Public Access Opinion 22-003

Improper Remote Meeting During a Public Health Emergency

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 22-003
Date: Thursday, February 10, 2022

The City Council of the City of Sumner (City Council) held an improper remote meeting on January 11, 2022, by not providing login instructions or a link to the meeting.    

On January 14, 2021, Requestor submitted a Request for Review to the PAC because she was concerned about the accessibility of the City Council meeting that was held on January 11. The mayor of Sumner and the head of the water department said that she was unable to attend the meeting because it was on Zoom. Requestor asked the head of the water department about OMA, and he told her to contact the police chief.

Requestor said that a picture of the meeting agenda was taken the day before. No zoom link was included in the agenda. Requestor messaged the police chief for the link, which she received. When Requestor joined the meeting, the City Council had already started the meeting. Requestor was able to discuss the letter she sent but was told by the mayor that her time was up after 5 minutes. Requestor listened to the rest of the meeting.

Requestor attached a photograph of the paper agenda posted on the door of the Sumner City Hall as well as a screenshot of her text messages with the police chief. The agenda indicated that the meeting was held on Zoom, but a link was not provided. Instructions on how to access the meeting were not provided either.

Section 7(e) of OMA states that, “48 hours' notice shall be given of a meeting to be held pursuant to this Section.” The PAC held that because the meeting agenda failed to include a link or any login instructions for the Zoom meeting, the City Council did not give proper notice. The City Council told the PAC that members of the public could attend in person, however the location on the agenda only indicated that it was a Zoom meeting. The PAC also held that the City Council violated Section 7(e)(9) of OMA by not providing an audio or visual recording of the meeting. Section 7(e)(9) of OMA requires public bodies to “keep a verbatim record of all their meetings in the form of an audio or video recording.”

For these reasons, the PAC directed the City Council to include all remote access information in future meeting agendas, indicate whether in-person attendance is allowed, and make audio or video recordings of future meetings as well.

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.