County Commissioners Johnson and Price-Johnson Violate Open Meeting Laws Again

Author:Bill

In Island County WA, the laws only apply to mere mortals; NOT to County Commissioners

Two County Commissioners must feel its okay for a quorum to meet outside of a special session so long as it is not Commissioner Emerson
Commissioners Price-Johnson and Commissioner Board Chair Jill Johnson were both at an Island Transit public Board meeting last night without any special session notice which is required by state law or even a notice of attendance.

Island Transit published their Board meeting information on a special session.

Commissioner Johnson is NOT a member of that board and so therefore her attendance, by their “My Way or No Way” rules, should have constituted a special session of the Board of Island County Commssioners.
I think it’s  way past time  to file  a formal  complaint  with  State  AG  against Johnson and  Johnson  for their  continued  violation of the  Open Meetings Act

Remember this (somewhat modified) infamous  quote by the RINO, ” …by our GRACE and our VOTE  we  put them  in office and if they  ever  disobey  us, the majority,  again,  we will replace them

How about you???

34 comments

  1. avatar

    I’m totally in favor of legal action against these two commissioners. They are setting a tone to politics that wreaks of ignorance, greed, dishonesty and outright hate. I’m tired of this crap, let’s get the county’s business taken care of and get on with the show.

    Grown adults acting so childish and foolish. All for votes.

  2. avatar

    Recall both of them. In fact elect a new complete new commission. None of these people are interested in representing the public only warring against each other. Throw all of them out.

  3. avatar

    Shades of Hugo Chavez and Barrack Obama, dare I say “executive order” They must have read Rules for Radicals

  4. avatar

    It is really sad seeing our county continue on this path.

    It just never ends does it?

    1. avatar

      just like the weather…everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. Mark Twain

  5. avatar

    Q: When would they need to file a legal notice of an Open Public Meeting if they were going to an already published Open Public Meeting scheduled by another public entity?
    A: Only if they were going to “take action” in their official roles.

    The ATG has published a pretty good Opinion on this type of situation
    here: http://www.atg.wa.gov/AGOOpinions/Opinion.aspx?section=archive&id=5712#.Uh67Wx7n_IU

    It’s an interesting and informative read. The first section is as follows.

    OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT – CITIES AND TOWNS – COUNTIES – Applicability of Open Public Meetings Act when a quorum of the members of a governing body are present at a meeting not called by that body.

    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.

    1. avatar

      Here is the official request by Senator Deccio from 2006 to the State of Washington Attorney General’s office, and the ATG response.

      In a nutshell, this seems clear that a quorum of County Commissioners may attend any open public meeting they wish. They must just listen, and not discuss with each other any of the County business, and it probably would be wise for them not to stand up and speak in their role as a Commissioner. They cannot take “Action”, which means simply shut up and listen works great.

      If the Island County legal division is giving incorrect legal advice to the Commissioners, that is a huge problem. Perhaps it is Mr. Banks that needs to be recalled.

      From the State of WA Attorney Generals website here is the letter and ATG Opinion. This is a stated legal ATG Opinion, which is not to be taken lightly.

      ****************************************

      March 28, 2006

      The Honorable Alex Deccio
      State Senator, 14th District
      P. O. Box 40414
      Olympia, WA 98504-0414

      Cite As:

      AGO 2006 No. 6

      Dear Senator Deccio:

      This letter responds to your request for an opinion with regard to the following question:

      When a city or county council or council members are invited to attend a public meeting not called by the city or county council, is it legal for a quorum of such members to be present without violating the Open Meeting law?

      BRIEF ANSWER

      The presence of a quorum of members of a city or county council does not, of itself, cause the Open Public Meetings Act to apply if council members attend a public meeting called by a third party. The gathering of council members would be a “meeting” for purposes of the Act only if the council members take “action” as defined in the Act, such as voting, deliberating, or other official business of the council. Assuming the Act applied, it would not be violated if the council has followed the advance notice requirements and treated the gathering as a special meeting.

      ANALYSIS

      The Open Public Meetings Act (the Act) applies to all meetings of a governing body of a public agency. RCW 42.30.030 provides the core requirement of the Act:

      [original page 2] All meetings of the governing body of a public agency shall be open and public and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the governing body of a public agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

      (Emphasis added.)

