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What can citizens do if they think a government body has illegally gone into executive session?

What can citizens do if they think a government body has illegally gone into executive session?

(Open Public Meetings Act, Executive Sessions) Permanent link

Agencies may conduct a closed executive session only to discuss limited issues as specifically authorized by law pursuant to RCW 42.30.110(1).  An authorized closed meeting may be for receiving legal advice from the council’s attorney on pending or existing litigation.  The legal authority to have closed meetings must be construed narrowly and the governing body may not discuss or take final action on any issue that is not explicitly authorized by law.  Miller v. City of Tacoma, 138 Wn.2d 318 (1999).  Before convening a closed executive session, the presiding officer of the governing body must publicly announce its purpose, and the time that the closed meeting will be concluded.  RCW 42.30.110(2). 

A citizen concerned with the legality of an executive session should first question an agency before it goes into executive session.  Most agencies, when questioned, will publicly clarify the purpose of the executive session.  A citizen may contact the Attorney General’s Open Government Ombudsman for technical advice to discuss when agencies may hold executive sessions.  However, the Open Government Ombudsman doesn’t enforce the Open Public Meetings Act, nor does any state agency enforce the OPMA.  A citizen may enforce their rights to open public meetings by filing a lawsuit.  RCW 42.30.110(2).  A citizen that prevails in court will be paid their reasonable attorney fees and costs.  If the violation is intentional, then the members of the council must each pay a $100 fine.

Posted by Open Government Ombudsman at 07/15/2009 02:48:01 PM 


DISCLAIMER: The "Unredacted" webpage and its content is not intended or offered to provide legal advice or legal representation by the Office of the Attorney General. The attorney general's office provides information, technical assistance, and training on the provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act pursuant to RCW 42.30.210 and provides information to records requestors and state and local agencies about "best practices" for complying with the Public Records Act consistent with the adoption of model rules pursuant to RCW 42.56.570. Send Feedback
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