Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Sunday, March 02, 2008

"Thompson: City Council did not violate open meeting law

No surprise there. If secret meetings were illegal, then Queen Nancy would be sitting in the Moscow hoosegow for the executive sessions she held in 2006 and 2007 to initiate first a SEPA appeal and later water rights transfers appeals against the Hawkins development.

From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson has concluded the Moscow City Council did not violate the Idaho open meeting law in its actions involving the Hawkins Companies settlement agreement.

Moscow resident Dennis Baird filed a complaint with Thompson on Feb. 12 alleging the council violated the state's open meeting law Feb. 4. During that meeting, the council and Mayor Nancy Chaney met in executive session to discuss a settlement agreement, drafted during confidential mediation with Hawkins and other entities, that proposed selling water and sewer services to Hawkins' 700,000-square-foot development in Whitman County, just across the state line from Idaho.

Thompson responded to Baird in a letter dated Friday. He concluded that the council legitimately entered executive session based on the law's allowance for meetings "to discuss the legal ramifications of and legal opinions for pending litigation."

Based on discussion during the Feb. 4 meeting, "it appears that the Council and Mayor discussed with their legal counsel the City's legal options in regard to possible settlement of the pending appeals," Thompson wrote.

Thompson stated that the settlement agreement showed the legal matters and the water and sewer deal are "so intimately intertwined" that the sale could legally be discussed during executive session. The council did not vote to approve the settlement agreement until its regular, open meeting.

Thompson also wrote that the council and mayor could have asked for public input before finalizing their decision on the settlement, but "the Idaho Open Meeting law does not mandate that they receive public input; it only requires that their decision be made in public."

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