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Posts for Open Public Meetings Act

New Open Government Legislation: The Odds & Ends

New Open Government Legislation: The Odds & Ends

August 28, 2017 by Robert Sepler
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

In addition to some big changes to the PRA, the legislature also made a number of other, relatively minor, tweaks to both the PRA and the OPMA this session. In this blog post, MRSC Legal Consultant Robert Sepler gives a quick overview of these odds and ends.

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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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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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The Supreme Court Narrowly Construes the “Minimum-Value” Executive Session Exception to the OPMA

The Supreme Court Narrowly Construes the “Minimum-Value” Executive Session Exception to the OPMA

June 12, 2017 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Open Public Meetings Act , Open Government Advisor

On June 8, the Washington Supreme Court issued its opinion in Columbia Riverkeepers v. Port of Vancouver, adopting a very narrow interpretation of the executive session “exception” to the OPMA for discussion about the sale or lease of real estate (the “minimum-value exception”). In this blog post, guest author Ramsey Ramerman breaks down the case. 

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New AGO Opinion Concludes the OPMA Allows a Governing Body to Meet via Telephone or Video Conference

New AGO Opinion Concludes the OPMA Allows a Governing Body to Meet via Telephone or Video Conference

April 3, 2017 by Flannary Collins
Category: Court Decisions, AGO Opinions and Regulations , Open Public Meetings Act

​On March 21, 2017, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) issued a new opinion on the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), opining on whether a governing body can conduct a public meeting by telephone (or video) conference call. This blog post gives a quick overview of the AGO's conclusions.

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Windstorms, Blizzards & More: What Can Be Done When Weather-Related Issues Cancel a Public Meeting?

Windstorms, Blizzards & More: What Can Be Done When Weather-Related Issues Cancel a Public Meeting?

December 5, 2016 by Robert Sepler
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

Bad weather cancel your public meeting? Fear not, the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) provides a relatively straightforward procedure through which your public meeting can quickly be rescheduled to a day with clearer skies (or potentially working lights). That procedure is outlined in RCW 42.30.090, as discussed below, and allows a public agency to adjourn any type of public meeting to a later time and place.

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OPMA and PRA Training Requirements Apply to Officials Elected in 2016

OPMA and PRA Training Requirements Apply to Officials Elected in 2016

November 21, 2016 by Oskar Rey
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

This blog post discusses how to comply with the fairly new requirement that elected officials complete Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and Public Records Act (PRA) training within 90 days of taking the oath of office (if an oath is required) or 90 days after assuming his or her duties as a public official.

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2016 Legislature Adds to the Monetary Penalty for an OPMA Violation

2016 Legislature Adds to the Monetary Penalty for an OPMA Violation

May 11, 2016 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

A violation of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) can result in a number of consequences, one of which is a monetary penalty for each member of a governing body who attends a meeting knowing that it is being held in violation of the OPMA. Responding, in part, to concerns that Washington State lags behind many other states regarding penalty amounts for open meetings law violations, that the amount of this penalty hasn’t changed in over 40 years, and that an increased personal penalty on officials would more effectively deter OPMA violations, the Legislature increased the existing $100 civil penalty, effective June 9, 2016, to $500 for a first violation and $1,000 for each successive violation. Note, too, that there are other consequences resulting from an OPMA violation.

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2016 Legislature: Recap of Some Public Agency Records and Open Meetings Bills

2016 Legislature: Recap of Some Public Agency Records and Open Meetings Bills

April 11, 2016 by Nancy Krier
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Open Government Advisor , Public Records Act

Highlights of some of the open government-related bills that may be of interest to local governments from the 2016 Washington State Legislature.

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State Supreme Court Says Advisory Committees Are Not Subject to the OPMA

State Supreme Court Says Advisory Committees Are Not Subject to the OPMA

October 6, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

The Washington State Supreme Court last week, in Citizens Alliance v. San Juan County, finally confronted head-on the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) issue of when a committee of a governing body “acts on behalf of” the governing body so as to have to comply with the OPMA. It did so by adopting, in a 6-3 decision, the reasoning of a 1986 attorney general opinion, concluding, among other things, that the OPMA does not apply to purely advisory committees of a governing body. The court’s opinion also touches on related OPMA issues that merit attention.

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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 | 0 comments


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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New MRSC Webpage Showcasing OPMA and PRA Practice Tips

New MRSC Webpage Showcasing OPMA and PRA Practice Tips

October 8, 2014 by Flannary Collins
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

During my ten years as Shoreline assistant city attorney, I faced constant questions from staff and officials on the Public Records Act (PRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). Two of my go-to resources for these questions were MRSC’s PRA and OPMA publications, both of which I found to be thorough and helpful. Now...

