Sedro-Woolley Mayor Mike Anderson will receive an open government award next week for walking out of a meeting he said was violating the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.
The Washington Coalition for Open Government announced the Key Award for Anderson on Monday. WCOG President Toby Nixon will present the award to Anderson on Jan. 23 during the Sedro-Woolley City Council meeting.
Anderson said Monday that he made the decision to walk out of the meeting last year even though it caused friction between him and many of the members of the Skagit Council of Governments.
SCOG is comprised of area mayors from Skagit County, as well as port and county commissioners, and acts as a pass-through agency for federal, state and local grant funding to pay for regional transportation projects.
In the thick of hiring a new executive director last year, a SCOG staffer failed to post a required meeting notice. SCOG had intended to meet in closed session on Aug. 8 to talk about the qualifications of four finalists for its then-vacant executive director post.
Because the meeting had not been properly advertised, Anderson left in protest after calling the city attorney.
The council never convened the August meeting because of questions regarding its legality. Some SCOG members openly voiced their displeasure with Anderson while he was out of the room.
“There’s a huge amount of peer pressure in these groups to just go along and not be too strict to comply with every technical detail,” Nixon said. Nixon also is a city council member in Kirkland.
The act requires public agencies to notify the media and anyone else who has asked for the information of all special meetings at least 24 hours before the meeting occurs. The act also requires the agency to post a meeting notice on paper at the agency’s normal meeting place and the meeting site if it is held at an alternate location.
Neither happened at last August’s meeting.
Anderson said he didn’t want to rankle members of the board but felt he had to speak up.
“I just think that open government, and good government, there should be rules you use and go by,” Anderson said. “That wasn’t right.”
In November, the state Auditor’s Office sent a letter to SCOG, voicing concerns with how the council had conducted a meeting on Aug. 15.
In that letter, the state office said SCOG was not complying with the intent of the Open Public Meetings Act when the board voted to negotiate with a finalist for the then-vacant executive director position without naming that finalist in a public meeting, calling it a “secret vote.”