University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Administrative Policy Statement
1.5



Open Public Meetings Act: Requirements to File Meeting Notices

(Approved by the Vice President for University Relations by authority of Executive Order No. 11)



1.  Overview

The Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), codified as Chapter 42.30 RCW, requires that all meetings of the governing bodies of a public agency and any committees of such governing bodies shall be open and public with certain limited exceptions. The following policy statement identifies the University bodies that are subject to the OPMA and outlines the steps that each faculty and/or departmental governing unit is required to take in order to comply with this Act. No governing body or its committees shall adopt any action except in an open public meeting or executive session to which notice has been given according to this policy statement. "Actions" are defined as including: deliberations, discussions, considerations, reviews, evaluations, resolutions, rules, regulations, orders, and directives. Any action taken at meetings failing to comply with the OPMA shall be null and void.

2.  Governing Bodies Subject to the Act

There are two circumstances under which a University body would be subject to the OPMA requirements:

  #1 It could be a governing body of either the University or of a "subagency" of the University; or

  #2 It could be a committee established by a governing body engaging in activities specified in the OPMA.

a.   Governing Bodies

Policy and rule-making bodies of the University of Washington, such as the Board of Regents and the Faculty Senate, are considered governing bodies of the University and must comply with the OPMA.

Other University bodies are considered governing bodies of subagencies of the University if they are policy or rule-making bodies created by statute, ordinance, or other legislative act. For example, the Washington Supreme Court held that the law school faculty had effectively been delegated policy or rule-making authority over the functions of a "subagency," the UW School of Law. The Court's decision in Cathcart v. Anderson effectively extends "subagency" status to the faculty of all departments, colleges, or schools when they meet regarding policy or rule-making matters. By contrast, faculty of departments, colleges, or schools meeting regarding recommendations on appointment, promotion, or tenure are not acting as a "subagency" and are therefore not subject to the OPMA.

Still other University bodies are considered governing bodies if they are established by legislative act and provide advice which is legally a necessary antecedent to the agency's action. The University's Services and Activities Fee Committee falls into this category.

b.   Committees of a Governing Body

A committee established by a governing body is also subject to the OPMA when it engages in activities specified in the statute: "acts on behalf of the governing body, conducts hearings, or takes testimony or public comment."

A committee acts on behalf of the governing body when it exercises actual or de facto decision-making authority for the governing body. For example, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee is authorized to act in the summer on behalf of the Faculty Senate and is therefore subject to the OPMA. Other committees of the Faculty Senate or of other governing bodies serving only an advisory function are not subject to the OPMA requirements.

If a committee established by a governing body serves both decision-making and advisory functions, meetings at which the decision-making role is to be filled are subject to the OPMA. To the extent the advisory role can be separated from the exercise of its decision-making authority, the committee is not subject to the OPMA when it meets to conduct business related to the advisory role. In that case, the committee would comply with the OPMA for its decision-making meetings and could hold its advisory-function meetings as separate unnoticed, closed meetings.

Committees established by an individual are not committees of a governing body and are, therefore, not subject to the OPMA.

3.  Executive and Closed Sessions

Although all meetings of governing bodies and their committees must be open to the public as described above, a meeting may be recessed into executive (closed) session to consider certain matters as defined by law. A meeting of a governing body devoted entirely to such matters must still have the required notices filed, be open to the public, and then recess to executive session. Prior to the executive session, the presiding officer must publicly announce the purpose of the session and time when the executive session will be concluded. This announcement may be generic in nature, such as, "We are now going into executive session to evaluate an employee and will reconvene in public session at 7:30 P.M."

a.   Purposes for Executive Sessions

Executive Sessions are permissible for the following reasons:

  #1 To consider matters affecting national security.

  #2 To consider the selection of a site or the acquisition of real estate by lease or purchase when public knowledge regarding such consideration would cause a likelihood of increased price.

  #3 To consider the minimum price at which real estate will be offered for sale or lease when public knowledge regarding such consideration would cause the likelihood of decreased price. However, final action settling the leasing of public property shall be taken in a meeting open to the public.

  #4 To review negotiations on the performance of publicly-bid contracts when public knowledge regarding such consideration would increase cost.

  #5 To receive and evaluate complaints or charges brought against a public officer or employee. However, upon the request of such officer or employee, a hearing or meeting open to the public shall be conducted upon such complaint or charge.

  #6 To evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for public employment or review the performance of a public employee. However, subject to RCW 42.30.140(4), discussion by a governing body of salaries, wages, and other conditions of employment to be generally applied within the agency shall occur in a meeting open to the public. Further, when a governing body elects to take final action on hiring, setting the salary of an individual employee, or of all employees, or discharging or disciplining an employee, that action shall be taken in a meeting open to the public.

  #7 To discuss with legal counsel representing the University, litigation or potential litigation to which the University is, or is likely to become, a party, when public knowledge regarding the discussion is likely to result in an adverse legal or financial consequence to the University.

b.   Purposes for Other Closed Sessions

Certain other functions are exempt from the OPMA and may be conducted in closed session.

  1) Quasi-Judicial Matters—Quasi-judicial meetings are "court-like" proceedings to hold hearings on disputed claims or alleged infractions of rules and regulations and to make decisions in the general manner of procedures conducted by judges. An example of quasi-judicial body is the University's Citation Hearing Office for parking violations.

