LIFAC Subcommittee Meetings – Open or Not?

Two LIFAC ad hoc subcommittees are in the process of being formed, the strategic planning subcommittee (Antholt and Moye, LIFAC members) and the technical issues subcommittee (Brown and Clark, LIFAC members).  My understanding is that the next step for each subcommittee is to develop a proposed scope and potential members list, which LIFAC will need to formally review, modify as needed, and voe on.

Are these ad hoc subcommittees, like LIFAC,  subject to Washington State Open Meeting laws? In March 2013, Mike McKenzie sent out, and the Ferry Forum posted, the rules under which LIFAC is required to operate. These rules must apply also to LIFAC ad hoc committees, which are part of LIFAC. This means that each meeting must be preceded by public notice and that written records must be published, including final (or working, I imagine) documents that the subcommittee produces.

Island culture is very important, too. Regardless of what LIFAC subcommittees are required to do, one thing I’ve learned is that Lummi Islanders are very uncomfortable with ‘secret’ meetings.  Holding meetings on issues that can impact islanders without giving islanders any information about them inevitably leads to trouble. Once folks find out — and they always do, at some point, often late in the game — things can get testy rather fast, rancorous even. (For those of you who’ve been around a few years, think FLAGPOLE.)  A committee that asks for community input only after their ideas get to the it’s-very-nearly-a-done-deal stage is pretty  much asking for problems. When the ferry, service and costs involved, emotions can run especially high.

Hopefully the new ad hoc subcommittees and LIFAC will keep ‘island culture’ as well as legal requirements in mind as they move ahead.  Just because few islanders or other county residents (these are county-wide committees) generally attend meetings doesn’t mean they want to be shut out from knowing that the meetings are even happening.

4 thoughts on “LIFAC Subcommittee Meetings – Open or Not?

  1. Great minds think alike Wynne. That’s the very question I’ve been asking this week and finally got my answer this morning from the Council office, via County Attorney Dan Gibson. YES, Cmmtes and Sub-Cmmte’s of the Council are subject to the Open Meetings Act. A Sub-Cmmte must follow the same rules as LIFAC, but may choose to create their own bylaws excluding any public comment, which I think would be counter productive to getting community ‘buyin’ to any recommendations given to LIFAC.
    I hope this helps.

  2. Open meetings make sense, for sure. And, compliance with the “rules” is important, too. Mike Skehan answered your post, Wynne, but I thought he was the Chair of the planning subcommittee. I very much like that you post your concerns and observations, and give updates on LIFAC information. Even though I’m on PLIC, you are much better informed then I am! Good goin’, and thank you!

    • No, not Chair, or even on the newly forming Cmmte yet. LIFAC created the two Sub-Cmmte’s at their last meeting and Chuck Antholt and Byron Moye are the two LIFAC members. Thier first meeting will likely be this month, and should be publicized via the normal channels they currently use. I have reserved the Hanson Room at the Library for such a meeting on 8/19 at 6:30pm.
      I believe that meeting will select other Cmmte members, elect a Chair, and try to adopt a Scope of Work document to recommend to the full LIFAC at their next meeting in.
      If asked, I’ll serve.

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