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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts for Open Public Meetings Act

A close up of a person working on a laptop to retrieve files while sitting in a sunbeam

It’s Sunshine Week Somewhere

Even during the gloomy winter months, we can all applaud Sunshine Week, which celebrates open government. 

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Are You Up-to-Date on the Open Public Meetings Act? Test Your Knowledge

Are You Up-to-Date on the Open Public Meetings Act? Test Your Knowledge

Since 2020, the Open Public Meetings Act has gone through significant changes, requiring local government staff and elected officials to stay abreast of the changes. How confident are you in your OPMA knowledge?

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New Technology, Same Old Open Government Challenges

New Technology, Same Old Open Government Challenges

Software such as Microsoft Teams can help to facilitate communication in a workplace, but the use of such tools is tricky for governing bodies whose meetings must be open to the public and whose communications should be easily searchable if a public records request arises.

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Washington’s COVID-19 State of Emergency Ends October 31: What Does this Mean for Local Governments?

Washington’s COVID-19 State of Emergency Ends October 31: What Does this Mean for Local Governments?

Washington's state of emergency and remaining emergency proclamations related to the COVID-19 pandemic are scheduled to be lifted on October 31, 2022. What impact will this have on open public meetings, vaccine mandates, and requirements related to masking and disease tracking?  

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Expectations of Confidentiality and OPMA Executive Sessions

Expectations of Confidentiality and OPMA Executive Sessions

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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?

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?

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

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?

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

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

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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Use of Electronic Devices During Council/Commission Meetings

Use of Electronic Devices During Council/Commission Meetings

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

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

‚ÄčOn 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.

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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?

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

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

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

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?

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?

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?

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

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?

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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Email and the OPMA: Key Tips for Local Government Elected Officials

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?

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?

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?

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?

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

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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