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AGO 1956 No. 257 - May 02, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTIES; CITIES AND TOWNS; SPECIAL DISTRICTS; NOTICE OF SPECIAL MEETINGS OF AGENCIES THEREOF TO THE PRESS, RADIO, AND TELEVISION.

Procedural rules for the guidance of agencies of counties, cities, and towns, and special districts in notifying the press, radio, and television of special meetings in accordance with § 1, chapter 216, Laws of 1953 (RCW 42.32.010 [1955 Supp.]).
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                                                                    May 2, 1956

Honorable Donald H. Webster, Director
Bureau of Governmental Research & Services
266 J. Allen Smith Hall
University of Washington
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 257

 Dear Sir:

             In connection with the public notice required to be given of meetings of municipalities or agencies thereof in order to comply with § 1, chapter 216, Laws of 1953 (RCW 42.32.010 [1955 Supp.]), you have requested the opinion of this office on the following questions:

             (1) "Are cities and towns required to notify only daily newspapers of general circulation in the city or town in which the meeting is to be held, assuming there is one or more?"

             Answer:  All daily newspapers of general circulation published in the city or town in question must be notified.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (2) "Are cities and towns also required to notify daily newspapers ofgeneral circulation in the county in which the city or town is situated, assuming there is one or more?"

             Answer:  No.

             (3) "If there is no daily newspaper ofgeneral circulation in the city or town, should such city or town notify only one weekly newspaper published therein?"

             Answer:  Yes.  Such weekly newspaper should be one of general circulation.

             (4) "If there is no daily newspaper ofgeneral circulation in the county in which the city or town is situated, should such city or town notify only one weekly newspaper published in the county?"

             Answer:  Yes.  Such weekly newspaper should be one of general circulation.

             (5) "In any case, if there is no newspaper of general circulation in the city or town, should notice of its meetings be posted in three public places?"

             Answer:  No.

             (6) "If the Associated Press, the United Press, and the Radio News Service have a local representative in a city or town, would notice to them of a public meeting in the city or town render unnecessary notifying any newspaper in such city or town?"

             Answer:  No.  For public meetings in cities and towns no notification to such agencies need be given.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            (7) "If one radio or television station situated in a city or town is notified, is that sufficient?"

             Answer:  No.  In so far as the requirement of notifying radio and television facilities is concerned, one radioand one television station (if any) in the city or town should be notified.

             (8) "Would the answers to the foregoing questions be equally applicable to counties and special districts?"

            Answer:  The answer to this question is developed in the analysis below.

             (9) "What is meant by a newspaper ofgeneral circulation?"

             Answer:  A definition of this term appears in the analysis below.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             Section 1, chapter 216, Laws of 1953 [RCW 42.32.010 (1955 Supp.)], provides in part:

             "No board, commission, agency or authority of the state of Washington, nor the governing board, commission, agency or authority of any political subdivision exercising legislative, regulatory or directive powers, shall adopt any ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation, order or directive, except in a meeting open to the public and then only at a meeting, the date of which is fixed by law or rule, or at a meeting of which public notice has been given by notifying press, radio and television in the county and by such other means as may now or hereafter be provided by law:  * * *" (Emphasis supplied.)

              [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            We initially point out that the statute contemplates giving notice to the press, radio and television where the public meeting is not held on a date "which is fixed by law or rule".  Thus, it appears to have been the legislature's intention to insure that adequate publicity be afforded to public meetings of governmental agencies which were special in nature and which would not ordinarily come to the attention of the public as readily as regular, recurring meetings "the date of which is fixed by law or rule".

             Turning now to those meetings which, within the contemplation of the statute, require notice to the "press, radio and television," we refer to our opinion (AGO 53-55-57) of May 28, 1953, addressed to the Governor, formulating some interpretative rules to guidestate agencies in carrying out the object and purpose of this legislation.  In that opinion we said:

             "The application of a statute such as the one in question raises problems of practical difficulty far beyond the wildest dreams of any legislator.  News dissemination facilities in the state of Washington range from virtually nothing in some of the sparsely populated counties to a multitude of diverse means and methods in counties such as King and Pierce.  If all facilities available to the public were to be used in every county, the officials of some agencies would be faced with an overwhelming task in the dissemination of the required notice alone, yet in other counties virtually no notice at all would be required.  The legislature obviously had in mind a common sense approach to a very real problem.  * * *

             "The purpose of this act is to assure that all who are interested will have some ready means of information regarding the passage of rules and regulations governing their everyday life.  * * *

              [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            "Yet, we must bear in mind that if the commendable purpose of this act can be accomplished without unduly hamstringing the operation of government agencies, every effort must be indulged to that end."

             With these principles in mind, we formulated in the course of that opinion the following procedure to be followed by state agencies:

             "1. For meetings of state agencies to be held in Olympia, notice to the three news services mentioned herein (Associated Press, United Press, and Radio News Service) is sufficient.

             "2. For meetings of state agencies to be held in any other county, notice to any press service which has an agency within the county plus direct notice to the daily newspapers of general circulation published in the county, and to at least one radio and television station (if any) located in the county will suffice.

