Governor Inslee has advanced most of the State’s regions into Phase 2 under the Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery plan. What does this mean for public agencies and how does this affect Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”) requirements?
The latest Proclamation regarding the OPMA is Proclamation 20-28.15, which extended previous OPMA suspensions and prohibitions found under Proclamation 20-28.14 until termination of the state of emergency, or until rescinded, whichever occurs first. During Phase 2 all public meetings must be held remotely. However, government agencies have the option to include an in-person component in addition to a remote public meeting so long as the following are complied with:
(1) It complies with the Miscellaneous Venues guidance from Proclamation 20-25 et seq.;
(2) If an in-person meeting component was offered, the person must be able to attend in-person at the primary meeting location, or at an overflow location that provides the ability for all persons in attendance to hear each other at the same time;
(3) If an agency starts an in-person meeting process, and then cannot meet the in-person meeting requirements, the meeting (including any virtual/remote meeting access) must be recessed until compliance is restored. If compliance cannot be restored, the meeting must be terminated; and
(4) An agency holding in-person meetings shall accommodate those wishing to participate or attend via telephone.
The Miscellaneous Venues guidance was updated on February 1 st and can be found here. Under this guidance document, in-person meetings are allowed if attendance is under 25% capacity, or 200 people, whichever is fewer. Agencies should check building permits and/or with the agency’s building official to determine a meeting location’s capacity limits. In addition, agencies will need to factor in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, such as
offering reasonable accommodations for both physical meeting locations as well as for virtual/remote meeting rooms.
In order to have in-person components to public meetings during Phase 2, there are several safety requirements under the Miscellaneous Venues guidance, which include but are not limited to the following:
- Wearing masks at all times
- Maintain proper social distancing at all times
- Post signage in elevators to CDC protocol compliance
- Frequently clean all touched surfaces
- Adjust HVAC to allow as much outside air in as possible
- Keep windows and doors open when possible and utilize fans
- At least one COVID-19 Supervisor must be present to ensure masking and social distancing practices are enforced and observed by all attendees at all times
There must be strict compliance with Labor & Industries COVID prevention requirements and State Department of Health guidance
Note that the Miscellaneous Venues guidance also requires that agencies develop a written procedure for operations at least as protective as the Miscellaneous Venue requirements provided for each Phase. While in-person meetings are not required for regions in Phase 2, if an agency chooses to offer in-person meetings, they must have a written procedure for how they will comply with the Miscellaneous Venues guidance. Agencies should consider adopting a policy for how they will comply with the above requirements.
Regardless of whether an agency chooses to offer an in-person component for meetings during Phase 2, agencies should begin to plan and adopt policies for how they will hold in-person meetings as regions approach advancement to Phase 3. If you or your agency has questions about developing a plan or policy for holding in-person meetings, contact Jon Sitkin at firstname.lastname@example.org; Allison Beard at email@example.com; or call our office at 360-671-1796.