  2) Labor Relations—Closed sessions may be used for collective bargaining sessions with employee organizations, including contract negotiations, grievance meetings, and discussions relating to the interpretations or application of a labor agreement; or that portion of a meeting during which the governing body is planning or adopting the strategy or positions to be taken by the governing body during the course of any collective bargaining, professional negotiations, or grievance or mediation proceedings, or reviewing the proposals made in the negotiations of proceedings in progress.

c.   Final Actions Required in Open Meetings

When the governing body or committee comes out of executive session, no announcement need be made regarding what has occurred during the executive session. However, final actions must be accomplished in open session. Final actions include:

  #1 Final action in selling or leasing public property.

  #2 Discussions of salary, wages, or other conditions of employment to be generally applied within the University.

  #3 Final action in hiring or setting the salary of an individual employee or class of employees, or in discharging or disciplining an employee.

4.  Procedures for Filing Meeting Notices

The Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office coordinates the filing of all meeting notices for the University. Filing requirements for both regular and special meetings are described below.

a.   Regular Meetings

Governing bodies and their committees are urged to adopt a regular meeting schedule annually in the fall in order to minimize filing requirements. Departments that have not established a regular meeting schedule or that wish to reestablish a schedule that has ended, should follow these procedures:

  #1 Call a special meeting according to the instructions in Section 4.b.

  #2 List "Resolution Establishing a Regular Meeting Schedule" on the agenda.

  #3 Once the special meeting has been held, send two copies of the regular meeting schedule, as adopted during the special meeting, to the Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office. The regular meeting schedule should contain the following:
  • The name of the governing body or committee;
  • The dates and times the regular meetings will be held; and
  • The meeting place(s) for the regular meetings.
    The regular meeting schedule must be received by the Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office at least three University business days before the date of the first scheduled meeting. The Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office will then file a notification with the Washington State Code Reviser's Office each year in January.

  When a department wishes to change a previously established regular meeting schedule, a new schedule can be adopted at one of the regular meetings and sent to the Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office. It will not be necessary to notify or to send the Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office any further regular meeting notices or agendas unless the regular meeting schedule is changed again.

b.   Special Meetings

Special meetings are all meetings other than regular meetings. The law requires that written special meeting notices be delivered to the members of the governing body or its committees and the news media that have filed a written request for such notices at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. The Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office has the responsibility of delivering these notices to the news media before the 24-hour deadline.

Departments must file their special meeting notices with the Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office at least three University business days before the meeting to allow time for delivery. If this three-day deadline cannot be met because of special circumstances, the Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office should be contacted by phone immediately. Special meeting notices must include the following:

  • The name of the governing body or committee;
  • The date and time the special meeting will be held;
  • The meeting location of the special meeting; and
  • The complete agenda.

As no final disposition may be taken on any matter outside the agenda at a special meeting, governing bodies or their committees may wish to make agenda items broad in nature to assure that all issues can be discussed during the meeting (e.g., agenda item: Update on status of ongoing projects).

5.  Minutes of Open Meetings

The law requires that notes be taken at all open meetings, both regular and special. The notes should then be approved as minutes at the following meeting. It is not necessary to send minutes to the Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office. The law does not require minutes to be kept of executive sessions, although some governing bodies and their committees may choose to do this for administrative reasons. Any requests from the public for meeting minutes, notices, agendas, or attachments to agendas should be referred to the Public Records and Open Public Meetings Office, which will ensure that these are processed according to the requirements of the Public Disclosure Act. Note that all documents produced in executive session are also subject to disclosure under the Public Disclosure Act unless specifically exempt under that Act.

6.  Rescheduling of Regular Meetings

A regular meeting falling on a holiday may be postponed to the next University business day. Postponement of a regular meeting, either for a holiday or some other reason, must be posted at the door of the meeting room ahead of the usual scheduled date. If a decision is made to hold a regular meeting ahead of the usual scheduled date, it should be treated as a special meeting. A special meeting notice can also be used to cancel a regular meeting and set a new one.

7.  Recesses of Meetings

Recesses are permitted under the OPMA. Any regular or special meeting may be recessed to another time and/or place by posting the time and place of the reconvened meeting at the door of the original meeting room. Any new location for the meeting should be reasonably calculated to permit full public attendance.

8.  Emergency Situations

If an emergency situation, such as fire, flood, earthquake, etc., creates a need for expedited action by the governing body to meet the emergency or makes it unsafe to meet in the designated place, the presiding officer may call a meeting and designate another place for the meeting without complying with the notice requirement.

9.  Conduct of Open Meetings

At the meeting of a governing body or its committees, members of the public have a right to be present, but not to speak. Members of the public or the news media may attend an open meeting without being required to give their names, complete a questionnaire, or provide other information

In the event individuals disrupt the meeting so that the governing body or its committees cannot continue to conduct the meeting in an orderly way, the members of the governing body or its committees can order the meeting room cleared. The meeting may be adjourned by majority vote and reconvened at another location. Individuals not responsible for disturbing the meeting can be readmitted. Representatives of the media, except those participating in the disturbance, are to be readmitted. Final disposition may be taken only on matters appearing on the agenda.

November 1985; December 29, 2003.