MRSC Insight Blog
Posts for Open Public Meetings Act
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This blog post considers how local governments could make public meetings even more accessible to the 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.
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).
This blog post will provide an overview of the OPMA and PRA training requirements for local government officials
and provide resources to obtain training.
and provide resources to obtain training.
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.
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.
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.
On 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.
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.
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.
Highlights of some of the open government-related bills that may be of interest to local governments from the 2016 Washington State Legislature.
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.
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.
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?
MRSC legal staff has concluded that meetings of county finance committees are subject to the requirements of OPMA. Here's why.
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...
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:
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?
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...
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?
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...
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...
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...