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Posts by Pat Mason

Senior Legal Consultant Pat Mason Announces Retirement

Senior Legal Consultant Pat Mason Announces Retirement

July 24, 2015 by Pat Mason
Category:

Now it’s my turn to officially announce my retirement - July 31 will be my last day at MRSC, after 39 years.

I remember, when I started in 1976, I thought that MRSC would be a great place to work for a couple years and get some municipal law experience before moving on, and now, 39 years later, I am still here! Well, it was and still is a great place to work, and I could not hav...

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Confirmation of Mayoral Appointments (and Terminations) by City or Town Council – Is that OK?

Confirmation of Mayoral Appointments (and Terminations) by City or Town Council – Is that OK?

March 25, 2015 by Pat Mason
Category: Classification , Recruitment and Hiring

Hiring and firing decisions in mayor-council cities and towns may raise separation of powers issues between the mayor/executive branch and the council/legislative branch. Generally, the mayor is in charge of the hiring and firing of all appointed officers and employees of a city or town. However, we are frequently asked whether the city or town council can require that the c...

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May a City Council Meet Outside the Corporate Limits of the City?

May a City Council Meet Outside the Corporate Limits of the City?

January 14, 2015 by Pat Mason
Category: Legislative Body

The statutes that apply to cities and towns do not limit where the city or town council can meet, although, except for the statutes that apply to first class cities, they do contain a limitation on what types of action may be taken at a meeting being held outside the corporate limits.

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May a County Legislative Body Meet Outside its County to Hold a Joint Meeting with the Legislative Body of Another County?

May a County Legislative Body Meet Outside its County to Hold a Joint Meeting with the Legislative Body of Another County?

December 10, 2014 by Pat Mason
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Legislative Body

Sometimes situations and issues arise affecting more than one county such that it would be helpful for the legislative bodies of those counties to meet jointly. Such meetings, if conducted in person, would of course require one of the county legislative bodies to meet outside its county. A recent opinion issued by the Office of the Attorney General, Read more


What if Some of Your Elected or Appointed Officials Have Not Yet Completed Open Government Training Act Requirements?

November 5, 2014 by Pat Mason
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

The Open Government Trainings Act enacted by the 2014 Legislature (ESB 5964, Laws of 2014, ch. 66) requires training for some local government officials in the fundamentals of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), Public Records Act (PRA), and records retention requirements. Many local government officials have already completed these training requirements, which are not burdensome. However, we are receiving calls from some local governments asking what to do about those officials who haven’t completed this training yet this year. Basically, is that a problem?

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Does the Open Public Meetings Act Apply to County Finance Committees?

September 24, 2014 by Pat Mason
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

I was asked this specific question at each of the four regional trainings on the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and the Public Records Act (PRA) that I recently participated in and that were sponsored by the Washington Association of County Officials. So I decided it was worth writing a short blog to explain why the MRSC legal staff has concluded that meetings of county finance committees...

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Waiving Competitive Bidding Requirements in the Event of an Emergency

Waiving Competitive Bidding Requirements in the Event of an Emergency

August 7, 2014 by Pat Mason
Category: Purchasing and Contracting

In view of the recent Oso landslide and numerous and destructive wildfires in our state, I thought it would be timely to provide a brief review of the rules in state law relating to waiving competitive bidding requirements in emergency situations, when a local government needs to act quickly.  These rules are not new and are not complicated.
Basically, there is a general exemption from...

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Volunteer Firefighters and the Affordable Care Act

Volunteer Firefighters and the Affordable Care Act

January 29, 2014 by Pat Mason
Category: Legislation

Are the hours of volunteer firefighters and other volunteer emergency responders counted for purposes of determining whether the employing local government is subject to the health care...

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The Oath of Office for Local Elected Officials

November 26, 2013 by Pat Mason
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials , Administrative and Elected Officials-County

Now that the fall local government elections are over and results have been certified, the final step that local government elected officials must complete before assuming office is to take the oath of office. MRSC frequently receives questions about three basic issues involved with the oath of office ...
 

