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AGLO 1973 No. 12 - January 19, 1973
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTIES ‑- BOARDS OF EQUALIZATION ‑- OPEN MEETINGS

The various county boards of equalization and the state board of tax appeals are excluded from the open meetings act when dealing with property tax exemption cases; however, county boards of equalization must conduct open sessions in such cases under RCW 84.48.010.

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                                                                 January 19, 1973

Honorable Peter D. Francis
State Senator, 32nd District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1973 No. 12

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion regarding the necessity for open meetings where either the various county boards of equalization or the state board of tax appeals are reviewing a county assessor's determination as to the tax exempt status of either real or personal property.

            We answer this question in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The first issue to be resolved in determining this question is that of the applicability of the "open public meetings act of 1971" (chapter 250, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess.) to the proceedings described in your letter.

            As you know, § 14 of this act (now codified as RCW 42.30.140) expressly exempts from the provisions thereof,

            ". . .

            "(2) That portion of a meeting of a quasi-judicial body which relates to a quasi-judicial matter between named parties as distinguished from a matter having general effect on the public or on a class or goup; . . ."

            In AGO 1971 No. 37 [[to Leonard A. Sawyer, State Representative on November 29, 1971]], copy enclosed, we concluded that by reason of this exemption the provisions of the "open public meetings act" are not applicable to such sessions of a county board of equalization as have been convened under the provisions of RCW 84.48.010.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Although this determination that the proceedings of boards of equalization are not covered by the "open public meetings act" was keyed, specifically, to those proceedings involving the correctness of a county assessor's evaluation of certain property, we think that our characterization of the proceedings of such boards as "quasi-judicial" is equally applicable in those instances where, under RCW 84.48.010, as last amended by § 2, chapter 55, Laws of 1970, Ex. Sess., such boards are reviewing an assessor's disposition of an individual property owner's claim for a tax exemption.  In both instances, the board is reviewing a quasi-judicial matter between named parties as distinguished from a matter having general effect upon the public at large or an indeterminate class or group thereof ‑ as is the state board of tax appeals when it reviews these same evaluation and exemption questions under RCW 82.03.130, et seq.

            Accordingly, it is our opinion that the precise question as set forth in your letter is answerable in the affirmative; i.e., both the various county boards of equalization and the state board of tax appeals are excluded from the open meetings act when dealing with property tax exemption cases in the manner outlined in your letter.

            In the case of county boards of equalization, however, this does not mean that such proceedings may be closed to the public.  As we further indicated in AGO 1971 No. 37, supra, even though the open public meetings act is not applicable to such proceedings, the provisions of RCW 84.48.010 itself require all sessions of a county board of equalization convened pursuant thereto to be open to attendance by the public, subject to a single qualification keyed to the use of certain information obtained by a county assessor under RCW 84.40.340.  This conclusion, likewise, is just as much applicable to those boards when reviewing tax exemption claims as it is when they are reviewing evaluation contests between a property owner and a county assessor.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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