      City and county councils, as well as numerous other types of state and local multi-member boards, are “governing bodies” of “public agencies” within the meaning of the Act. RCW 42.30.020(1) (defining “public agency”); RCW 42.30.020(2) (defining “governing body”). The Act defines “meeting”, however, as only meetings where an “action” is taken there. See RCW 42.30.020(4) (“ ‘meeting’ means meetings at which action is taken”). The Act then defines an “action” as the “transaction of the official business of the agency”. RCW 42.30.020(3). Some specific examples of “actions” are provided in the Act: “[T]he 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.” RCW 42.30.020(3).[1]

      Your question asks whether the presence of a quorum of the governing body at a third party’s meeting by itself violates the Act, and we conclude that it does not. The fact that a quorum of the council members is present at the same time and place does not “automatically” mean that a “meeting” has occurred for purposes of the Act because an “action” must occur to trigger the Act. SeeIn re Recall of Estey, 104 Wn.2d 597, 604, 707 P.2d 1338 (1985). In Estey, the Supreme Court rejected proposed recall charges based on alleged violations of the Act because the charges did not sufficiently identify an action taken at a meeting. Similarly, in Eugsterv. City ofSpokane, 118 Wn. App. 383, 424, 76 P.3d 741 (2003), the Court of Appeals explained the Act as applying when “(1) members of a governing body (2) held a meeting of that body (3) where that body took action”. Id.(emphasis added).[2]

      We emphasize that whether the members take an “action” depends on if the particular circumstances fall within the “transaction of the official business” of the governing body. Examples of an “action” include members deliberating or discussing a decision they might eventually make. See, e.g., In re Recall of Beasley, 128 Wn.2d 419, 908 P.2d 878 (1996) (discussions among school board members regarding contract issue would constitute “meetings”). Another express example of an “action” is when the members take a vote on a matter. RCW 42.30.020(3). “Action” includes “receipt of public testimony”, so council members attending a third party’s public meeting would need to consider whether they are receiving public testimony.[3]

      [original page 3] Even if some “action” takes place when council members attend some other entity’s public meeting, the conclusion that the Act applies does not force the members to choose between attendance or violation of the Act. The Act requires that a meeting to which the Act applies be “open and public and all persons shall be permitted to attend”. RCW 42.30.030. If the gathering or event is in fact open to the public, as your question assumes, then even if the Act applies, council members may avoid violating the Act if proper advance notice is given, designating the third party’s event as a “special meeting.”

      State law provides for calling a special meeting, setting forth certain requirements for a special meeting, including that (1) the meeting be called by the presiding officer (such as a chairman) or by a majority of the membership, and (2) notice be given personally or by mail delivery to all of the members, as well as to local media who have requested notice. RCW 42.30.080 (requirements for special meeting). The notice must designate the time and place and the business to be transacted, and final action cannot be taken as to any matter for which notice is not given. Id. Therefore, if the council is concerned that, given the nature of any particular gathering, public testimony, discussions, or some other action might take place, the council can designate it in advance as a “special meeting” for the purpose of complying with the Act and removing any doubt as to the legality of any action that might be taken there.

      For these reasons, we conclude that the presence of a quorum of members of a city council or county council at a public event, gathering, or meeting does not trigger application of the Act unless the quorum takes an “action” by transacting official business of the city or county. We also conclude that when the Act applies to council members attending a third party’s meeting, the council members do not violate the Act if the meeting is open to the public and if the governing body follows the requirements of the Act for giving notice of a special meeting.

      We trust that the foregoing analysis will be helpful to you.

      Sincerely,

      ROB MCKENNA
      Attorney General

      JAY DOUGLAS GECK
      Deputy Solicitor General

      1. avatar

        Not quite the same situation.

        One member of the Commissioners was attending as a member of the Committee, another Commissioner attends and just watches. If the Commissioner on the Committee took ANY action as a member of the Committee and the other Commissioner was present it requires a special meeting notice.

        1. avatar

          Cliff, it’s not quite the same situation, but my thinking is that Commissioner A who is on the Committee cannot bind the County to any decision at any Committee meeting. She has to come back to a County Commissioner meeting and discuss.

          Even if Commissioners A, B and C went to this Committee meeting, or any other Open Public Meeting, so long as they were not discussing with each other or making decisions that they would have to make in their own publically noticed meeting, that they don’t seem like they would need to post their own notice to attend another public meeting.

          The ATG Opinion basically reflects this too, at least that is my take on it.

          Mainly I want to see all elected and appointed officials taking a wide scope of interest in everything that affects their constituents. And to me, that means attending other public meetings. Observe, observe, observe. Listen. Bring observations and discussions then to the BOICC meetings.

          I would hate to think that Washington State laws would prevent this from happening freely, and without the drama of posting separate Open Public Meeting notices, unless absolutely clear they are necessary. Seems to me that keeping the yaps shut is the key.