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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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Update: Washington Court of Appeals Publishes Important OPMA Decision Relating to Committees

June 13, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

[Update to update: the state Supreme Court has now issued its decision in this case. See State Supreme Court Says Advisory Committees Are Not Subject to the OPMA, 10/6/2015] On May 15, 2014, in my blog post (“When are Meetings of Committees of a Governing Body Subject to the Open Public Meetings Act?”) I wrote about an unpublished decision by the Washington State Court of Appeals, Citizens Alliance for Property Rights Legal Fund vs. San Juan County, that sheds light on a particularly important topic under the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) (chapter 42.30...

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When are Meetings of Committees of a Governing Body Subject to the Open Public Meetings Act?

May 15, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

[Update: the state Supreme Court has now issued its decision in this case. See State Supreme Court Says Advisory Committees Are Not Subject to the OPMA, 10/6/2015] A significant issue that can be challenging under the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW, is determining what it means for a committee to “act on behalf of” the governing body. This is important because if, for example, a committee of a city council meets and “acts on behalf of” the council at such a meeting, that meeting is subject to the notice and other requirements of the...

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Explaining the Open Government Trainings Act

April 16, 2014 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

Recognizing that, “whether due to error or ignorance, violations of the public records act and open public meetings act are very costly for state and local governments,” the Legislature enacted and the Governor signed ESB 5964 (Laws of 2014, ch. 66), named the “Open Government Trainings Act.” This new law, effective on July 1, 2014, mandates that persons filling certain state and local...

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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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When is a Committee Not a Committee under the OPMA?

April 1, 2014 by P. Stephen DiJulio
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Open Government Advisor

The Washington Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW, applies to a "governing body" as well as to a committee that "acts on behalf of" a governing body. The key definitions from the OPMA, at RCW 42.30.020, include as follows:

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Washington Supreme Court Misses an Opportunity in Public Records Act Decision

May 30, 2013 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

The Washington Supreme Court on May 9, 2013 issued a decision in a Public Records Act (PRA) (chapter 42.56 RCW) matter that is particularly noteworthy for local government officials and employees. In that decision, Resident Action Council v. Seattle Housing Authority, the court held that the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) violated the PRA by applying exemptions under the PRA too broadly...

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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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Email and the OPMA: Key Tips for Local Government Elected Officials

March 22, 2013 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

At the outset, I recognize that some issues under the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) (chapter 42.30 RCW) can be especially challenging for local government elected officials who serve on a three-member governing body, since communications between any two such members can constitute a meeting under the OPMA. But what specific types of communications are we talking about here?

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Curing a Violation of the Open Public Meetings Act?

March 1, 2013 by Milt Rowland
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

What happens when a quorum of agency members have private discussions about matters pending before the agency for a vote? The easy answer is that such conversations violate the Open Public Meetings Act, chapter 42.30 RCW (or, the “OPMA”). If the agency members involved are aware that their actions violate...

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What Can You Do at a Special Meeting?

January 3, 2013 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

Special meetings of local governing bodies are called for a specific reason - to do what is stated in the notice of the special meeting.  But can a governing body, say a city council or board of county commissioners, do anything else at a special meeting?

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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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What’s the Difference Between a Closed Session and an Executive Session?

October 25, 2012 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

Although the terms “closed session” and “executive session” are used by some to refer to the same thing, there is a significant distinction between the two types of sessions, and I think it’s important to understand that distinction to avoid confusion.
The term “executive session” is used explicitly in the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW, to refer to situations in which a...

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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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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 a Majority of the Members of a Governing Body Call a Special Meeting Without Violating the OPMA in Doing So?

June 5, 2012 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

Good question!  RCW 42.30.080, which deals with special meetings, starts out by stating that "A special meeting may be called at any time by the presiding officer of the governing body of a public agency or by a majority of the members of the governing body . . . ." Obviously, while in a regular or special meeting, a governing body may decide to hold a special meeting in the future - no Open...

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Public Records Disputes – Co-Mediate Instead of Litigate

May 3, 2012 by Bob Meinig
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

You’d think that many Public Records Act (PRA) cases could be resolved quickly and inexpensively through mediation instead of through litigation.  But it's virtually impossible to find a mediator who knows the PRA and who would be trusted by both sides - the public agency and the records requestor - in a PRA dispute.
Enter Ramsey Ramerman and Greg Overstreet.  They have formed a...

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Addressing Disruptions at Public Meetings

April 18, 2012 by Ramsey Ramerman
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Legislative Body , Open Government Advisor

When members of the public disrupt a public meeting, the disruption poses several challenges for the governing body. A recent incident at a local school district highlights the procedural hoops a governing body must go through if they attempt to address the disruption by adjourning the meeting and reconvening it in another location. A recent federal case from California exposes liability risks...

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