About that Meeting…

Center files complaint alleging County conducted illegal, closed session on controversial land use issue.

On behalf of a handful of plaintiffs, the Center for Justice has filed an Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) complaint against the Spokane County Commissioners.

ugasmThe suit, filed October 18th, alleges the commissioners violated state law when they met in executive session to discuss amending the County’s comprehensive plan and expanding the county’s urban growth area. The meeting occurred two months before the commissioners approved the controversial urban growth area expansion which the Center and other critics say violates Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA). Last month, Governor Jay Inslee notified the County that the state also concluded the county violated the GMA and was also appealing the County’s action.

The open meetings complaint alleges that the commissioners abused an exemption to the Open Public Meetings Act that allows agencies to close meetings when their lawyers are offering legal advice. The problem, the complaint asserts, is that a state Department of Commerce official was present and participated in the meeting, thereby obviating  any legitimate claim that the meeting was primarily about legal advice.

“The OPMA requires that discussions of potential litigation are to be focused on matters proceed by attorney-client privilege,” the complaint states. “Nothing in the OPMA allows an agency to conduct an executive session for the purposes of discussion of amendments to a Comprehensive Plan with a third party.”

The lead plaintiff in the case is the Neighborhood Alliance. In March 2012, the County agreed to pay the Alliance $400,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming violations of the state’s public records law.

–Tim Connor for the Center for Justice

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