is ethical is not always clear. Legal Consultant Jim Doherty looks at the definitions of each and the role these concepts play in the public sphere. 

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Post-Election Odds and Ends: Bonds, Oaths and Taking Office

Post-Election Odds and Ends: Bonds, Oaths and Taking Office

October 30, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Elections

This blog discusses some of the odds and ends that need to be wrapped up before newly elected officials can get down to the business of governing.

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Election Season is Upon Us! Do You Remember the Election-Related “Dos” and “Don’ts”?

Election Season is Upon Us! Do You Remember the Election-Related “Dos” and “Don’ts”?

August 25, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Elections

There are many election issues that arise each year. Fortunately, we have addressed many of them in the past. In this post, MRSC Legal Manager Jim Doherty gives a refresher on some of the common issues faced by public agencies in Washington State. 

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New Public Records Data Reporting Requirement

New Public Records Data Reporting Requirement

July 24, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Public Records Act

2017 was a big year for the PRA, with the legislature making several high-profile changes to the law. In this blog post, MRSC Legal Manager Jim Doherty discusses one change that may come as a surprise to many agencies: the new public records data reporting requirement. 

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Use of Electronic Devices During Council/Commission Meetings

Use of Electronic Devices During Council/Commission Meetings

June 23, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

It seems that everybody is always looking at a screen or sending messages these days, sometimes using a smartphone, a notebook computer, or tablet—what’s the big deal? This blog post examines the issues that arise when members of a governing body text, message, or email during a public meeting. 

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Taking Action: Ordinances, Resolutions, Motions, & Proclamations

Taking Action: Ordinances, Resolutions, Motions, & Proclamations

April 24, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Governance

MRSC is frequently asked about the procedure to use when a legislative body (council, commission, or board) is taking action on an issue. Here is how we generally explain the options.

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WATVs (Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles) Issues and Reminders

WATVs (Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles) Issues and Reminders

April 12, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Licensing and Regulation

The 2013 legislature made major changes to the authority of riders to use some off-road vehicles on public roads. Since then WATVs have been increasingly used on public roads in the State of Washington. This post will provide some updates and reminders concerning issues related to WATV use.

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When Must a Private Entity Comply with the PRA?

When Must a Private Entity Comply with the PRA?

January 30, 2017 by Jim Doherty
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Public Records Act

Many public agencies in the State of Washington enter into contracts with private entities to provide public services. When private entities begin performing public services by contract, they inevitably begin to create records. The question this blog post will explore is: When are such records “public records” subject to production under the Public Records Act (PRA)?

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“Unconfusing” Marijuana Tax Distribution

“Unconfusing” Marijuana Tax Distribution

October 24, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: Revenues , Recreational and Medical Marijuana

RCW 69.50.540, the statute that provides the details on marijuana excise tax appropriations and distributions, is confusing. Here’s my attempt to provide a compressed, simplified version of the statute.

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Election Season Perils & Pitfalls

Election Season Perils & Pitfalls

September 15, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: Elections

MRSC is again starting to receive a diverse range of questions related to what local governments and public employees can and cannot do in regard to election campaigning. This blog post provides a brief overview of the relevant considerations related to the use of public facilities, and the actions of public employees during election season.

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Recent Legislative Changes to Landlord/Seller Disclosure Requirements

Recent Legislative Changes to Landlord/Seller Disclosure Requirements

August 3, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: New Legislation

In 2015, the Legislature enacted EHB 2122, which contained a requirement that cities, towns, and counties provide to MRSC, for posting on our website, all regulations that impose requirements on sellers or landlords to disclose designated information to purchasers or renters. This year the Legislature again took action on this issue by adopting EHB 2971, which amended the 2015 legislation and clarified the ambiguity regarding how the information must be posted 

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Washington Supreme Court Finds Begging Ordinance Unconstitutional Under Reed v. Town of Gilbert

Washington Supreme Court Finds Begging Ordinance Unconstitutional Under Reed v. Town of Gilbert

July 27, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: Property Nuisances

If your jurisdiction has an ordinance restricting begging, it’s time for your legal counsel to give it a close review. On July 21, the Washington Supreme Court, in City of Lakewood v. Robert Willis, struck down two sections of a City of Lakewood “begging” ordinance as unconstitutional restrictions on the First Amendment rights of an individual who was at a freeway ramp holding a sign that indicated he was disabled and needed help.

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Recreational and Medical Marijuana Systems Merge on July 1!

Recreational and Medical Marijuana Systems Merge on July 1!

June 3, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

July 1 will mark a major shift in the state’s development of a regulated marijuana market. On that date, there will no longer be both a strictly regulated recreational marijuana system and an almost totally unregulated medical marijuana system. Instead, the two systems will merge into one fairly coherent and consistent system under the jurisdiction of the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB). So, effective July 1, any and all marijuana sales throughout the state that do not take place through state-licensed retail stores will be clearly illegal.