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New Approach to Responding to Public Records Requests – the Kirkland Model

October 30, 2013 by Pat Mason
Category: Public Records Act

Many local governments are struggling to balance their obligations under the Public Records Act with their existing staff and financial resources.  Local governments want to provide the fullest access to records possible, but they must do...

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How May the Revenues from the Sales Tax Authorized for Rural Counties in RCW 82.14.370 Be Used?

May 22, 2013 by Pat Mason
Category: Revenues

RCW 82.14.370 provides "rural" counties the authority to impose an up to 0.09 percent sales and use tax for the purpose of financing "public facilities serving economic development purposes in rural counties and finance personnel in economic development offices." (A "rural county" under this statute is one having a population density of less than 100 persons per square mile or one smaller than...

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How Are Abstentions Handled When Counting Votes?

April 4, 2013 by Pat Mason
Category: Legislative Body

Sometimes a member of a local governing body (such as a city council, board of county commissioners, planning commission, or special district board) does not, for whatever reason, want to cast a vote on a matter that is being considered by that body, and so that member abstains. Assuming that the governing body allows the member to abstain, how is that abstention treated for vote counting...

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Letter to Local Government Employees on Marijuana Use After I-502

February 13, 2013 by Pat Mason
Category: Marijuana

What should a local government employer say, if anything, to its employees regarding the impact of Initiative 502, which legalized some recreational use of marijuana, on the workplace?
I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago that answered some of the employment-related questions that have arisen after the enactment of Initiative 502, and the main point of that blog was to clarify that the...

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The Marijuana Legalization Law and Public Employer Issues

December 21, 2012 by Pat Mason
Category: Marijuana

Many questions have emerged concerning the impact and scope of Washington’s voter-approved marijuana law, Initiative 502 (I-502). However, the effect of the initiative in regard to the workplace and personnel policies should be minimal, because the initiative does not change Washington employer’s rights. Keep in mind that I-502 does not legalize marijuana use in the workplace, and that marijuana...

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The Open Public Meetings Act and Filling Elective Office Vacancies in a City

October 31, 2012 by Pat Mason
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

A city council is given the authority to fill vacancies that occur in city elective offices - mayor and councilmember. This raises the issue of what a city council can do in executive session in regard to filling such vacancies and what it must do in open session.
The statute on filling vacancies in nonpartisan elective offices, RCW 42.12.070, merely provides that the remaining members of...

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When Is a Resignation by an Elected Official Effective?

September 25, 2012 by Pat Mason
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials , Administrative and Elected Officials-County

We often receive questions regarding when the resignation of an elective official is effective. The basic issue is whether a resignation has to be accepted by the governing body of the agency for the resignation to be effective. Until 2002, the common law rule was that a resignation had to be accepted to be effective.  In 2002, the state court of appeals in State ex rel. Munroe v. Poulsbo, 109...

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Local Governments May Assess "Reasonable" Service Charges for Stormwater Facilities Owned by the Federal Government

August 8, 2012 by Pat Mason
Category: Storm and Surface Water Management

A significant case decided last May resulted in a major victory for local governments in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.  The case determined that federal agencies must pay local governments “reasonable service charges” for stormwater pollution control.  Some federal agencies had been paying such fees, but others had refused to pay based on the principle of...

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What are the Proper Procedures for Holding an Executive Session?

June 26, 2012 by Pat Mason
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

When legislation was introduced in 2008 that would have required tape recordings of all executive sessions, the Office of the State Auditor cited as support for this legislation a high number of violations of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) by local governing bodies.  The vast majority of these violations were procedural mistakes, many relating to how the executive sessions were being...

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Can Local Elected Officials Reduce Their Own Salaries?

May 15, 2012 by Pat Mason
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials , Administrative and Elected Officials-County

In these difficult budget times, we have been asked a number of times whether local elected officials may waive all or part of their salaries as a way to financially assist their local government - or just to make a statement, as some of their salaries are pretty low to begin with.  While this likely can be done, there are some legal issues that must be considered.

 

The overriding legal...

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