Gov. Inslee suspends portions of public meetings, records laws
In-person attendance blocked after Eyman challenges gun bans
Last updated 3/28/2020 at 9:36am
OLYMPIA - With no fanfare or disclosure, Gov. Jay Inslee quietly amended a month-old coronavirus-related proclamation, so that it now strips residents and news organizations of the right to attend public meetings and review public records in person.
The move came just a day after Tim Eyman, a gubernatorial candidate challenging Inslee for his seat, attended the Bellingham City Council meeting to object to an effort to restrict the right of residents to keep and bear arms in connection with Inslee's order and in violation of the federal Stafford Act.
It also came a day after Inslee declared media an essential industry, necessary to provide information to the public.
"It's just so believable," Eyman said Thursday, when asked about the timing of the amended order being connected to his support of Second Amendment rights in Bellingham and Edmonds.
Eyman had previously announced plans to attend the Edmonds City Council on Tuesday evening to oppose that city's plan to deny residents the right to keep and bear arms.
As Eyman and a number of concerned Edmonds residents awaited time to speak to the city council, they were told they had to leave.
"It was a really, really tense situation," Eyman said.
A video of the situation shows a police officer entering the meeting room and saying, "The Open Public Meetings Act was just suspended."
The amended proclamation was not presented to Eyman or members of the public there to speak on the Second Amendment rights issue. Nor was it released to all of the state's media.
A search of the Internet on Wednesday showed Gov. Inslee's amendments targeted portions of the Revised Code of Washington regarding the Open Public Meetings Act and the Open Public Records Act.
"Proclamation 20-05 is amended by waiving and suspending the portions of R.C.W. 42.30 and R.C.W. 42.56 that require in-person meetings or contact," Inslee said in his amended version.
The original proclamation was dated Feb. 29 and the amended version March 24.
Under another amendment to the proclamation, Gov. Inslee wrote, "Any public agency, subject to R.C.W. 42.30, is prohibited from conducting any meeting subject to R.C.W. 42.30 unless (a) the meeting is not conducted in-person and instead provides an option (s) for the public to attend the proceedings through, at minimum, telephonic access, and may also include other electronic, internet or other means of remote access, and (b) provides the ability for all persons attending the meeting to hear each other at the same time."
The prohibition did allow for public and media participation via electronic means, provided that everyone could hear and talk to each other.
But Inslee's amended proclamation didn't stop at eliminating the public and media from attending meetings in person, it also stripped the right to review public documents available in public buildings.
In bulleted items, he removed the clause under R.C.W. 42.56.080(2) that required government facilities be open for the public and media to review and/or make copies of public records.
The governor also eliminated the five-day requirement to respond to public records requests.
Eyman declined to comment directly when questioned on whether the governor's amendment was targeting him.
But he did caution residents to be vigilant and pay attention to what government agencies are doing.
"This is a complete departure of transparency," he said. "You're not even allowed to see what they are doing. You can't ask questions, can't ask followups and you can't challenge them."