County council advised not to talk about county at county conference

Clark County council doesn’t have any meetings this week — at least they better not.

That’s because the entire five-member council is in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of Counties annual conference. During the event, Clark County councilors will spend a lot of time thinking, talking and hearing about all things related to county government. But the councilors need to be careful what county stuff they talk about and with whom they talk about it with, otherwise they might run afoul of the law.

In anticipation of the conference, Councilor John Blom brought up the matter during last week’s board time and asked Chris Horne, chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney, if getting dinner with his colleagues would be against the law.

Under the Washington Open Public Meetings Act, if a quorum of a governing body (three councilors in this case) meet and discuss or take action on any business it’s considered a public meeting. The law requires governing bodies to give proper notice of public meetings and for them to be held out in the open, not in the booth of some D.C. restaurant as councilors shovel food into their mouths.

Horne responded that it would be fine if the councilors attended the conference or had a meal, but as soon as three of them were together and started talking about local issues or Clark County government they would be in violation law.

“The safest thing to do would be to avoid talking about county affairs, for the most part,” said Horne. He suggested that councilors could talk about Washington, D.C. or what they’ve learned. But just no talking about county business at a conference about the business of counties he said.

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