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Franchising - An Essential Tool for Right-of-Way Management

Franchising - An Essential Tool for Right-of-Way Management

May 18, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: Utilities

Many city and county attorneys and public works directors are familiar with utility franchising issues, but many other city and county elected officials and staff are not, even though they may encounter them as part of their public duties. Understanding the basics of franchising will help in approaching these issues and in appreciating the complexity of the often unnoticed utility systems providing services to your residents and businesses.

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Explaining the PRA

Explaining the PRA's Deliberative Process Exemption

March 24, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: Public Records Act

The purpose of the Public Records Act (PRA) exemption in RCW 42.56.280, named the "deliberative process" exemption by the courts, is "to safeguard the free exchange of ideas, recommendations, and opinions prior to decision" (Hearst Corp. v. Hoppe (1978)), "to protect the 'give and take' of deliberations that are necessary to agency decision-making and to formulate agency policy." (ACLU v. City of Seattle (2004)). Like many PRA exemptions, it is a layered provision that has to be carefully peeled to understand what it covers. This post will address the basic considerations in applying this exemption.

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Zoning for Marijuana – What Are Jurisdictions Doing and How Is It Working?

Zoning for Marijuana – What Are Jurisdictions Doing and How Is It Working?

February 10, 2016 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Cities and counties have the authority to zone for licensed marijuana businesses as they deem appropriate, subject to the 1,000-foot buffer zones around certain uses established in RCW 69.50.331(8)(a), which cities and counties now may reduce in size, except for those around schools and parks. See RCW 69.50.331(8)(b). They may even prohibit such businesses entirely, at least according to the attorney general’s office and the five superior courts that have so far addressed the issue. So, how have cities and counties approached their authority to zone for this new land use?

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State-Licensed Marijuana Industry Morphing and Growing

State-Licensed Marijuana Industry Morphing and Growing

December 23, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

As the transition of the state-licensed marijuana industry continues, the LCB recently issued a recommendation for a substantial increase in the number of retail stores throughout much of the state.

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New PRA Decision: Good Procedure Nets Good Result

New PRA Decision: Good Procedure Nets Good Result

December 2, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Public Records Act

The recent court of appeals decision in Benton County v. Zink holds a number of lessons to be learned regarding procedures for dealing with electronic records and developing an effective strategy for dealing with a litigious requestor.

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The Maturing Marijuana Industry in the State of Washington

The Maturing Marijuana Industry in the State of Washington

September 17, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

An update on what's going on in the recreational marijuana industry.

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Final Marijuana Legislation for 2015

Final Marijuana Legislation for 2015

July 2, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

On June 30, Governor Inslee signed 2E2SHB 2136 -- another significant piece of legislation amending the state’s marijuana regulatory system. The legislation is 61 pages long and contains provisions that are important for local governments, for individuals operating licensed marijuana businesses, and for medical marijuana users.

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Medical Marijuana Reform Legislation Enacted

Medical Marijuana Reform Legislation Enacted

May 14, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Here’s a toast to the Washington State Legislature! On Friday, April 24, Governor Jay Inslee approved, with several section vetoes, Second Substitute Senate Bill 5052 (2SSB 5052), which significantly revamps the entire medical marijuana structure in Washington.

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Model Ordinances for New Wireless Antenna Facility Siting Regulations

Model Ordinances for New Wireless Antenna Facility Siting Regulations

March 17, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Telecommunications

Cities and counties need to revisit their wireless antenna facility siting regulations to bring them up-to-date with the FCC’s October 2014 Acceleration of Broadband Deployment Order, which includes final rules implementing Section 6409(a) of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

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BIG Public Records Requests

BIG Public Records Requests

March 3, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Public Records Act

There have been some pretty incredible Public Records Act (PRA) requests lately – perhaps you have seen the headlines: AG rejects Seattle man’s request for 600 million emails. That request was for all emails, excluding those that require redactions, sent to or from all state agencies over a period of years...

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Recreational and Medical Marijuana in Washington State – Looking Back at 2014 and Ahead to 2015

Recreational and Medical Marijuana in Washington State – Looking Back at 2014 and Ahead to 2015

January 7, 2015 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Last year, 2014, will be remembered as the year that the recreational marijuana industry in Washington State started operations. Recreational marijuana is now being grown and processed at various licensed locations throughout the state, and it is available in licensed retail stores in many cities and counties. The transition has been gradual – many cities and some counties are still on the sidelines, and some have opted out entirely. See our map for a comprehensive picture, with links to the current local government zoning ordinances or other documents for details. The national trend is toward more expansive availability, as is evidenced by two more states (Oregon and Alaska) joining Washington and Colorado in the shift to a regulated marijuana market.

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Pipeline Safety Reminder

Pipeline Safety Reminder

October 15, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Pipeline Safety

Twenty-eight of Washington’s 39 counties have large-diameter transmission pipelines within their jurisdiction. Over 110 cities and towns in Washington have major transmission pipelines either within their jurisdiction or within one mile of their boundaries. See our webpage on Read more | 0 comments


Superior Court Decision on Fife Pot Ban

September 2, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Recreational and Medical Marijuana

On Friday, August 29th, the Pierce County Superior Court issued an oral ruling, after the attorneys made their arguments, that the City of Fife has the authority to ban all  marijuana businesses. In essence, the judge agreed with the basic analysis given by the Attorney General in AGO 2014 No. 2 in January.
Because the court ruled in the city's favor on this local option issue, there was no...

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Marijuana Update: Litigation and Licensed Businesses Slowly Begin Operating

Marijuana Update: Litigation and Licensed Businesses Slowly Begin Operating

August 20, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

It's taken a while (over 19 months since I-502 became effective), but marijuana crops are being harvested and processed and more stores are opening, all against a backdrop of...

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Wenatchee Marijuana Litigation Update (Corrected)

June 30, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

On the evening of the day that our prior blog article regarding the Wenatchee and Centralia lawsuits was posted (June 26th), the Wenatchee city council considered changing the city’s business licensing ordinance to delete the requirement that all businesses in the city be compliant with federal law - a significant issue in the lawsuit filed against the city. That amendment was tabled, but the...

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Wenatchee and Centralia Sued on Recreational Marijuana Issues

June 25, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

It took a while, but it looks like the courts in Washington are going to start tackling some of the difficult issues raised by conflicts between state, local, and federal laws regarding recreational marijuana.
The City of Wenatchee rejected an ordinance last October (by a 4-3 vote) that would have allowed recreational marijuana businesses within the city. In April of this year, SMP Retail...

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Marijuana Concentrates – New Legislation

April 30, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Though the 2014 Legislature failed to come to agreement on many issues related to the state medical marijuana and recreational marijuana laws, there was one exception: ESHB 2304. The legislation deals primarily with marijuana concentrates, but it also adds a public records act exemption for specified ...

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Our Legislature Talks Marijuana, But That

Our Legislature Talks Marijuana, But That's All (Sigh)

March 26, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana


This was supposed to be the year that the Legislature finally sorted out the absurdity of having a highly-regulated recreational marijuana market alongside an unregulated medical...

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Update on Marijuana Licensing

Update on Marijuana Licensing

February 20, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

The state Liquor Control Board (LCB) issued a statement on February 19th clarifying its next licensing steps. In two accompanying documents, a summary of the status of marijuana licensing and an FAQ on licensing, the board...

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State Attorney General Says Cities and Counties Can Ban Recreational Marijuana Uses

State Attorney General Says Cities and Counties Can Ban Recreational Marijuana Uses

January 16, 2014 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

On January 16th, the state Attorney General's Office issued a formal opinion concluding that Initiative 502 does not preempt counties, cities, and towns from banning recreational marijuana businesses -  producers, processors,...

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Local and State Permits Required for Licensed Marijuana Businesses

Local and State Permits Required for Licensed Marijuana Businesses

December 12, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

The state Liquor Control Board is doing its best to inform prospective marijuana business applicants of the types of permits that they will need in order to comply with both local and state laws and regulations. Three "fact sheets" - one for outdoor marijuana producers, one for indoor marijuana producers, and one for marijuana processors -...

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Local Government Authority and the New Marijuana Industry

November 13, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

On November 5th, the state attorney general’s office posted a notice of a request for an opinion from Sharon Foster, chair of the state Liquor Control Board, regarding the authority of local governments - cities and counties - to directly or indirectly prohibit recreational marijuana uses in their jurisdictions. The purpose of the notice is to seek public input on the requested opinion. Here are...

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Marijuana Buffer Rule Modified

Marijuana Buffer Rule Modified

September 16, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Under pressure from the federal government, the state Liquor Control Board (LCB) announced on September 13th that its proposed regulation regarding the 1,000 foot buffer between marijuana businesses and certain types of facilities will be...

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Marijuana Regulations Released with the Numbers

September 4, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Many jurisdictions have been waiting to see the details of the revised marijuana regulations proposed by the state Liquor Control Board. Well, check them out!
The Liquor Control Board has also, in a separate document (Excel spreadsheet), released the number of retail marijuana licenses that will be issued for each county, and for the primary cities within each county. Check them out too.

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Marijuana - No Federal Roadblocks

Marijuana - No Federal Roadblocks

August 29, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

On August 29th, the Obama administration, through Attorney General Eric Holder, made it clear that the federal government will not interfere with marijuana regulation in Washington and Colorado if it meets federal concerns over youth access,...

