New law to increase 45-year-old penalty from $100 to $500; enact $1,000 repeat-violator penalty
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inlsee will today sign into law Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s agency-request bill to increase transparency in government by enhancing penalties for knowing violations of Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).
The OPMA requires meetings of multimember, public-agency governing bodies such as city councils, county commissions, school boards, and many state boards to be open and accessible to the public.
Senate Bill 6171 will modernize the out-of-date penalty provisions of the OPMA. The current penalty for violating the OPMA is $100, unchanged since the act was enacted in 1971. The new law will increase the penalty to $500 for a first-time knowing violation, roughly in line with inflation. It will also enact a new $1,000 “repeat violator” penalty for a subsequent knowing violation of the act.
“This bipartisan bill promotes the open and honest government Washingtonians demand and deserve,” said Ferguson. “When the law requires an open meeting, yet officials knowingly close the door on the public, they must be held accountable with meaningful penalties.”
“The people have a right to know what their officials are doing and hold them accountable for those decisions,” said bill prime sponsor Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner. “This update of the law will mean those officials who knowingly and repeatedly violate our open meetings law will now face a real penalty — one strong enough to protect the public's right to know.”
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov