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NEWS RELEASE

October 5, 2015

 

Washington Coalition for Open Government

6351 Seaview Avenue NW

Seattle Washington 98107-2664

www.washingtoncog.org

Phone: (206) 782-0393  Fax: (206) 623-4474

 

Contact:

Toby Nixon, President

Mobile: 206-790-6377

president@washingtoncog.org

 

WCOG to ask Legislature to strengthen state’s OPMA in light of Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling in a case involving San Juan County.

 

Seattle—-The Washington Coalition for Open Government will ask the State Legislature to strengthen the state’s Open Public Meetings Act in light of a recent state Supreme Court ruling allowing governing body committees to conduct official business privately.   Under the ruling, any council committee can meet secretly as long as the larger council retains final decision-making authority.  Legislation is needed to ensure that citizens can observe the entire policymaking process, including discussions and recommendations by standing committees of county and city councils, school boards and other governing bodies.
“We are understandably disappointed with this ruling,” said WCOG President Toby Nixon. ”Government-appointed committees that discuss options, vote or make recommendations need to do that work in public. We will be asking the legislature to clarify and strengthen the OPMA to require advisory committees to meet openly.”

 

State Rep. Gerry Pollet, a WCOG board member, will make a renewed push for House Bill 1425, which would amend the OPMA to specifically state, “Meetings of an advisory board, committee, or other entity established by a public agency to provide formal advice or recommendations to the agency are subject to the provisions of this chapter.”  The bill also would require the Woodland Park Zoo board to meet openly.

 

The ruling in Citizens Alliance for Property Rights Legal Fund v. San Juan County involved a team of county council members and other officials which held closed meetings to discuss a critical areas ordinance.  The Supreme Court ruled that the team was not subject to the OPMA’s open meeting requirement because it was not created by the County Council and did not exercise decision-making authority for the Council.

 

Rep. Pollet said, “All over the state, those who want to operate in the dark have celebrated this decision. This will be a pitched legislative battle.”

 

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Washington Coalition for Open Government | 6351 Seaview Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107
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