Mielke, Madore will get lesson on Open Public Meetings Act

Thanks to an anonymous tip, the meeting mavens have learned about a public meeting that, whoops, wasn’t properly noticed under the Open Public Meetings Act.

The “Conservative County Officials Lunch,” has been scheduled for the first day of every month, beginning Friday, Feb. 1, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Billygan’s, 13200 N.E. Highway 99.

Clark County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke are scheduled to attend, along with State Sen. Don Benton, State Rep. Brandon Vick and State Rep. Paul Harris, all Republicans.

Anytime at least two county commissioners are scheduled to be together at an event where they may talk about plans they have for the county, well, that constitutes a quorum and the event has to be publicly noticed under the Open Public Meetings Act.

Here’s the commissioners’ calendar for next week. The lunch isn’t mentioned.

I called Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Horne about the lunch. He said as long as the commissioners stick to small talk, like the weather, it’s OK. (“Do you seriously have a straight face right now?” I asked.)

What they can’t do, he said, is take an action. And the state defines “action” broadly: “‘Action'” means the transaction of the official business of a public agency by a governing body including but not limited to receipt of public testimony, deliberations, discussions, considerations, reviews, evaluations, and final actions.”

Yes, so even if they are just talking about what they want to do in their capacity as commissioners, they would be in violation of the law if the meeting wasn’t publicly noticed.

Overall, Horne said, the law is to be “liberally construed” to ensure open government, a point he will emphasize to the commissioners.

Horne said he will talk to Madore and Mielke on Wednesday, two days before the lunch. They could decide that only one of them will attend, and that would eliminate the need for notification, he said. Or they can put the meeting on the calendar, talk about whatever they want and accommodate people who want to attend.

Violating the Open Public Meetings Act carries a $100 fine. For more about the law, click here.

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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