          1. avatar

            The point of a special meeting notice is so that the public and the other Commissioners are notified. They did obviously discuss issues that affect us all here in the County, if the public and the other Commissioner is left out of this process why don’t we move to have just 2 Commissioners? And also do away with the special meeting notices part of the OPMA?

            Commissioners meeting using this method allows 2 Commissioners to discuss issues and ask questions etc and exclude the other duly elected Commissioner from being party to those discussions. This was done on purpose because one of our Commissioners is concerned with taxes and costs placed on the taxpayers backs and the other 2 are not and will do anything to silence the third. Same thing we saw with the law and justice levy meetings, they did not want this 3rd commissioner to attend to speak with the public because she would have told the public that the levy was unneccessary and she was correct as it turns out.

            If 2 Commissioners meet and issues are discussed without the 3rd Commissioner present how will that 3rd Commissioner ever know what was discussed? How would the 3rd Commissioner ever be able to voice her opinion on the issues discussed? She wouldn’t be able to. You have silenced her by default and the people she represents.

            While the second Commissioner may not be able to “bind” the county to any decisions, discussions and wishes of that committee and strategy can very well be discussed that is not available to that third Commissioner and decisions can certainly be made at that meeting and brought directly to the Board Chambers to be voted on. In that vote the Commissioner that did not attend does not even know what is discussed so her opinions cannot be heard. It can be brought to a vote using discussions and information outside the public and other commissioners sight. This is what our laws protect against…

            Our laws have been crafted over years to account for situations such as this, we are required by law to have 3 Commissioners, equal Commissioners, and 2 of them are not allowed to go outside this 3 Commissioner role in having active discussions over policy or any decisions made. RCW 42.30.080 is clear in this issue, it is the law of our land and it has again been broken by our Commissioners.

            If YOU want to live in a County where the dissenting voices of opposing Commissioners are silenced that is your choice, I personally choose to fight for the principles and the laws that have made our country great.

            Here is what Abraham Lincoln had to say about issues such as allowing our laws to be broken:

            “As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and laws, let every American pledge his life, his property and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty.”

            Our laws have certainly NOT been followed, there is no honor among those in our county who have decided that our laws can be broken at will and depending on the situation. All honorable citizens should do the right and just thing and speak loudly and clearly that we will not allow this to continue. Honor does mean something to some of us and nothing to others. Those that have no honor should not be allowed to serve the public.

            1. avatar

              Cliff, either you are misunderstanding me, or you have some axe to grind here.

              So long as the commissioners do not discuss business at a meeting they did not call, even if one of them is seated on a committee for the entity that is having the open public meeting, I do not see that any of the ATG or mrsc.org opinions state that the commissioners need to post that meeting as their own special meeting. It’s not their meeting – so long as they do not discuss or make decisions for the county at that meeting.

              If they intend to add discussion points, yet, they’d better call that meeting as a special meeting and post it.

              Kelly, congratulations on having a no-wetlands yard. Long past due.

              1. avatar

                Sorry Mike. I have no axe to grind with you. Sorry if it came across that way.

                The problem that I see is that one of the commissioners is on the Committee and they are acting in their official capacity and performing business of the county. It does not matter who called the meeting a quorum is still established by the presence of another commissioner and county business is being discussed.

                By the fact that one Commissioner is on the Committee and is acting in her official capacity the presence of the other Commissione should trigger the special meeting notice.

                Again, back to the msrc.org’s opinion:

                “if a quorum is present, even if one of the councilmembers is not actively participating, that committee meeting would be subject to the requirements of the state OPMA relating to special meetings.”

                It seems very clear to me that the intent and the wording of the law has been broken.

                The only axe I have to grind here is that our OPMA laws have been flaunted and used conditionally by some of the commissioners. Look at what has happened in the past with our OPMA laws being used as a tool in the L&J levy meeting issue to use as an excuse for wrongfully removing a commissioner from her chair. In this current case the laws have been again been flaunted, at least in respect to the mrsc opinion.

                In the case of the Old Goats meeting that Bill mentioned where a special meeting was wrongly and publically called for 2 Commissioners being at the same function, not discussing county business and not being in their official capacity was just another use of this tool. This is what we get from some of our commissioners who use the OPMA as a tool instead of for it’s intended function as one of the laws we follow.

            2. avatar

              Why would a politician ever bother to go through the taking and signing the oath of office if they have no intentions of compliance?
              To an honest, moral person the words, “…support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Washington and that I will faithfully and impartially perform and discharge the duties of the Office of County Commissioner, District 2
              http://smg.photobucket.com/user/zrwon/media/JIllJohnsonoath_zps0a8ba36e.jpg.html?sort=3&o=0

              1. avatar

                It does seem like she missed the part of the oath that stated “faithfully and impartially”. Not only is she not faithful to our laws she is also not impartial.

