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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts by Jim Doherty

Longtime Legal Staff Jim Doherty Retires from MRSC after 25 Years

Longtime Legal Staff Jim Doherty Retires from MRSC after 25 Years

July 11, 2018  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  MRSC News and Updates

Current Legal Manager and longtime MRSC staffmember, Jim Doherty, is retiring after providing guidance to local governments for 25 years. 

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EU’s General Data Protection Regulation: Does It Apply to Your Agency?

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation: Does It Apply to Your Agency?

May 29, 2018  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Public Records Act

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation addresses data protection and privacy for EU citizens by giving residents more control over thier personal data and by simplifying the regulatory environment for international businesses.  In this post, Jim Doherty looks at whether or not it also applies to local governments. 

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Why Are We (Sometimes) So Protective of Public Records?

Why Are We (Sometimes) So Protective of Public Records?

April 6, 2018  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Public Records Act

There are strong reasons for not disclosing information in public records that appears to be covered by the statutory exemptions and prohibitions. However, MRSC Legal Consultant Jim Doherty argues local government staff should lean toward disclosing records rather than withholding them.

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Prayer & Pledges—Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Prayer & Pledges—Should You or Shouldn’t You?

February 5, 2018  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Legislative Body

Whether to have an invocation (prayer) or a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a local government meeting is a matter of discretion to be decided by the local government legislative body. Legal Consultant Jim Doherty looks at these issues and provide some background on each. 

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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 New Legislation and Regulations

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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WATVs (Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles) Issues and Reminders

WATVs (Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles) Issues and Reminders

April 12, 2017  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Traffic Regulation and Enforcement

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 and AGO Opinions 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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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 and Regulations

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

In City of Lakewood v. Robert Willis, the state supreme court struck down two sections of a “begging” ordinance as unconstitutional restrictions on the First Amendment rights of an individual who was at a freeway ramp holding a sign indicating he had disabilities and needed help.

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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

Like many Public Records Act exemptions, the PRA exemption in RCW 42.56.280, named the "deliberative process" exemption by the courts, 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:  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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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 and AGO Opinions 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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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

How can local governments respond to large public records requests? In light of some recent public records requests that have made the news, this blog post discusses overbroad requests, identifiable records, and the ability to provide public records in installments.

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Pipeline Safety Reminder

Pipeline Safety Reminder

October 15, 2014  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Hazardous Materials and Substances

Many of Washington's cities and counties have large-diameter transmission pipelines within their jurisdiction that transport natural gas or hazardous liquids at high pressure. This post serves as a reminder about pipeline safety issues.

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Superior Court Decision on Fife Pot Ban

September 2, 2014  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Court Decisions and AGO Opinions 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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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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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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What Happens When the Parties to an Interlocal Agreement End Up in a Dispute?

January 15, 2013  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Interlocal 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

If an elected official temporarily moves out of his or her jurisdiction at some point after being elected, can they still retain their elected position or does the office become vacant? It depends on the facts of the situation.

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

July 24, 2012  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Fire Protection

Helmet camera videos can be great for trianing purposes and for reviewing possible modifications to procedures, but they can also cause problems.

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