Please join us for this MRSC webinar on February 12, 2020, and learn tips for avoiding common pitfalls under Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) while fulfilling your OPMA Training Act requirement.
In our discussion, Flannary Collins, MRSC Managing Attorney, and I will highlight scenarios that public servants and elected officials commonly confront in their day-to-day work, and the best ways to navigate them to ensure OPMA compliance.
Attorney General Opinion (AGO) 2017 No. 5 offers guidance on the confidentiality of information shared in an executive session of a public meeting under the Washington Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), ch. 42.30 RCW.
The AGO first concludes that participants may not disclose information discussed in a properly-convened executive session under the OPMA. While the OPMA does not expressly state so, the “duty on the part of participants in an executive session not to disclose the information discussed there is part and parcel of the concept of an executive session.” The AGO relied on out of state authority, treatises, and legislative history to support its conclusion that maintaining confidentiality “is a legal obligation, and not solely a moral one.” This duty only extends to information relating to the statutorily authorized purpose for convening the executive session and not already publicly disclosed.
The AGO also concludes that any officer covered by the Code of Ethics of Municipal Officers, RCW 42.23 RCW, violates that statute by disclosing information made confidential by the OPMA. The Code of Ethics prohibits disclosing “confidential information gained by reason of the officer’s position” and applies to “all elected and appointed officers of a municipality, together with all deputies and assistants of such an officer, and all persons exercising or undertaking to exercise any of the powers or functions of a municipal officer.” RCW 42.23.070(4), RCW 42.23.020(2).
Local Open Government Blog covers the latest in open government across the Pacific Northwest, including the Public Records Act, the Open Public Meetings Act, public disclosure, campaign finance and the Freedom of Information Act.