Clallam County Public Meetings and the Open Public Meetings Act

  • Wed Jul 29th, 2020 3:26pm
  • News

Guidance While in Phase 2 of the Safe Start Washington Plan

There has been some confusion across the state regarding how counties are to handle “Open Public Meetings” (which for the Board of County Commissioners includes Monday work sessions and Tuesday Board meetings; it also includes meetings of the Board of Health, the Charter Review Commission, the Planning Commission, and other official Boards and Committees) during phased Safe Start Washington Plan. This memo is an attempt to clarify the appropriate current practices for all Open Public Meetings managed by Clallam County Government.

Our current Phase 2 mandate is to hold all public meetings remotely with no in-person attendance beyond the Clerk, and/or whoever is necessary to run the meeting. It is very important that we all work to meet this mandate, both because of the alarming increase in the spread of COVID that we are seeing throughout the state and in Clallam County, and because it is not fair to the public to see their elected representatives and key staff members meeting in person when the public is prohibited from joining them.

While public agencies have interpreted the concept of “necessary to run the meeting” differently, the intent of Phase 2 guidance, as well as current guidance from the State Secretary of Health, is clear: We should gather with no more than five people outside our households in a given week. We should strive to set the example at our public meetings.

Therefore, all County staff members and elected officials who are able to do so should be attending public meetings remotely, either via the Bluejeans virtual platform or by calling in by phone. We recognize that there may be times when remote participation is not possible, but it should be minimized to the extent possible.

Under no circumstance should there be more than five staff members and/or elected officials attending any public meeting held by Clallam County, and all those who are attending in person are required to wear a mask or face covering. We appreciate the efforts that all of our staff have made to attend remotely and to wear masks when necessary, as well as the work done by our Clerks and IT staff to develop and support an effective remote meeting platform.

Our staff has done a phenomenal job of facilitating public participation during our remote meetings. Members of the public who wish to attend any public meeting held by Clallam County in order to make comment can do so remotely, either by phone or via virtual attendance and instructions for doing so can be found on every published agenda for an official County meeting; written comment is encouraged. These meetings are also live-streamed and archived at Clallam.net for those who wish to follow along but don’t wish to make a comment.

When Clallam County is allowed to move forward to Phase 3, we will issue revised guidance based on the direction of the Secretary of Health and our County Health Officer. It is our expectation that remote attendance will continue to be encouraged.