On December 8, 2020, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-28.14 (the “December 8th Proclamation”), extending the requirement to conduct virtual meetings through January 19, 2021. The most recent Proclamation applies in all counties, regardless of what phase the county is in, unlike the last Proclamation.
In short, the extension continues the mandatory requirement for agencies to hold public meetings virtually; however, it now allows for an agency to voluntarily add an in-person option to the virtual requirement.
If the in-person component is used, it must meet the following criteria:
- Compliance with the guidelines for “business meetings”, found in the “Miscellaneous Venues” guidance found here;
- Held in a primary or overflow meeting location that allows all attendees to hear each other at the same time;
- Accommodate those wishing to participate, including the press, by listening or speaking, e.g., such as conference call in service;
- Follow L&I and Department of Health workplace safety rules, e.g., face coverings, at least 6’ separation, room sanitation, 25% maximum capacity, etc.; and
- If the in-person component cannot comply with these criteria, the open public meeting must be recessed or adjourned until it can meet the criteria.
Miscellaneous Venues Guidance
As indicated, one of the criteria above regarding conducting an in-person Open Public Meeting relates to the guidance for “business meetings” as set forth in the “Miscellaneous Venues Guidance” (the “November Guidance”), as amended. The November Guidance was set to be in effect through December 14, 2020, but given the Governor’s December 8th Proclamation, we anticipate this guidance may be extended through January 19, 2021, as well.
We further anticipate that when business meetings are allowed to occur within miscellaneous venues, the same requirements will apply. This includes but is not limited to:
- the ability to social distance;
- limiting venue capacity to 25% per the fire code;
- ensuring there is room for all who want to attend either in the meeting room itself or in an overflow room with the ability to hear and participate; and
- if the meeting fails to adhere to any of these requirements, it must be recessed until compliance is restored or adjourned.
While we understand that many of our municipal clients are eager to begin meeting in-person again, we respectfully suggest carefully considering the risks and benefits of the foregoing requirements. For those who are considering holding an in-person component along with their remote component, we have included below a simple checklist that should be utilized to remain in compliance with the December 8th Proclamation.
We also note that for planning purposes, any future extensions of the Governor’s Proclamation must be approved by concurrent resolution of the full legislature. As the session begins on January 11, 2021, and this extension expires on January 19, 2021, we suggest you closely follow any legislative action in this regard.
Should you have any questions in regard to the December 8th Proclamation, please contact any member of our Municipal, Port, and Fire District Practice Groups at your convenience.
 Stay Safe – Stay Healthy – Rollback of County-By-County Phased Reopening Responding to Covid-19 Outbreak Surge.
Checklist to Ensure Compliance with Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-28.14 Governing the In-Person Component to an Open Public Meeting
- Does the in-person component to your Open Public Meeting comply with the guidelines for “business meetings” as described in the “Miscellaneous Venues” Guidance, dated November 16, 2020?
- Do all persons attending the Open Public Meeting in-person component have the ability to safely attend in a location that allows for adequate social distancing, either in the primary location or an overflow room where they may both hear and participate? Please note, this may require working with other organizations to find a suitable overflow location that can meet the demand while maintaining social distancing. Additionally, the public agency will need to identify someone at the primary, and potentially overflow, location to enforce the Stay Safe requirements, (e.g., maximum numbers, social distancing, masking etc.) and monitor the ability of participants to hear/participate.
- Have you allowed for those persons attending the Open Public Meeting in-person component to participate through operable telecommunication devices (i.e., their personal cell phone or the cell phone of another attendee) and provided adequate notification of how to access that capability?
- Have you notified all participants of the Open Public Meeting, whether attending in-person or over electronic means, that if at any point during the public meeting, the in-person component cannot comply with any requirement mentioned herein, that the meeting must be recessed until compliance is restored, and if compliance cannot be restored, the meeting must be adjourned?