School board snafu example of need for open meetings training | Opinion

Last week Coupeville School Board held a special meeting to interview and appoint a candidate to fill a vacant board seat.

In the process, they may have violated the Open Public Meetings Act by making a decision in executive session and not properly announcing the session.

According to the OPMA, the board can “evaluate the qualifications of a candidate for appointment to elective office. However, any interview of such candidate and final action appointing a candidate to elective office shall be in a meeting open to the public.”

After interviewing the candidates publicly and going into executive session to discuss, the board came out and announced who they had chosen.

In that process, they missed a step, but administrative assistant Janet Wodjenski reminded them they must take action publicly.

Instances like this happen all the time and Nancy Krier, assistant attorney general for open government, said most of the time it comes down to training issues.

Luckily, the governor signed a bill into law March 27 that requires public officials to be trained on public transparency.

The Open Government Trainings Act takes law July 1, 2014.

The Attorney General’s Office created an online resource guide for public officials with training information.

Under the new law, public officials must complete training within 90 days of appointment. Then refresher training is required every four years.

Public officials have a lot to learn when they take office and they have a lot of responsibility. Being transparent is one of those.

But as with any position, or job, ongoing education is important.

This new legislation is a great step in keeping public officials informed and aware of their responsibilities to the public.

While the school board may have rectified its mistake, this is a great opportunity for them to seek additional training and utilize resources available through the attorney general’s office.

For more information on open government resources, go to the attorney general’s office open government page at www.atg.wa.gov/OpenGovernment.aspx#.U026zuZdWN1.


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