What if Some of Your Elected or Appointed Officials Have Not Yet Completed Open Government Training Act Requirements?
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 (RCW 42.30.205,), Public Records Act (RCW 42.56.140 and RCW 42.56.150), 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?
No, it’s not really a problem, except perhaps for those officials who have been appointed since the legislation was effective (July 1, 2014) and to whom the legislation applies. Those officials must receive this training within 90 days of assuming office. While there is no specific penalty set out in this legislation for noncompliance, it does not reflect well on the noncompliant official, it may be noted in your agency’s regular state audit, and it can have consequences for the agency in PRA litigation.
But, even as to those officials who were already in office when the legislation was effective, the Attorney General’s Office, as well as MRSC, recommends that they receive training this year, or soon thereafter – even though this may not be required by the legislation.
It’s important to remember is that there are a variety of ways to satisfy this training requirement and that none involve a major commitment of time. See our blog post, Open Government Training Resources and Opportunities (5/08/2014). For example, the online training on the Attorney General’s website can be completed in less than an hour – for all three laws! The training video on the Open Public Meetings Act is 16 minutes long, the video on the Public Records Act is 22 minutes long, and there is an online tutorial for records retention and management prepared by the Washington State Archives that shouldn’t take long to complete.
County commissioners have a training opportunity at the upcoming annual conference of the Washington State Association of Counties in Spokane on November 19. Legal staff from MRSC will provide this training in a morning session from 9:45 to 10:45 at that conference.
And there will be many more in-person trainings and webinars offered after the first of the year for officials of all types of local agencies. Keep in mind, also, that an agency’s legal counsel can provide the necessary training.
So, get out there and get trained! It’s never too late! Training promotes open government – and good government.
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.