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Posts for Open Public Meetings Act

Expectations of Confidentiality and OPMA Executive Sessions

Expectations of Confidentiality and OPMA Executive Sessions

June 16, 2022  by  MRSC Insight
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act

How confidential is information discussed during an executive session, and what are the expectations that those involved in the discussion should keep this information private?

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HB 1329: Answers to Your OPMA Questions

HB 1329: Answers to Your OPMA Questions

May 19, 2022  by  Steve Gross
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act New Legislation and Regulations

MRSC has gotten a lot of questions from local governments about HB 1329 and how it impacts remote public meetings, public comment, adjournment, and more. This blog addresses some common concerns.

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OPMA/PRA Emergency Proclamation Will Expire June 1

OPMA/PRA Emergency Proclamation Will Expire June 1

May 2, 2022  by  Steve Gross
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Public Records Act COVID-19

Pandemic-related restrictions on public meetings and the processing of public records will no longer be in effect this coming June, per the newly released Proclamation 20-28.16. 

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The OPMA Gets an Update from the Legislature

The OPMA Gets an Update from the Legislature

March 24, 2022  by  Flannary Collins
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act New Legislation and Regulations

The 2022 legislative session made changes to the Open Public Meetings Act, some of which take effect immediately and others not until June. This blog looks at new requirements about physical location, special meeting notice, and public comment and clarifies the effective dates.

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Technology and Open Government: Maximizing Participation and Transparency

Technology and Open Government: Maximizing Participation and Transparency

February 28, 2022  by  Oskar Rey
Category:  Public Participation Open Public Meetings Act Information Technology

Obtaining a broad spectrum of public participation in local government meetings can be challenging. This blog looks at a few examples of the innovative tools and approaches Washington agencies are using. 

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What Constitutes a Serial Meeting under the OPMA?

What Constitutes a Serial Meeting under the OPMA?

November 23, 2020  by  Oskar Rey
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act

This blog reviews what is considered a "serial" meeting under the Open Public Meetings Act and how governing bodies, now using a variety of communication options, can avoid violating the Act. 

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Tips for Avoiding OPMA Violations

Tips for Avoiding OPMA Violations

February 3, 2020  by  Flannary Collins
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act

This blog post looks at how local governments can avoid violating the Open Public Meetings Act — using questions recently submitted by Washington cites, counties, and special purpose districts. 

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Are Your Public Meetings Truly “Open” to the Public?

Are Your Public Meetings Truly “Open” to the Public?

January 27, 2020  by  Sarah Doar
Category:  Public Participation Open Public Meetings Act

This blog post considers how local governments could make public meetings even more accessible to the public. 

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Elected Officials Guide — What’s Personal and What’s Public?

Elected Officials Guide — What’s Personal and What’s Public?

January 9, 2020  by  Laura Crandall
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Administrative and Elected Officials Public Records Act

This blog covers questions about the use of social media and cell phones with regards to privacy and public records and focuses on their use from the perspective of an elected official.

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The Open Public Meetings Act Pop Quiz

The Open Public Meetings Act Pop Quiz

April 15, 2019  by  Flannary Collins
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act

This pop quiz will help boost your Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) knowledge and remind you about potential OPMA pitfalls.

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Action Outside a Public Meeting, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Action Outside a Public Meeting, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

July 13, 2018  by  Paul Sullivan
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act

This blog reviews some of the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and what can go wrong if those requirements are not met (Hint:a lot). 

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OPMA and PRA Training Requirements for Government Officials

OPMA and PRA Training Requirements for Government Officials

January 17, 2018  by  Oskar Rey
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Public Records Act

This blog post will provide an overview of the OPMA and PRA training requirements for local government officials
and provide resources to obtain training. 

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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 New Legislation and Regulations

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 and AGO Opinions Open Public Meetings Act Guest Author

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 and AGO Opinions 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 and allows a public agency to adjourn any type of public meeting to a later time and place.

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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. To 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.

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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 Public Records Act Guest Author

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, which would require one of the bodies to meet outside its county. A 2014 Attorney General Opinion addresses this issue.

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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

MRSC legal staff has concluded that meetings of county finance committees are subject to the requirements of OPMA. Here's why.

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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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When is a Committee Not a Committee under the OPMA?

March 31, 2014  by  P. Stephen DiJulio
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Guest Author

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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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?

February 28, 2013  by  Milt Rowland
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Guest Author

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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“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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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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Addressing Disruptions at Public Meetings

April 17, 2012  by  Ramsey Ramerman
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Legislative Body Guest Author

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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