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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.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Paul Sullivan

Paul worked with many local governments and authored numerous MRSC publications on local elections, ordinances, and general local government operations in his many years at MRSC. He is now retired.



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