Friday, February 26, 2010

City Pays Tacoma News Tribune for Open Public Meetings Act Violation

City of TacomaImage via Wikipedia
The City of Tacoma, Washington, agreed to pay the McClatchy Co.-owned Tacoma News Tribune ("TNT") $7,500 to resolve a lawsuit brought by the daily newspaper that accused the city of  violating the state's open meeting law by selecting two city councilors in executive session.

The TNT reports that the city agreed to pay the paper's legal fees for the lawsuit TNT filed that accused the City Council of violating the Open Public Meetings Act (RCW 42.30) at its January 6 meeting by going into executive session to address filling two vacancies on the council and then reconvening in public session to announce, without discussion,  its unanimous approval of eight finalists from a pool of 40 applicants.

During a hearing at which TNT unsuccessfully sought to enjoin the Council from going into executive session at its Jan. 14 meeting to make its final choice to fill the vacant seats, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff said a "reasonable inference" could be drawn that the council had violated the open meeting law, according to the TNT article.  RCW 42.30.110 sets forth exceptions to the public meeting law that allow elected officials to go into executive session, including to review negotiations on the performance of publicly bid contracts, to discuss matters of national security, and to receive and evaluate complaints and charges brought against a public officer or employee.

The lawsuit was dismissed by agreement of the parties on Feb. 12.

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