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Trustee Support Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

When is a board or commission allowed to adopt ordinances, resolutions, rules, regulations, orders, or directives?
A governing body of a public agency, such as a board or commission, may take action only if their meeting is open to the public and at a meeting, the date of which is fixed by law or rule, or at a meeting of which notice has been given according to the provisions of RCW 42.30. Failing to comply renders such actions null and void. RCW 42.30.060(1)
Do meetings of standing committees of a library board or commission need to be open?
Yes. Standing committees that routinely deal with particular issues, such as a budget committee that meets to determine fiscal priorities and then reports back to the library board, must meet the public meetings criteria. Committees are regarded as governing bodies, as defined by RCW 42.30.020.
Are there any exceptions?
Collective bargaining sessions with employee organizations, including the following, are not required to be held in public meetings:
  • Contract negotiations, grievance meetings, and discussions relating to the interpretation or application of a labor agreement;
  • The portion of a meeting during which the board is planning or adopting the strategy or position to be taken by the board during the course of any collective bargaining, professional negotiations;
  • Grievance or mediation proceedings, or reviewing the proposals made in the negotiations or proceedings while in progress.

RCW 42.30.140

Is the board or commission required to file a schedule of its regular meetings?
Yes, each year the board or commission must file a schedule of regular meetings, including time and place, with the Code Reviser. Any changes to the schedule must be published in the state register at least 20 days before the rescheduled date. RCW 42.30.075. See also RCW 34.08.020.
What is the procedure to establish a schedule for regular board meetings?
The board must set a time for regular meetings by resolution, in its bylaws, or other rule (e.g., the third Friday of the month). If the regular meeting falls on a holiday, the meeting shall be held on the next business day. RCW 42.30.070
Is the board restricted to meeting within a particular geographic area?
No. The board does not need to meet within the geographic boundaries of the jurisdiction of the library unless local laws establish such a requirement. RCW 42.30.070
Is a vote by secret ballot permitted at board meetings?
No. Voting by secret ballot by a governing body of a public agency, such as a board of commission, at any meeting required to be open to the public is prohibited. RCW 42.30.060(2)
Is a quorum required for a meeting?
Yes. For a meeting to take place, a quorum of the board or commission or committee acting on its behalf is required. If the meeting is adjourned due to the failure to have a quorum, a written notice must be posted per RCW 42.30.090.
When board members are invited to attend a public meeting not called by the board, is it legal for a quorum of such members to be present without violating the Open Public Meetings Act?
AG Opinion AGO 2006 No. 6 responds to this question by stating:

The presence of a quorum of the members of a city or county council at a meeting not called by the council does not, in itself, make the meeting a "public meeting" for purposes of the Open Public Meetings Act (RCW 42.30); the Open Public Meetings Act would apply if the council members took any "action" (as defined in RCW 42.30) at the meeting, such as voting, deliberating together, or using the meeting as a source of public testimony for council action.

Who may attend public meetings? Can the board bar individuals from attending its meetings?
All persons are permitted to attend any meeting of the governing body of a public agency at which its official business is conducted. The Act does not address whether a board is required to hold its meeting at a location that would permit every person to attend. However, deliberately scheduling a meeting at a location that was too small to permit full attendance would not meet the spirit of the law. RCW 42.30.030
What is the procedure for dealing with disorderly conduct at meetings?
If a meeting is interrupted by a group or groups of persons so severely that the meeting cannot be conducted in an orderly fashion, or order cannot be restored by removing the individuals who are interrupting the meeting, the board may order the meeting room cleared and continue in session or may adjourn the meeting and reconvene at another location selected by a majority vote of the members. In such a session, final disposition may be taken only on matters appearing on the agenda. Representatives of the press or other news media, except those participating in the disturbance, shall be allowed to attend session. The board may establish a procedure for readmitting an individual or individuals not responsible for disturbing the orderly conduct of the meeting. RCW 42.30.050
May the board hold its meeting using alternative means, such as via conference calls or e-mail?
Yes. Under the broad definition of "meeting," any of the following examples could constitute a meeting:
  • Conference calls.
  • A series of telephone calls.
  • Discussions via e-mail.

Such alternative venues would require that:

  • A quorum of the members of the board or commission participate.
  • Members collectively intend to transact official business.
  • Members communicate about issues that may or will come before the body for a vote.

