Guard alleges committee broke public meetings act

Washougal Mayor said concerns could be reported to state agencies

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A discussion regarding committee assignments has resulted in Washougal Mayor Sean Guard accusing the city’s ad hoc committee on the budget of violating the state’s Open Meeting Act.

A conversation regarding which City Council members would succeed former councilor Caryn Plinski on several committees, particularly finance and hotel/motel tax, occurred during the July 25 meeting of the budget committee. Attendees included Committee Chairman Paul Greenlee, Dave Shoemaker, Connie Jo Freeman, Joyce Lindsay and Jennifer McDaniel.

Three days later, Guard reminded councilors that the city’s budget is the only topic up for discussion during the committee meetings.

He referred to an email written by Washougal Finance Director/City Clerk Jennifer Forsberg in February. The memo said the budget committee meetings must be noticed and open to the public, and notes must be taken and provided to the city clerk.

Forsberg mentioned the committee would only be allowed to discuss budget issues.

She worked for the Washington State Auditor’s Office for nine years.

“I will remind you when you cross the bounds,” Guard said to councilors during the July 28 City Council meeting.

The Revised Code of Washington, Section 42.30.080 (3) states, “Final disposition shall not be taken on any other matter at such meetings by the governing body.”

While referring to that section, Greenlee said he thought it referred only to actions.

“I had interpreted this to mean that only ‘final disposition’ was restricted,” he said later.

Shoemaker said he appreciated the admonishment, but he added Guard should have said something in private before the meeting.

“Staff and administration have cautioned the council before,” Guard said.

Lindsay said the budget meetings have been productive.

Shoemaker said the informal committee meetings have involved “building off of each others’ ideas.”

Guard said he wants a council engaged in the budget process, with that involving legal meetings.

“We are still working to reconcile all of the information that was turned over on Friday against what we have been told took place,” he said Monday. “We are also completing a schedule of meetings that were not disclosed to City Hall and thus not noticed properly.

“Once we know the full extent of what took place, we will report to state agencies as is appropriate,” Guard added. “This is so unfortunate, as all of it was certainly preventable.”

The committee has met 11 times since March 28.

The next meeting is Friday, at 9:30 a.m., at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.