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Council/Commission Meetings

This page provides a basic overview of public meetings held by local government governing bodies (councils or commissions) in Washington State.

Also see our pages on the Open Public Meetings Act and Public Hearings.

OPMA legislation and proclamations: There are several new changes related to the Open Public Meetings Act taking effect in 2022:

  • HB 1329, with effective dates in March and June 2022, makes several changes regarding the location of meetings, remote attendance, public comment, posting of notices, and more. For details, see our blog posts The OPMA Gets and Update from the Legislature and HB 1329: Answers to Your OPMA Questions.
  • Effective June 1, 2022, Proclamation 20-28 et seq. regarding public meetings during COVID-19 has been rescinded. For details, see our blog post OPMA/PRA Emergency Proclamation Will Expire June 1.
  • Effective June 9, 2022, HB 1630 prohibits any person to knowingly open carry a firearm or other weapon, while knowingly being in city, town, county, or other municipal buildings used in connection with meetings of the agency's governing body, or any other location of a public meeting or public hearing of the governing body, during the hearing or meeting. Local agencies must post signs providing notice of these restrictions.

We will be updating our website soon to reflect these changes.



Overview

A city council or board of commissioners meeting (whether county or special purpose district) is the place to get the critical job of policy-making done. A smoothly managed and productive council or commission meeting in the right setting does not necessarily guarantee good results, but it certainly helps.

State law spells out some of the requirements for public meetings, primarily through the Open Public Meetings Act. In addition, many cities, counties, and special purpose districts have adopted their own formal rules of procedure to govern the conduct of their meetings.


Legal References

Statutes


Meeting Agendas

Public agencies with governing bodies must make the agenda of each regular meeting available online at least 24 hours before the published start time of the meeting. This applies to all but the smallest local government agencies (RCW 42.30.077).

However, the statute says that nothing prevents subsequent modifications to the agenda, nor does the failure to properly post the agenda invalidate any otherwise legal action taken at the meeting or provide a basis for awarding attorney fees under RCW 42.30.120 or commencing an action of mandamus or injunction under RCW 42.30.130.

MRSC maintains a separate page on City Council Meeting Agendas. This webpage offers an overview of the agenda preparation process, including sample council rules of procedure relating to agenda preparation and links to sample agendas.


Meeting Minutes

Minutes are the instant written record of a meeting or hearing. Many governing bodies post both meeting agendas and minutes online in an effort to be more transparent to the public. 

Sample City Rules of Procedure Relating to Meeting Minutes

Sample County Rules of Procedure Relating to Meeting Minutes

Sample City Meeting Minutes

Sample County Meeting Minutes


Public Meetings - Recommended Resources

The following resources may help a local government in planning for and conducting more efficient and productive public meetings.


Public Hearings - Recommended Resources

Local governments are sometimes required by state law to hold public hearings. The resources below may help in understanding and following proper hearing procedure.

  • MRSCPublic Hearings — Discusses what is legally required for public hearings, including quasi-judicial hearings, and summarizes the basic procedures that should be followed.
  • Institute for Local Government: Getting the Most out of Public Hearings (2005) — Offers practical ideas to maximize the effectiveness of public hearings.

Parliamentary Procedure - Recommended Resources

Parliamentary procedure provides the process for proposing, amending, approving, and defeating legislative motions.

  • MRSC: Parliamentary Procedure — Offers a brief overview of Robert's Rules of Order as applied to parliamentary procedure
  • Jurassic Parliament —Offers resources on using Robert's Rules of Order, meeting management, leadership, and more.

Recommended Resources

  • Ask MRSC - Governance — Contains archived questions MRSC staff have received with regard to governance, the legislative body, council/commission roles and responsibilities, and related issues
  • Institute for Local Government: Public Meetings Resource Center — Offers a variety of tools addressing how to chair a meeting, parliamentary procedure, public participation, and how to incorporate technology into public meetings.

Last Modified: June 22, 2022