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AGO 1954 No. 252 - May 06, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

MEETINGS ‑- PUBLIC BODIES ‑- NOTICE TO PRESS AND RADIO.

Under chapter 216, Laws of 1953, (RCW 42.32.030) when a meeting is continued to a future date and such public body is to adopt any ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation, order or directive, notice of the meeting must be given as follows:

(1) As required by attorney general's opinion 53-55 No. 57 to Honorable Arthur B. Langlie, dated May 28, 1953;

(2) Notice need contain only such information as would indicate it was a continuance of previous meeting; and

(3) In case of a reversal of previous ordinance, etc., where public notified, notice above (2) must be given.

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

                                                                    May 6, 1954

Honorable Hewitt A. Henry
Prosecuting Attorney
Thurston County
310 Court House
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 252

Dear Sir:

            By letter, previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office concerning the interpretation of certain language in chapter 216, Laws of 1953 (RCW 42.32.030).  You state that you are aware of our opinion concerning such interpretation.  (AGO 53-55 No. 57 to Honorable Arthur B. Langlie, dated May 28, 1953).  You however request our further opinion on such interpretation since several questions have come to the attention of the county commissioners of Thurston County.  The following questions are posed:

            1. If a legally called meeting of a public body, subject to chapter 216, Session Laws of 1953, is continued to a later date, is it necessary that an announcement  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] of the continuance be made at a time when public representatives are present to satisfy the notice provisions of the statute?

            2. To clarify further this point, if the decision to continue the meeting is reached at a time when no public representatives are present, may the continued session be lawfully held without public notice?

            3. Is it necessary that the governing bodies of agencies, subject to this statute, announce at their regularly held session the issues which will be considered at the continued session if no notice of the continued session is to be given?

            4. To clarify this point further, may such a public body consider at a continued session of which no public notice has been given issues that had not been previously discussed at the regular session or listed on the publicly announced agenda of such regular meeting for consideration?

            5. May a governing body, subject to chapter 216, Laws of 1953, at a continued session of which no public notice has been given and at which public representatives are not present reconsider a question on which final action had been taken at a regular meeting in the presence of public representatives and take action which alters or reverses the effect of the original action?

            Our conclusions are as follows:

            Notice of a continued meeting must be given to the "press, radio and television" in the same manner as for original meetings.  If representatives of such services are present at the meeting, announcement of the continuation to a time certain, is sufficient notice.

            The last four questions are answered in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1, chapter 216, Laws of 1953 (RCW 42.32.030) provides 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  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] 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:  Provided, That this act shall not apply to the state legislature, the judiciary, or to those regulatory orders of quasi-judicial bodies applicable only to named parties as distinguished from orders having general effect on the public or a class or group."

            For a thorough discussion and interpretation of the statute, see AGO 53-55 No. 57,supra.  The purpose of the act, as set out in that opinion, 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.  * * *"

            The opinion then sets forth certain procedures to be followed in carrying out the purposes of the act.  In view of your specific questions which are not covered in that opinion, it becomes necessary to supplement it, and we shall proceed to do so herein.

            The special notice requirement of this statute imposes only a nominal burden upon any board, agency or authority.  There is no precise requirement as to form or method of notification.  Technically speaking, a mere telephone call to those agencies which we have previously indicated as constituting the "press, radio and television" will suffice.  Even in the most populated counties this would involve but a few minutes' time.

            It must be conceded that the statute does nothing more than set forth a policy, since there are no penal provisions incorporated therein.  Nevertheless, if the legislature sees fit to establish such a policy, it would be well to take definite steps to the end that the objective be carried out so far as reasonably practicable.  It is quite apparent that the objective of the statute would be completely circumvented if the board could merely give public notice of the first  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] meeting to be held as a "dry run," and thereafter follow it up by a closed meeting at which the really effective action will be taken.  Strictly speaking, under parliamentary law an original meeting which is adjourned from time to time continues to be the same meeting.  If notice had been originally given, under that technical rule, it would be unnecessary to give any further notice.  Conceivably the single meeting could run throughout the year, and every agency which gave notice of its first meeting could thereafter continue indefinitely upon an adjourned or recessed basis.  We do not feel that the overriding policy of the statute will permit indulgence in any technicalities as to termination of regular meetings or as to calculation of the time of termination of an old meeting and commencement of a new one.  The policy requires that the public be given actual and fair opportunity to attend the new meeting where a rule or regulation is likely to be passed.  This policy is just as compelling whether the rule is likely to be passed at a rump session or a recessed meeting, or whether it will be the only item on the agenda at the original session.

            1. In our opinion notice of the second session of a continued meeting should be made in the same manner as public notice of the original session of that meeting, unless representatives of the press services are actually present at the time the announcement of continuance is made.

            2. We do not believe that the governing board of any public agency may decide to continue a meeting at a time when no press representatives are present and thereafter hold the continued session without again giving further public notice.

            3. It is never necessary that the public agencies set forth with particularity the agenda to come before such body whether at an original or continued meeting.  The same form of notice should be given for either session.

            4. The last two questions are answered in the negative.  These questions are based upon the premise that a subsequent meeting will be held without notice, at which time regulatory rules and regulations would be passed.  We have already indicated that such procedure would violate the policy of this act.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

WALTER WEBSTER, JR.
Assistant Attorney General

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