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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 becomes effective on June 12.

Who does this requirement not apply to?  An agency is not required to post an agenda online if it does not have a website or if it employs fewer than 10 full-time equivalent employees.

What happens if an agency fails to post an agenda at least 24 hours in advance of a meeting? The legislation provides that a failure to comply with this requirement does "not provide a basis for awarding attorney fees under RCW 42.30.120 or commencing an action for mandamus or injunction under RCW 42.30.130." The legislation also provides that, if the required notice is not given, “any otherwise legal action taken at a meeting” is not invalidated. In other words, noncompliance with this requirement is a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act, but it carries no specific penalty. But, of course, that's not a reason to not comply!

What about special meetings? There is already a requirement that an agency post notice on its website of the time and place of and the "business to be transacted" at a special meeting, at least 24 hours in advance. See RCW 42.30.080(2)(b). While that required notice does not mean that an agenda of the special meeting be posted online, the posting of an agenda that includes the time and place of the meeting would satisfy this requirement. This requirement does not apply if the agency does not have a website, if it employs fewer than 10 full-time equivalent employees, or if it does not employ personnel whose defined duty is to maintain or update the website

What other laws about meeting notice should agencies be aware of? The new legislation cautions that compliance with agenda posting requirement does not satisfy public notice requirements that may be established under other laws. While the legislation provides specifically for the online posting of agendas, cities and towns have been required since 1988 to give the public information about a meeting’s “preliminary agenda,” although not necessarily online.  For example, code cities must:

establish a procedure for notifying the public of upcoming hearings and the preliminary agenda for the forthcoming council meeting. Such procedure may include, but not be limited to, written notification to the city's official newspaper, publication of a notice in the official newspaper, posting of upcoming council meeting agendas, or such other processes as the city determines will satisfy the intent of this requirement. (RCW 35A.12.160.)

This same requirement also applies to first class cities (RCW 35.22.288), second class cities (RCW 35.23.221), and towns (RCW 35.27.300). There are no similar requirements for counties or special purpose districts.

Quite a few public agencies already post agendas for upcoming meetings on their websites. Those that don't have until June 12 to start doing so, though there's nothing, of course, that says they can't start sooner.

About Paul Sullivan

Paul has worked with local governments since 1974 and has authored MRSC publications on local elections, ordinances, and general local government operations. He also provides training on the Open Public Meetings Act.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Paul Sullivan

Comments

"It's important to distinguish between Regular and Special meetings. The agenda for a special meeting must be delivered at least 24 hours before the meeting to the participants and to the media. Altering the agenda of a special meeting isn't permitted if the change is to add a new item on which "Final Action" (RCW 42.30.020(3)) may be taken. "The call and notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted. Final disposition shall not be taken on any other matter at such meetings by the governing body." RCW 42.30.080"

Tom Thiersch on Apr 22, 2014 1:13 PM

"It should be possible to add an item to the agenda. The statute provides: "Nothing in this section prohibits subsequent modifications to agendas nor invalidates any otherwise legal action taken at a meeting where the agenda was not posted in accordance with this section." Some caution should be exercised, I suggest, if the item added will result in a vote (not just a discussion) on a matter of significant public interest."

Paul Sullivan on Apr 22, 2014 8:39 AM

"I assume an agenda that was properly posted on the district's website could still be modified. For example - a commissioner could ask that an additional topic be added to the agenda at the start of a meeting."

Larry Crockett on Apr 21, 2014 1:40 PM

"The language comes from the new statute. My guess is that the legislature used that language because of the definition of "public agency," set out at RCW 42.30.020(1); a public agency includes: (a) Any state board, commission, committee, department, educational institution, or other state agency which is created by or pursuant to statute, other than courts and the legislature The definition includes departments, and there is no requirement for a department to post an agenda, even though it is a "public agency," since departments do not have governing bodies. (Of course, departments would not typically have agendas in any case, at least for meetings the public could attend.) Maybe my best answer is "I don't know.""

Paul Sullivan on Apr 11, 2014 10:37 AM

"..."public agencies with governing bodies"... So, what would be an example of a "public agency" that does not have a "governing body" (as those terms are legally Defined in OPMA)?"

Tom Thiersch on Apr 9, 2014 8:49 PM

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