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AGO 1955 No. 6 - January 05, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

MEETINGS ‑- PUBLIC BODIES ‑- NOTICE TO PRESS, RADIO AND TELEVISION

1. When a legislative body which is subject to the provisions of RCW 42.32.010 recesses a regular meeting, or a special meeting of which proper notice has been given, to later in the same day, the meeting may be resumed after the recess without giving notice to the press, radio and television of the reconvened meeting.

2. When a legislative body which is subject to the provisions of RCW 42.32.010 adjourns a regular meeting, or a special meeting of which proper notice has been given, to a later date, notice must be given to press, radio and television of the reconvened meeting, unless such meeting is held on the business day immediately following adjournment.

3. If the press, radio and television services which are entitled to notice of meetings of legislative bodies under RCW 42.32.010 are represented at a meeting which is adjourned, then announcement at the time of adjournment of the date for resumption of the meeting will satisfy the notice requirement.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                  January 5, 1955

Honorable Donald H. Webster|
Director
Bureau of Governmental Research and Service
266 J. Allen Smith Hall
University of Washington
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 6


Dear Sir:

            By letter, previously acknowledged, you have asked that we resolve a seeming conflict between two opinions issued by this office on the requirement of public notice of recessed or adjourned meetings of legislative bodies under the provisions of Chapter 216, Laws of 1953 (RCW 42.32.010 (supp.)).

            RCW 42.32.010 (Supp.) provides in substance that the legislative powers of certain governing bodies of the state and its political subdivisions shall be exercised only at regular meetings, i.e., meetings whose dates are "fixed by law or rule," or at special meetings of which notice has been given to the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] press, radio and television.  Your question is this: If a regular meeting, or a special meeting of which proper notice has been given, is recessed or adjourned until a later time, must notice be given to the press, radio and television of the reconvened meeting?

            You have interpreted AGO 53-55 No. 157, dated October 29, 1953 [[to D. H. Webster, Bureau of Governmental Research and Service]], as stating that after such recess or adjournment the legislative body may reconvene without giving the prescribed notice.  You have read AGO 53-55 No. 252 [[to H. A. Henry, Prosecuting Attorney, Thurston County]], dated May 16, 1954, on the other hand, as meaning that "notice of a continued meeting should be given in the same manner in which public notice of the original session of that meeting was given, unless representatives of the press (and presumably radio and television) were present at the time the announcement of continuance was made."

            Before taking up the problem, certain terms should be defined.  A "recessed meeting," for purposes of this opinion, is one which is continued until later on the same day; an "adjourned meeting," within the context of this opinion, is one which is continued to the following day or a later date.  SeeIntermela et al. v. Perkins, 205 Fed. 603.  The following conclusions are for clarification of the position of this office on the question raised by you, and anything to the contrary appearing in the two opinions cited above should be disregarded:

            1. When a legislative body which is subject to the provisions of RCW 42.32.010 (Supp.)recesses a regular meeting, or a special meeting of which proper notice has been given, the meeting may be resumed after the recess without giving notice to the press, radio and television of the reconvened meeting.

            2. When a legislative body which is subject to the provisions of RCW 42.32.010 (Supp.)adjourns a regular meeting, or a special meeting of which proper notice has been given, notice must be given to the press, radio and television of the reconvened meeting, unless such meeting is held on the business day immediately following the adjournment, or continuously each day thereafter.

            3. If the press, radio and television services which are entitled to notice under RCW 42.32.010 (Supp.) are represented at a meeting which is adjourned, then announcement at the time of adjournment of the date on which the meetings will be resumed will satisfy the notice requirement.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 42.32.010 (Supp.) provides in pertinent part as follows:

            "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: * * *."

            This statute should be liberally construed to effectuate its purpose which, as we said in an earlier opinion, was "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."  See AGO 53-55 No. 57, dated May 28, 1953 [[to A. B. Langlie, Governor]].  At the same time some heed should be paid to practical considerations in the sphere in which the statute is to operate.

            No additional notice is required, certainly, in the case of a meeting reconvened after a recess.  To require public notice each time a meeting is recessed in the course of a day, aside from imposing a very onerous duty on the governing body, would do little to serve the purpose of the statute, for rarely could such notice be conveyed to the press and relayed to the public in time to make it effective.

            The same considerations apply, to only a slightly lesser degree, when a meeting is adjourned to the following business day or continuously from day to day thereafter.  In such case it is, presumably, only the necessity of an interval between working days which breaks the continuity of the meeting.  The meeting is, as nearly as may be, continuous in fact as well as in law.  In the case ofIntermela et al. v. Perkins, supra, a Washington statute prohibited certain action by a governing body at adjourned regular meetings.  The facts were  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] that a governing body had met, adjourned to the day following, and then again to the next because impelled to do so by the business at hand.  The court held that the adjourned meetings, under such circumstances, fell outside the statute, since all sessions were, in effect, one "continuous" meeting.  Similar reasoning here leads to the conclusion that no additional public notice is required of a meeting simply continued over to the following business day or from day to day.  In the case both of the recessed meeting and the meeting adjourned to the next business day, however, announcement of the time the meeting is to be resumed should be made at the meeting and recorded in the minutes.

            The meeting adjourned to a time later than one day or not continuous from day to day presents a quite different problem.  The reconvened meeting in such case is in fact, though not in law, clearly a separate and distinct meeting.  Having in mind the spirit and purpose of the statute, we think it is the fact which is important, and that the same notice is required of such a reconvened meeting as is required of a "special meeting."

            If legislation may be enacted without the prescribed notice at "adjourned" meetings, held several days after adjournment, on the technical ground that such meeting is but a continuation of the earlier meeting, then it is a simple matter to thwart the purpose of the statute.  For governing bodies may then give or not give the prescribed notice, as they please, depending upon whether they affix the label "special" or "adjourned" to a particular meeting.  It is no answer to say that, since there has been notice of the original meeting, the public or their representatives could, by attending such meeting learn of the adjournment.  The statute, we believe, requires that the public have notice in a prescribed manner of all legislative meetings, and the fact they might obtain notice in another way is no reason for ignoring the requirement.

            If the press, radio and television services which are entitled to notice under the statute are represented at the meeting which is adjourned to a later date, then announcement of the adjournment and the date for reconvening would satisfy the notice requirements imposed by the statute, for no particular manner of giving notice is prescribed.  Further notice must be given, however, to those services which are not represented at the meeting.  On the question  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] of who is entitled to notice, and the form of notice to be given, AGO 53-55 No. 57, dated May 28, 1953 [[to A. B. Langlie, Governor]], should be consulted.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


JOHN F. HANSLER
Assistant Attorney General

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