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Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused

August 28, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

If you're finding the transition to a regulated and taxed recreational marijuana market confusing, you aren't alone! But MRSC and AWC will help you keep track of this significant issue.
On the morning of August 22nd, I spent almost two hours...

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All-Terrain Vehicles Renamed and Rolling

All-Terrain Vehicles Renamed and Rolling

July 23, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Traffic Regulation and Enforcement

The 2013 Legislature has significantly changed the statutes relating to the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and other types of off-road vehicles in the State of Washington. ESHB 1632 (Laws of 2013, 2d Spec. Sess., ch. 23), which goes into effect on...

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It

It's Really Happening - the Local Marijuana Store

June 27, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

The voters passed Initiative 502 last November, but perhaps you expected the federal government to step in and stop this “foolishness.” Well, we’re still waiting for any federal response, so it seems that...

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Public Hearings -- How Much Notice Is Required?

Public Hearings -- How Much Notice Is Required?

May 8, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Legislative Body

MRSC routinely receives calls on this issue, and as with many issues, the answer is: “that depends.” There are many public hearings that cities and counties are required by statute to hold - for instance, when a city...

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Marijuana Producers, Processors, and Retailers - Where Will They Be Setting Up Shop?

Marijuana Producers, Processors, and Retailers - Where Will They Be Setting Up Shop?

March 5, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

It’s been almost four months since Washington voters passed Initiative 502 and directed our state to take a “new approach” to adult marijuana use: regulate and tax instead of prohibit. Are you, and your community, still in shock? Have some residents been telling you that they “certainly don’t want any such businesses locating anywhere in _____!!” – while at the same time potential marijuana...

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What Happens When the Parties to an Interlocal Agreement End Up in a Dispute?

January 15, 2013 by Jim Doherty
Category: Intergovernmental Cooperation

A partnership formed by an interlocal agreement has one similarity to a marriage relationship: when it’s formed everybody tends to be optimistic, and often the parties do not want to consider the possibility of conflicts or dissolution – but those drafting an interlocal agreement, and those responsible for administering the agreement, should discuss what could go wrong, and prepare...

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Can a Local Elected Official Temporarily Live Outside His/Her Jurisdiction and Remain in Office?

November 29, 2012 by Jim Doherty
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials

What happens if an elected official moves out of his or her jurisdiction at some point after being elected? MRSC periodically gets calls on this issue, such as when an elected official’s house burns down or an elected official separates from his/her spouse and has to move out of the marital residence, and the official in each case cannot, temporarily, find another suitable residence within the...

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Initiative 502 - the Marijuana Legalization Initiative - Passed! What Happens Now?

November 7, 2012 by Jim Doherty
Category: Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Initiative 502 goes into effect 30 days after the election, on December 6th. After that date,  it will be legal under state law for individuals 21 or older to possess marijuana in designated amounts. Those amounts are: one ounce of useable marijuana; 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form. See section 15(3) and section 20 of...

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Everybody Loves to Receive a Gift

October 16, 2012 by Jim Doherty
Category: Ethics and Conflicts of Interest

But city, county, and special district officials are constrained as to receiving gifts by a state statute that lays out a "code of ethics" for municipal officers -- RCW 42.23.070.
As to gifts, there is very clear wording in RCW 42.23.070(2):

No municipal officer may, directly or indirectly, give or receive or agree to receive any compensation, gift, reward, or...

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Digging Can Be Risky

September 11, 2012 by Jim Doherty
Category: Utilities

The topic here is not prospecting for gold or digging wells for oil; it’s the everyday activities of utility crews, homeowners, contractors – almost everyone when they pick up a shovel (or operate a backhoe) and dig deeper than 12 inches. Washington’s “call before you dig” statutes were substantially amended in 2011, with the changes going into effect on January 1, 2013. (See Laws of 2011, ch.

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Climbers, Kayakers, and Skydivers Wear Helmet Cameras -- Why Not Firefighters?

July 24, 2012 by Jim Doherty
Category: Fire Protection

The assistant fire chief thinks it would be great, for training purposes, to have videos of firefighters responding to actual situations  – and the department might even get video showing a firefighter saving someone's life.   Helmet camera videos can be great for training purposes and for reviewing possible modifications to procedures, but they can also cause problems.
Helmetcam videos may...

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Meeting Participation from Afar, by Speakerphone or Other Means

June 12, 2012 by Jim Doherty
Category: Legislative Body

Is actual physical presence required for a member of a local government governing body - city council, board of county commissioners, planning commission, etc. - to "attend" and participate at a meeting of that body?  Although state law provides no specific authorization, MRSC legal staff has taken the position that it is legal for a local government governing body to allow attendance and...

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