RCW 42.30.020

Is the board allowed to require members of the public to register to attend its meetings?
No. Members of the public should not be required to register their names or other information, to complete a questionnaire, or to fulfill any other condition to attend public meetings. For instance, a board could not limit attendance to people who live in the library district or city. RCW 42.30.040.
Who may call for a special meeting?
The presiding officer of the governing body or a majority of the members of the governing body may call for a special meeting at any time. RCW 42.30.080
What is the procedure for providing notice of special meetings?
A special meeting may be called at any time by the presiding officer or by a majority of the members of the board by hand delivering or by mailing, faxing, or e-mailing written notice to each member of the board at least 24 hours prior to the meeting time.

The media may file a written request to be notified of a particular special meeting or all special meetings. These on-file requests should be periodically reviewed to assure that appropriate notice is given.

A written notice may be dispensed with if a member files a written waiver of notice with the clerk or secretary of the board at or prior to the time the meeting convenes, or who provides written notice to the clerk or secretary of the board via telegram, fax, or e-mail waiving notice. RCW 42.30.080

How much notice must be given of special meetings of the board?
Notice must be given at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting and should specify the time and place of the meeting and the business to be transacted. RCW 42.30.080
How much notice must be given of special meetings held to deal with an emergency involving injury or damage to persons or property?
In the event that a special meeting is called to deal with an emergency involving injury or damage to persons or property or the likelihood of such injury or damage, and when time requirements of such notice would be impractical and increase the likelihood of injury or damage, notices may be dispensed with. Emergency meetings may be held at a site other than the regularly scheduled meeting place. An emergency is defined as a natural disaster, such as fire, flood, or earthquake, that requires immediate attention and expedited action. An unexpected deadline or event is not considered an emergency, although the board may call a special meeting to discuss the issue. RCW 42.30.070
Can a governing library board pay bills/operate legally without a quorum?

Less than a quorum of the library board cannot operate as a governing body, and therefore cannot approve vouchers, pay bills, etc. The library district, therefore, should do its best to ensure that it has sufficient board members to reach a quorum. However, because annual appropriations are made by the local government for which the library was established (see RCW 27.12.240) and the county, in the case of a rural county library district, is responsible for the collection and disbursement of revenue (RCW 27.12.070), perhaps the local government could step in, if needed.

However, pursuant to RCW 27.12.210(5), the library trustees “have exclusive control of the finances of the library.” So, again, the default is that the library needs to maintain a sufficient number of its board of trustees. Another option described below is to allow for the payment of bills prior to approval by the governing body pursuant to RCW 42.24.180, however even then, approval still needs to be obtained by the governing body.

Can a Library Board go into Executive Session to discuss which candidate(s) to recommend to the county commissioners for a vacancy on the Library Board?

Because of the wording of RCW 42.30.110, no executive session exception applies; both the interview of the candidates for appointment and the discussion of the candidates’ qualifications must be done in an open session.  This does not involve an appointment to an elected position (RCW 42.30.110(1)(h)), nor is this a position of public employment (see RCW 42.30.110(1)(g)).

We have opined several times that an appointed non-elected and uncompensated officer such as a planning commission member or an appointee to a library board of trustees would not be considered a “public employee” for purposes of RCW 42.30.110(1)(g). A library board of trustee member is appointed pursuant to RCW 27.12.190. That statute explicitly states that a board member is uncompensated.

While not binding authority, in the concurrence/dissent in Miller v. City of Tacoma, 138 Wn.2d 318 (1999), Justice Madsen concludes that a person appointed to a non-compensated nonelective appointed position is not a “public employee” under RCW 42.30.110(1)(g).

Justice Madsen in her concurrence/dissent further makes a distinction between appointees to elective office and appointees to nonelective positions.  She explains and concludes:

RCW 42.30.110(1)(h) permits evaluation of the qualifications of candidates for appointment to elective public office in executive session, and directs that in the case of candidates for appointment to any elected public position, interviews must be conducted in an open public meeting. This subsection necessarily includes evaluations of candidates for appointment to noncompensated elective positions. While the public’s interest in evaluation of appointees to elective office is likely greater than it is where public employees in general are involved, the private evaluation allowed by the exception in RCW 42.30.110(1)(h) is counterbalanced by the fact that in time the electorate will have the final say on who serves in the office.

The statute does not permit, however, the evaluation in executive session of the qualifications of individuals applying to noncompensated nonelective public positions. The public interest in their activity is apt to be significant. Such individuals may have considerable impact on the course of government activity. Perhaps because they are not ultimately subject to the elective process nor to the strictures generally associated with compensated employment positions, their evaluation and selection must be made in open public meetings. Regardless of the reasons underlying the statutory provisions, it is the Legislature's prerogative to define exceptions to the requirement of open public meetings, and not for this court to create exceptions. [Footnote 3.]