Meeting law violations are big deal

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Letters to the editor from supporters of the Rural Library District have stated that critics have wrongly characterized the state Auditor’s Office conclusions concerning the RDL’s violations of the Open Public Meetings Act (See Chapter 42.30 RCW). These letters have run the gamut from restrained to vicious. We are to learn from the letters that their violations are “no big deal.”

I called the state Auditor’s Office and talked to a Juan Esparza. He said the Auditor’s Office has no way to punish violating agencies, and depends instead on informing the public. He then gave me a number to call Tim Ford, who is the open government ombudsman in the state Attorney General’s Office.

Mr. Ford stated there is legal recourse for violations of the open meetings law. Citizens can file a suit in a Superior Court. If the judge finds for the citizen, the act passed in an unlawful session is null and void, each board member is fined $100 and the agency must pay court costs.

It is a big deal. The first section of the Open Public Meetings Act states in part: “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.”

This is what the state auditor said concerning RLD letters to the county and city and concerning ads in the Union-Bulletin.

Regarding the ads in the paper: “This should have been done in an open public meeting.” Regarding the letters, the Auditor’s Office said: “We found documentation showing District Board Members engaged in email discussions and approved the letters outside of an open public meeting. ...We recommend to the District that it ensure it takes action in open public meetings.”

So, however you choose to characterize the remarks from the auditor’s report, it is saying the RLD Board did a bad thing.

I personally think it is a wacko idea to have two major libraries within a couple of miles from each other. However, if the RLD wants to continue with the course it has set, in the future it should adhere to the laws.

Finally, the hope is there won’t be any more letters to the editor that are largely attacks.

Norm Osterman

Walla Walla

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