             "If there is no daily newspaper published in the county in which the meeting is to be held, the direct notice should be sent to any weekly or periodical newspaper published in the county.  If there be none, the direct notice should be sent to any daily newspaper generally circulated in the county in which the meeting is to be held.  If there is no radio or television station located in the county, we believe that the newspaper notice alone will suffice.  Although this opinion is specifically directed at the operations of state agencies, undoubtedly the boards and agencies of municipalities and other political subdivisions must be governed by the same rules, except that there would be no purpose in notifying the press services in such cases."

              [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            We adhere to these rules which are applicable to public meetings of the boards and agencies of state government; however, inasmuch as no specific attention was given in that opinion to notice requirements for public meetings of counties, cities and towns, and special districts, we will undertake to formulate rules of procedure in such cases in accordance with the same approach taken in developing rules for state agencies and in recognition of the purpose of the statute involved as well as administrative practicalities.

             In so doing, we are convinced that some modification of the rules applicable to state agencies should be made in formulating rules applicable to agencies of counties, cities and towns, and special districts.  In the case of public meetings of cities and towns, the geographic area in which the meeting would ordinarily be a matter of concern to the public is obviously much smaller than in the case of meetings of state and county agencies.  Therefore, we have concluded that, in so far as newspapers are concerned, notice to newspapers of general circulation in the city or town will ordinarily suffice as notice to the "press * * * in the county."  Such notice not only insures that persons within the city or town will be informed of the meeting but complies, we think, with both the wording and the intent of the statute while at the same time it avoids an undue multiplication of the notice requirements.  It should also be noted that this statute does not require the posting of notice in any public place, although such manner of giving notice may be required under other statutory provisions.

             The rules of procedure for giving notice of public meetings of counties, cities and towns, and special districts in accordance with § 1, chapter 216, Laws of 1953, are as follows:

            A. In the case of public meetings of the various boards and agencies of counties, the following procedure should be employed:

             1. Notice should be given to all the daily newspapers of general circulation published in the county.  If there be no such daily newspapers, then notice should be given to at least one weekly newspaper of general circulation published in the county.

             2. Notice should also be given to at least one radio station in the county, if any.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

            3. Notice should also be given to at least one television station in the county, if any.

             4. Notice need not be given to any press or radio service such as the Associated Press, the United Press, and the Radio News Service, although such notice is certainly permissible and may be desirable in individual cases.

             B. In the case of public meetings of boards and agencies of cities and towns, the following procedure should be employed:

            1. Notice should be given to all daily newspapers of general circulation published in the city or town.  If there be no such daily newspapers, then notice should be given to at least one weekly newspaper of general circulation published in the city or town.  If there be no such weekly newspaper, notice should be given to one daily newspaper of general circulation published in the county in which the city or town is situated; or if there be no such daily newspaper in the county, then to a weekly newspaper of general circulation published in the county.

             2. Notice should be given to one radio station in the city or town; or if there be none than to one radio station, if any, in the county in in which the city or town is located.

             3. Notice should be given to one television station in the city or town; or if there be none, to one television station, if any, in the county in which the city or town is situated.

             4. Notice need not be given to press and radio services such as the Associated Press, the United Press, and the Radio News Service; although such notice is certainly permissible and may be desirable in individual cases.

             C. In the case of public meetings in special districts, the following procedure should be employed:

             1. Where the territorial boundaries of the special district are wholly within the boundaries of one city or town, notice should be given in the same manner as set forth hereinbefore as applicable to public meetings of a city or town.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            2. Where the territorial boundaries of the special district are wholly within one county but not wholly within one city or town, notice should be given in the same manner as set forth hereinbefore as applicable to counties.

             3. Where the territorial boundaries of the special district are within two or more counties, notice should be given in the same manner as set forth hereinbefore as applicable to counties in each of the counties where the district is situated.

            The foregoing procedures applicable to counties, cities and towns, and special districts are to be considered minimums which should be complied with in all cases.  However, if any agency desired to go further, it would certainly be free to do so.  The giving of notice to the news facilities mentioned will constitute full compliance, whether or not the notice is actually published by the newspaper, or broadcasted by the radio or television station in question.

             In answer to your question regarding the definition of a newspaper "of general circulation," we refer you to our court's opinion inKing County v. The Superior Court for King County, 199 Wash. 591, 92 P. (2d) 694, where the court said at page 607:

             "In 68 A.L.R. 542, commences an extensive annotation upon the matter of what constitutes a newspaper of general circulation.  The rule is laid down that

             "'It may be said generally that a newspaper is one of general circulation, even though it is devoted to the interests of a particular class of persons, and specializes on news and intelligence primarily of interest to that class, if, in addition to such special news, it also publishes news of a general character and of a general interest, and to some extent circulates among the general public.'"

              [[Orig. Op. Page 9]]

            We hope the foregoing analysis will prove helpful to you.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

J. CALVIN SIMPSON
Assistant Attorney General

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