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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Port Commissioners Pick Replacement In Secret Meeting--UPDATED

The (Longview) Daily News reports that port commissioners met in secret--and drew a name out of a hat--to decide who to appoint as a replacement for a retiring commissioner.

"However, the state Attorney General Office said narrowing the list down and reaching a consensus behind closed doors in executive session violates the state's Open Public Meetings Act. 'You can evaluate the qualification of an applicant in executive session; however, when a governing body decides to take final action, it must be in public,' said Tim Ford, assistant attorney general for government accountability in the state Attorney General's Office in Olympia. 'If they had a private agreement --- and it sounds to like they did --- that's making a vote and that sounds like a final action to me,' Ford said. 'Any collective positive or negative decision made on any motion, such as filling a position, is a final action. And that should have been done in public.'"

The Attorney General's Open Government Internet Manual section 3.4(A) and (B) (scroll down) describes why a vote in secret is illegal.

UPDATE (09/25/07): The (Longview) Daily News editorializes that the Port of Longview should simply admit the mistake of violating the Open Public Meetings Act and then donate the personal penalty amount, $100, to charity.