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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.


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 can help the local government achieve its goals.

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

  • RCW 35.23.270 – City Council - Quorum - Rules - Journal, etc. (Second-Class Cities)
  • RCW 35.27.280 – Town Council - Quorum - Rules - Journal (Towns)
  • RCW 35A.12.110 – Council Meetings (Mayor-Council Plan) 
  • RCW 35A.12.120 – Council - Quorum - Rules - Voting (Mayor-Council Plan)
  • RCW 35A.12.160 – Public Notice of Hearings and Meeting Agendas (Mayor-Council Plan)
  • RCW 35A.13.170 – Council - Quorum - Rules - Voting (Council-Manager Plan)
  • RCW 36.32.080 – Regular Meetings (Counties) 
  • RCW 36.32.090 – Special Meetings (Counties) 
  • RCW 36.32.140 – Record of Proceedings (Counties) 
  • Ch. 42.30 RCW – Open Public Meetings Act 
  • RCW 42.30.080 – Special Meetings
  • RCW 42.30.110 – Executive Sessions
  • RCW 42.32.035 – Minutes 
  • RCW 9.41.305 – Local governments must post signs providing notice that it is unlawful to open carry a firearm or other weapon while attending a public meeting of the governing body.

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). Special meeting notice (to include the date, time, place of the meeting and the business to be transacted) must be provided at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting as follows: (1) delivered personally at least 24 hours before the meeting to members of the governing body (unless they submit written waiver of notice or are present at the meeting) and to members of the news media who have a request on file; (2) posted on the agency website (if the agency has a website or shares one with another agency and has staff whose duty it is to maintain or update the website); and (3) displayed at the main entrance of the agency’s principal location/meeting site (RCW 42.30.080).

State law does not  prevent subsequent modifications to a regular meeting  agenda, nor does the failure to properly post the regular meeting 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. While the special meeting agenda (i.e., special meeting notice) can be modified, the governing body cannot take final action on an item added to the special meeting notice unless it complies with the notice requirements for special meetings.

MRSC has a practice tip sheet on Developing and Modifying Agendas to guide agencies in developing their meeting agendas. MRSC also 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. RCW 42.30.035 requires the minutes of all regular and special meetings (except executive sessions) to be promptly recorded and open to public inspection.

Minutes are not required to be taken at an executive session, although the announced purpose of the executive session must be entered into the meeting minutes (RCW 42.30.110(2)). If minutes or notes are taken during an executive session, they may be subject to the disclosure requirements of the Public Records Act.

While most local governments are required to post meeting agendas online, there is no similar requirement for meeting minutes. However, many governing bodies post both meeting agendas and minutes online in an effort to be more transparent to the public.

Examples of City Rules of Procedure Relating to Meeting Minutes

Examples of County Rules of Procedure Relating to Meeting Minutes

Examples of City Meeting Minutes

Examples of County Meeting Minutes


Public Meetings - Recommended Resources

The following resources may help local governments 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.


Parliamentary Procedure - Recommended Resources

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


Last Modified: February 23, 2024