Yelm Council member Mike McGowan
Photo Credit: City of Yelm website
On Tuesday, May 8th, Yelm City Council member Mike McGowan noted on-the-record that while he agreed with a pay-out for the golf course water rights litigation, he was voting “no” and stated, “I think the public should have the opportunity to comment. McGowan continued, I dont think they [the public] were properly notified, quoting Megan Hanson in the Nisqually Valley News.
This HUGE story was barely a footnote in the last two lines of Hansen’s story, yet demonstrated that ONE city council member did not follow the status quo and voted instead for his constituents’ right-to-know.
This is a major step for a city council that has continually shown their disregard for the public in so many ways, as previously covered here. McGowan’s stand is like a glimmer of light in a long, dark tunnel.
Mayor Harding’s column in the newspaper this week is a true embarrassment in what was titled, “Yelm council dedicated to transparency, its citizens.”
WHO IS MR. HARDING KIDDING?
HE & HIS COUNCILS HAVE NOT BEEN OPEN TO TRANSPARENCY!
Yelm Community Blog readers know that with over 6 years of documentation!
Harding explained that the water rights acquisition was successful due to the work in closed-to-the-public Executive Sessions saying, “It would put our city at a disadvantage for the opposing sides of litigation to know our strategy and plan of action.”
The City of Yelm was negotiating a water rights issue with Brookdale Golf LLC., owners of the Yelm Golf Course. The purchase of a water rights agreement in a case brought before the city is NOT one of the conditions under which an Executive Session can be held, according to the OPMA [Open Public Meetings Act] from the Attorney General’s Office.
The City of Yelm may think that RCW 42.30.110 section (i) may apply in this case to conduct an Executive Session, yet is not:
“(i) To discuss with legal counsel representing the agency matters relating to agency enforcement actions, or to discuss with legal counsel representing the agency litigation or potential litigation to which the agency, the governing body, or a member acting in an official capacity 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 agency.”
In reading the provision, one finds that the Yelm City Council had no basis for holding this Executive Session.
Quoting the WA State Attorney General’s Office:
“An agency must meet three basic requirements before it can invoke this provision to meet in closed session.”
“First, “legal counsel representing the agency” must attend the executive session to discuss the enforcement action, or the litigation or potential litigation. This is the only executive session provision that requires the attendance of someone other than the members of the governing body.”
“Second, the discussion with the legal counsel either must concern an agency enforcement action or it must concern litigation or potential litigation to which the agency, the governing body, or one of its members acting in an official capacity is or is likely to become a party.”
“The third requirement for meeting in closed session under this subsection is that public knowledge of the discussion would likely result in adverse legal or financial consequence to the agency.”
“Since the purpose of this executive session provision is only to allow the governing body to discuss litigation or enforcement matters with legal counsel, the governing body is not authorized to take final action regarding such matters in an executive session.”
The public was not informed:
– that legal counsel was in attendance of this Executive Session to discuss the litigation, the first requirement under section i.
– “the discussion would likely result in adverse legal or financial consequence to the agency,” the third requirement under section i.
MCGOWAN’S COMMENTS OF NOTE
And this is where Mr. McGowan’s actions are important.
He said that while all of this was handled behind the cloak of Executive Session and he agreed with the outcome, McGowan expressed that the public should have had the opportunity to view an Action item prior to a vote being taken.
Now, with the law from the Attorney General’s office stated, McGowan’s stand is even more important.
CONGRATULATIONS & THANK YOU to Mr. McGowan!
This Blog has all-ways taken a stand for the public’s interests!
Perhaps Ms. Hansen will revisit this now and write a front-page story in the Nisqually Valley News about the city council’s improper use of the closed-to-the-public Executive Session provision.