Violation of law is worth investigating

  • Saturday, February 3, 2018 1:30am
  • Opinion

Langley Mayor Tim Callison said it’s not worth his time to investigate whether the city may have violated the law.

The law in question is the state’s Open Public Meetings Act. One provision is a requirement for public entities to notify the public when governing bodies meet to discuss government business, with narrow exceptions.

In this case, the city failed to properly advertise a Jan. 26 workshop on tourism funding, which happens to be a bit of a thorny issue with at least one Langley business owner.

The error seems to have been an oversight or misunderstanding with the city staff, which is understandable. The city has a small staff and mistakes happen.

The problem is the mayor’s cavalier attitude toward the important law. Callison doesn’t think it’s worth his time to look into the breach because the meeting was only a discussion and no decisions were made.

He misses the point of the sunshine law. It’s important that citizens hear these discussions so they understand what’s happening and have input long before the decisions are final. That’s transparency.

The law says it best: “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

Under the law, the city is required to post a notice of the special meeting at city hall and to notify the local newspaper “which has on file a written request to be notified of such special meeting or of all special meetings.”

Callison admits that the notice wasn’t posted on the building but claims he couldn’t find a written request from the South Whidbey Record, even though the city has been regularly sending such notices to the paper for decades.

City Clerk/Treasurer Debbie Mahler claimed that notice was given to the newspaper because a reporter was present at a meeting in which the workshop was announced. That’s simply not how the law works.

Excuses aside, the point is that citizens should know when such meetings happen.

Although he’s not eager to look into it, Callison did say — paradoxically — that if a violation occurred he apologizes on behalf of the city and would take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

We hope it doesn’t.

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