OPMA and PRA Training Requirements for Government Officials
Municipal elections were held in November 2017, which means that many newly-elected officials have recently taken an oath and assumed office. If you are one of those people, then congratulations! We know there is a lot to learn and do as you become familiar with your role as an elected official.
Perhaps you have heard about the state law that requires officials to complete Public Records Act (PRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) training. This blog post will provide an overview of the training requirements and provide you with options for satisfy them.
OPMA Training—Not Just for Elected Officials
RCW 42.30.205 sets forth the OPMA training requirements. Even if you are not an elected official, you may be required to complete some open government training.The requirements apply to “every member of a governing body,” which includes:
- Members of the governing body of a public agency (i.e., elected officials). Note that the OPMA definition of “public agency” in RCW 42.30.020(1) is broad and covers all state and local government entities in Washington except the state legislature and the courts.
- Members of a “subagency” created pursuant to statute or ordinance, such as planning commissions, library boards, and park boards.
- Members of boards, commissions, or committees or other policy or rule making bodies of a public agency if the body acts on behalf of the governing body, conducts hearings, or takes testimony or public comment.
- Members of informal advisory bodies that do not meet any of the criteria listed above generally do not meet the definition of “public agency” and are not required to train. For more on determining whether a committee is a “governing body,” please see MRSC’s blog post on the 2015 Washington Supreme Court decision Citizen’s Alliance v. San Juan County.
- Local and statewide elected officials, including individuals appointed to fill a vacancy.
- Public records officers (PROs) designated under RCW 42.56.580 (which requires all state and local agencies to designate a PRO). As of 2017, training for PROs must address retention, production, and disclosure of electronic documents.
- Records officers designated under RCW 40.14.040 (applicable to state agencies).
Some Options for Completing Your Training Requirements
Both the OPMA and the PRA training requirements must be completed every four years. Therefore, when you complete your training, you should document that fact.
You can complete OPMA and PRA training either in person or online. Here are a few options:
Attorney General Training Page. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has an Open Government Training page that includes OPMA and PRA videos. This page also has an online training guide for records retention. You can download a certificate of training form at the bottom of the page that can be used to document completion of this (or any other) training. In addition, the Washington State Archives and the OAG offer in-person open government training at various times and locations throughout the state.
Knowing the Legal Territory. You can also access AWC’s Knowing the Legal Territory video series, featuring attorney Steve DiJulio. This video series is slightly over 2-hours long and covers the OPMA, PRA, and records retention. It also includes other important topics such as municipal authority, governance, ethics, and conflicts of interest. AWC offers a training certificate that you can download, sign, and date upon completion.
Check with your Jurisdiction or Professional Organization. Public agencies and professional groups have the option of providing the required training to their employees or members. Check with your agency to see if it provides open government training.
Ready for a Deeper Dive?
There are many resources available to you if you have specific OPMA or PRA questions or want more in-depth information. MRSC has topic pages with more detailed information on the OPMA and the PRA. In addition, check out MRSC’s OPMA and PRA publications.
Finally, MRSC’s consultants are available to answer specific questions. The OPMA and the PRA are two of our most common inquiry topics, so we have lots of experience with the subject matter.
If you have questions about this or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772. If you have comments about this blog post or other similar topics you would like me to write about, please email me at email@example.com.
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.