In re Lakewood City Council Members
Washington Supreme Court
30 P.3d 474 (2001)
On December 13, 1999, members of the Lakewood City Council (the city council) (defendants) went into closed session to discuss a lawsuit regarding the constitutionality of a public initiative. The purpose of the closed session was to specifically discuss with the members of the city council the advantages, disadvantages, risks, and courses of action regarding the initiative. Residents of the city (the residents) (plaintiffs) filed a pro se complaint alleging that the city council’s closed-session discussion violated Washington’s open-meetings law. The open-meetings law provided that a public body could convene into closed session with legal counsel to discuss actual or potential litigation if the public’s knowledge of the discussion would have an adverse legal or financial consequence for the city. The residents asserted that because the city council only joined in the litigation to seek clarification and not as an adversarial party, the city did not face any adverse consequences and, therefore, the exception did not apply. The residents also asserted that the city council unlawfully voted in closed session, because it did not prohibit the city manager from joining the lawsuit and the open-meetings law required that all votes take place in public. The city testified that the city manager had the discretionary spending authority to join the lawsuit. The residents also sought to recall the city council members. The trial court concluded that no vote was taken in closed session and dismissed the residents’ recall action. The residents appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Chambers, J.)
Dissent (Sanders, J.)
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