                But, the oath appears to be conditional, at the end it states “to the best of my abilities”. So that leaves us with one of 2 answers. She is either ignoring the oath or she does not have the abilitities to follow it…

                1. avatar

                  I suspect in Jill’s case it’s “she does not have the abilitities to follow it”
                  Few functional humans can equal her when it comes to stupidity; in their case it’d be ignoring the oath, aka HPJ

  6. avatar

    Mike, this is the exact situation they have used on me three times now.

    1. law and justice committee. Jill serves on the board and threw a fit about me attending the meetings (they do it all the time in other counties). She had our legal counsel opine that it would require a special session.

    2. Old Goats luncheon. I attend nearly every meeting but when Jill was asked to speak, I was not allowed to attend. Se had our legal counsel opine that it would require a special session.

    3. Sheriff Brown’s levy increase meetings. It was suggested we go out for public input but when I mentioned “on the record” that I would be attending the North Whidbey meeting, she had our legal counsel opine it would require a special session.

    1. avatar

      Even Democrat dominated counties in the state are stunned and embarrassed at what we are up to in Island County.

    2. avatar

      It is all about controlling the message and silencing any dissenting voice (yours).

      Jill Johnson comes from the Oak Harbor School of Politics. Don’t do as I do do as I say. And our laws? You can bend them anyway you want, if the citizens don’t like it take they can take us to court or file a complaint and that is the attitude.

      One of her mentors, Jim Slowik, was famous for ignoring the laws and doing what he pleased, he did eventually get a “reprimand” from the state for violating the OPMA laws but it was nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Slowik and our city engineer did the same thing with the Native American graves on Pioneer, they were warned by the state, they knew about it but they just ignored the warnings and recomendations for expediancy on the Pioneer Way project and it will possibly cost us taxpayers in the city $14,000,000.00 by the time it is over. This is what their type of management style gets us taxpayers…. there was no punishment for Slowik, he did lose his election but that was small potato’s comopared to what it cost the taxpayers.

      Jill Johnson is just following that same philosophy…rules are made to be bent and if you don’t like it? Tough.

      1. avatar

        Kelly, I realize Ms. Jill Johnson is impulsive, and jumps in with both feet in her mouth. However, you can get free advice from mrsc.org and I hope you continue to do that.

    3. avatar

      Kelly, perhaps you can get a written opinion from MRSC attorneys, or perhaps the ATG? Would a State Senator have to write the ATG for the legal procedure of obtaining another ATG Opinion, or can a County Commissioner do that? I am concerned that all of the citizens of Island County are not getting proper legal advice for our elected officials.

      1. avatar

        Mr. Banks has already stated publicly that he will not be running for re-election. MRSC will not speak against the county’s legal counsel’s decision and the AG is transitioning to a new position right now and unattainable.

        1. avatar

          Keep asking mrsc.org for your questions. Rephrase them to take Banks out of the picture. Ask one of the State Legislators to ask the ATG for a formalized Opinion. The best education comes from frequent advice, knowledge and looking at things from all angles.

          What office is Banks looking at next I wonder?

    4. avatar

      Kelly. “…attend nearly every meeting but when Jill was asked to speak, I was not allowed to attend.”

      I am a member of the Old Goats too AND
      Commissioner Chair Price-Johnson made a questionable and very controversial decision that, because two of “her” Commissioners might be attending a private luncheon it would be a quorum of the County commissioners and therefore she published to the public and local newspapers an official notice that the private group’s lunch meeting was now a County Commissioner “Special Session”

      Her notice even encouraged ALL interested members of the public and press to attend OUR PRIVATE Luncheon. Price-Johnson included the time, date and location of OUR luncheon The Old Goats were not Pleased with Price-Johnson taking control of OUR private luncheon
      Fortunately, only two uninvited people showed up; one a newspaper reporter who was duped into attending by Price-Johnson’s “Special Session” pronouncement

      Both were graciously accepted by our group and I am sure the newspaper reporter will witness to the fact for Price-Johnson that no County business was discussed by us

      You’d think with all the serious problems/citizen needs on our Commissioners agenda that Price-Johnson would focus her energies on those instead of sticking her nose into the lives of private citizens which resulted in creating unwanted problems

      That is not included as a part of our County Commissioner‘s job description;

      This was a big mistake on her part; the public took her bogus “Special Session” notice at face value, which is all the public can do and all it accomplished was a flurry of anger and frustration by the citizens involved.

      Price-Johnson’s ill fated attempt to impose her will and take control OUR private group’s gathering demonstrates that our County officials are not well informed as to the laws of the State of Washington.

