Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Legislation Requires Training on Public Records and Open Public Meetings Laws

The Washington State Legislature and Governor Inslee have approved Engrossed Senate Bill 5964 requiring that state and local government officials attend training and regular refresher courses on the requirements of the Public Records Act (RCW 42.56) and the Open Public Meetings Act (RCW 42.30).

Purpose of the training:  The new law, which becomes effective on July 1, 2014, states the following purpose for the law:
Rights of citizens:  The legislature finds that the rights of citizens to observe the actions of their public officials and to have timely access to public records are the underpinnings of democracy and are essential for meaningful citizen participation in the democratic process.  Violations of laws denies citizen rights:  All too often, however, violations of the requirements of the public records act and the open public meetings act by public officials and agencies result in citizens being denied this important information and materials to which they are legally entitled.  Violations due to error or ignorance:  Such violations are often the result of inadvertent error or a lack of knowledge on the part of officials and agencies regarding their legal duties to the public pursuant to these acts.  Violations costly to public agencies:  Also, whether due to error or ignorance, violations of the public records act and open public meetings act are very costly for state and local governments, both in terms of litigation expenses and administrative costs.  Training will help ensure compliance:  The legislature also finds that the implementation of simple, cost-effective training programs will greatly increase the likelihood that public officials and agencies will better serve the public by improving citizen access to public records and encouraging public participation in governmental deliberations.  Compliance will enhance public perception of government and save money:  Such improvements in public service will, in turn, enhance the public's trust in its government and result in significant cost savings by reducing the number of violations of the public records act and open public meetings act.
Applicability of training:  The training applies to members of governing bodies of public agencies and local and statewide elected officials.  Public records officers must also complete training related to the Public Records Act.  Make sure your agency's leadership is aware of the requirements of this new law.

Other systematic training is important:  While the new law addresses systematic and deliberate training on the Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act, it is also important for public agencies to regularly provide training their employees on other topics such as:
  • Public Works Bidding and Contracting Requirements
  • Managing and Developing RFPs and RFQs for Selection of Consultants and Service Providers
  • Avoiding Ethical Violations
I regularly provide training in these three areas to public agencies to help ensure a common base of knowledge and keep public employees up to date on the latest requirements and best practices.  If you are interested in having me provide training for your agency on public works, RFPs/RFQs, or ethics, please contact me.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog
© 2014 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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