Washington Open Public Meetings Act
The Washington Open Public Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Chapter 42.30 of the Revised Code of Washington define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in Washington. For more information go the page or go to Washington sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
We do not currently have any pages on open meetings litigation in Washington.
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for Washington in 2010.
Statement of purposeThe statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
"The legislature finds and declares that all public commissions, boards, councils, committees, subcommittees, departments, divisions, offices, and all other public agencies of this state and subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of this chapter that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that a meeting is a gathering in which any action is taken.
Notable exceptions to this definition include:
- when granting or reviewing license applications
- when acting in a judicial capacity
- collective bargaining sessions
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as any state board, commission or other agency and all political subdivisions including all sub-agencies created pursuant to statute. The act also explicitly includes the meetings of library and park boards, planning agencies and publicly owned utilities.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- the courts
- the legislature
The legislature is explicitly exempted from the Washington Open Public Meetings Act under RCW 42.30.020(1)(a).
The act requires that all public bodies make notice of there regular schedule of meetings. This schedule must be posted during or before January of each calendar year with the Washington state register. Special or rescheduled meetings must include a 24 hour notice to be posted at the public bodies main office and delivered to all local media agencies. Adjourned meetings may be rescheduled but also require notice to be posted 24 hours in advance.
The act does not permit public bodies to hold any votes in secret. In the event of a disruption, the board may clear the meeting and continue, provided that the board only address issues on the agenda and that the news media be permitted to remain in the meeting. Meetings need not be held within the jurisdiction of the public body, unless required by statute.[ref name="notice" />
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
A public body may convene an executive session, including an announcement for the conclusion of the executive session, for the following reasons:
- matters relating to security
- to discuss the price and site selection of real estate when considering purchase or sale
- negotiations for publicly bid contracts
- to consider financial or commercial information to protect trade secrets
- to evaluate complaints brought against a public employee
- to evaluate applicant or appointee qualifications
- matters relating to issues that fall under the attorney-client privilege
- to protect library trade secrets
- state investment boards and pension agencies, when considering investment strategies
- to consider other proprietary and trade secret information
- grant applications
Any person may take an action against a public body who has violated the law. Any action taken during a meeting in violation of the law is void. If a court finds that a public agency is in violation of the act, it may assess penalties on the individual board members of up to $100. It may also asses the full cost of attorney fees on the public body.
State of Washington
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | State Auditor | Superintendent of Public Instruction | Commissioner of Insurance | Director of Agriculture | Commissioner of Public Lands | Director of Labor and Industries | Chairman of Utilities and Transportation |