      There is a double Standard at as least as far as what Commissioners Johnson & Johnson think they can do
      If they want to personally interpret laws for their political or financial gain that’s acceptable but Emerson has no authority to do anything unless Johnson & Johnson agree that they will permit Emerson to do whatever she plans to do or has done. i.e.,
      Jill Johnson’s melt down was like a child’s temper tantrum directed at a fellow County Commissioner. Her ranting, ” you are a Commissioner by my grace and vote” sounds like she feels she is the Board’s Power Broker with rights to do whatever she wants “TO” or “FOR” any citizen/tax payer she was elected to SERVE…next she’ll claim she was born in a manger …
      see the RINO’s performance in this video…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UM0ooc9SNg&feature=youtu.be

  7. avatar

    A Notice of Attendance was issued to media outlets Aug. 23. Whidbey News-Times publisher Keven Graves has the email to prove it.

    You can disagree with the two commissioners all you want, but that sort of punctures the hot air balloon about a “violation.”

    P.S. — You’ve corrected one of the two misspelled words in the headline. One is still there.

    1. avatar

      A “Notice of Attendance” means nothing under the OPMA.

      A “Special Meeting Notice” meets the requirement of the law. This is to ensure that all members of the governing body and the public are notified of the meeting, this did not happen.

      Here is what mrsc.org has to say:
      “if council rules allow her/his attendance and notice of the meeting is provided in accord with the state Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).Whenever a quorum of the city council is meeting together to discuss city business, that would constitute a “meeting” of the city council for the purposes of the OPMA. So if a quorum is present, even if one of the councilmembers is not actively participating, that committee meeting would be subject to the requirements of the state OPMA relating to special meetings – which means the meeting must be open to the public and notice must be given as provided in RCW 42.30.080.”

      So even if Jill or Helen was just an observer or “not actively participating” and said nothing and Jill or Helen acted in her capacity as a member of the Committee a special meeting notice would need to be issued.

      RCW 42.30.080
      Special meetings
      http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=42.30.080

      I do not see the notice on the county website and the other Commissioner of this County was not notified as per RCW 42.30.080 (1) which states:

      “(1) A special meeting may be called at any time by the presiding officer of the governing body of a public agency or by a majority of the members of the governing body by delivering written notice personally, by mail, by fax, or by electronic mail to each member of the governing body. Written notice shall be deemed waived in the following circumstances:”

      It is pretty clear that the OPMA was again broken in this instance.

      The Oak Harbor School of Politics is alive in the Commissioners office, I hope it does not eventually cost the County $14,000,000.00 like it did the citizens of Oak Harbor because our laws, rules and warnings were ignored.

  8. avatar

    ” Notice of Attendance was issued to media outlets Aug. 23. ”
    By Island Transit or Board Chair Jill?

    Also, Thunk yuo Mr. Perfuct far thr speling hlep
    I gues it don’t provent yuo frum reedin it and noing whatii mean

    Bill

    1. avatar

      Bill, what do you mean “Notice of Attendance”? Was this notice by the County posted to notify the public that Comissioners plural were going to the Transit meeting, or do you mean that Island Transit posted a list of who attended this meeting, which doesn’t seem legal at all.

      1. avatar

        Sorry, I meant to address that question to David.

    2. avatar

      You’re welcome, Mr. Strowbridge.

      Since Mr. B fled the scene, there’s no one left to brandish the ruler and smack your fingers when you turn off the spell check because it’s “just too darn liberal in it’s use of words.”

      As to the Notice of Attendance, you’d have to ask Mr. Graves. It sounds as if it came from the commissioners, but he would be the one to ask for clarification.

      1. avatar

        I have no need to ask Graves anything. I repeat:

        …at an Island Transit public Board meeting last night without any SPECIAL SESSION notice which is required by state law or even a notice of attendance, which the law states whatever that means. That is the exact situation they have used on Commissioner Emerson at least 3 times.

        Island Transit DID PUBLISH THEIR Board meeting information on a SPECIAL SESSION as required by LAW.

        verstehen, Vous comprenez l’allemand?, ¿queda claro?

        Oh never rmind, David, who cares what you think or say; I sure as hell don’t

        1. avatar

          Sometimes I think all you’re really looking for is a hug, Mr. Strowbridge. I’m here for you, sir.

          1. avatar

            No Thanks
            My wife of 40 years has, and still does satisfy my desire for hugs and all of my other needs.
            I am Blessed with a great friend and companion

            1. avatar

              Glad to hear that, sir.

              Always nice to hear of couples that in it for the long haul and still love each other. I wish you both the best.

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