CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS & OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT
When are Covington City Council meetings?
Regular City Council meetings are held the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. A special meeting may be held any day of the month. Meetings generally begin at 7 p.m. and are held in City Council Chambers located at: 16720 SE 271st Street, Covington, Washington, unless otherwise noticed.
What are the requirements for noticing a meeting?
The public must be informed of the time and place of meetings, including regular meetings, study sessions and special meetings, except in emergencies.
Regular meetings and study sessions are recurring meetings with a time and place fixed by ordinance or rule. Special meetings, called by the presiding officer or a majority of the City Council, must be announced in writing to all members of the governing body and members of the news media who have requested notice. Special meeting notices must be delivered personally or by mail, 24 hours in advance, specifying the time and place of the meeting and the business to be transacted. The Council may take action only on business described in the special meeting notice (although other business can be discussed).
How can I voice my concerns at a City Council meeting?
As part of the City Council's agenda, there is a time for "Public Comment" at the beginning and end of all regular City Council meetings. You are invited to address the Council with your concerns or comments for a maximum of four minutes.
In addition, individuals may request to appear on the agenda of a future meeting to address the Council on specific issues or requests. Such requests should be directed to the City Clerk or the City Manager.
What is an "Ordinance"?
An Ordinance is a legislative act or local law. They are the most permanent and binding form of Council action and may be changed or repealed only by a subsequent ordinance. Except in cases of emergency, an ordinance, as passed by the City Council, takes effect five days after its publication in the City's official newspaper, the Covington Reporter. Most ordinances become part of the Covington Municipal Code.
What is a "Resolution"?
A Resolution is an act that is less solemn or formal than an Ordinance and generally is an expression of the City Council's opinion; expresses the City Council's policy; directs administrative/legal action (such as approval of a contract) or makes a public statement from the Council. Resolutions may be changed or repealed only by a subsequent resolution.
What is the Consent Agenda?
The "Consent Agenda" lists routine, non-controversial items and is passed with a single motion and vote. Usually, no debate is allowed on the Consent Agenda or on any item included in it. A Councilmember may have an item removed from the Consent Agenda for separate consideration and discussion. The remainder of the Consent Agenda then can be voted on, omitting the challenged item(s).
What is an Executive Session?
An "Executive Session" is a portion of a regular or special meeting that may be closed to the public, designed for consideration of specific issues, where public disclosure would harm individual interests or legitimate interests of the governing body.
The Council may hold Executive Sessions, from which the public may be excluded, for those purposes set forth in Chapter 42.30.110 RCW. Some examples of issues that may be discussed in Executive Session are: To consider the selection of a site or the acquisition of real estate by lease or purchase when public knowledge regarding such consideration would cause a likelihood of increased price; to consider the minimum price at which real estate will be offered for sale or lease when public knowledge regarding such consideration would cause a likelihood of decreased price; or to discuss with legal counsel representing the agency matters relating to potential litigation to which the agency, the governing body, or a member acting in an official capacity is, or is likely to become, a party, when public knowledge regarding the discussion is likely to result in an adverse legal or financial consequence to the agency.
Before convening to an Executive Session, the Presiding Officer shall announce the purpose of the Session and the anticipated time when the Session will be concluded. No formal action or decision of the Council may be taken in Executive Session.
What Constitutes a Public Record?
The state statutes broadly define public records. "Public records" include any "writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics." RCW 42.17.020(42).
How do I request public records from the City?
If you wish to submit a request for public records, please complete a City of Covington Request for Public Records Form, which can also be obtained at City Hall. After completing a request, simply submit the completed form to the City Clerk's Department for processing.
What can the City charge for providing copies of public records?
Each agency shall establish, maintain, and make available for public inspection and copying a statement of the actual per page cost or other costs, if any, that it charges for providing photocopies of public records and a statement of the factors and manner used to determine the actual per page cost or other costs, if any.
In determining the actual per page cost for providing photocopies of public records, an agency may include all costs directly incident to copying such public records including the actual cost of the paper and the per page cost for use of agency copying equipment. In determining other actual costs for providing photocopies of public records, an agency may include all costs directly incident to shipping such public records, including the cost of postage or delivery charges and the cost of any container or envelope used.
In determining the actual per page cost or other costs for providing copies of public records, an agency may not include staff salaries, benefits, or other general administrative or overhead charges, unless those costs are directly related to the actual cost of copying the public records. Staff time to copy and mail the requested public records may be included in an agency's costs.
An agency need not calculate the actual per page cost or other costs it charges for providing photogcopies of public records if to do so would be unduly burdensome, but in that event: The agency may not charge in excess of fifteen cents per page for photocopies of public records or for the use of agency equipment to photocopy public records and the actual postage or delivery charges and the cost of any container or envelope used to mail the public records to the requestor. RCW 42.56.070(7) & (8).
How soon must the City respond to a request for public records?
State law requires that responses to requests for public records be made "promptly". Specifically, cities and other governmental agencies must, within five business days of receiving a request, respond by either: (1) providing the record; (2) acknowledging receipt of the request and providing a reasonable estimate of the time in which a response will be made, or (3) denying the request. Additional response time beyond five days may be based upon a need to clarify the request, to locate and assemble the records requested, to notify staff affected by the request, or to determine whether any of the requested records are exempt for disclosure pursuant to RCW 42.56.520.
Is the City required to respond to public records disclosure requests by electronic means (i.e. fax or e-mail)?
No. A city is under no obligation to respond to disclosure requests electronically - either by facsimile or by e-mailing a file. The public has a right to review public records at City offices and the public has a right to obtain copies of public records if they pay the reasonable costs charged by the City. Of course, e-mailing a document that happens to be in electronic format will usually be easier and more cost efficient than mailing a paper copy. Depending on document length, faxing will also in many cases be a more timely and cost-efficient means of transmitting documents.