Washington Coalition for Open Government says it will pursue lawsuit against state redistricting commission

The Washington Coalition for Open Government (WashCOG) said Friday it will pursue in Thurston County Superior Court its open meetings lawsuit against the Washington State Redistricting Commission for flagrantly violating state transparency laws.

The Washington State Supreme Court on Thursday declined to bypass the trial court and hear the case directly. The question before the state’s highest court was a matter of venue rather than the merits of the case.

WashCOG said it sued the redistricting commission to protect the integrity of the state Open Public Meetings Act, hold the commission accountable and seek remedies that prevent future commissions from similar violations. Citizens need to see commission deliberations to understand how public officials arrive at their collective decisions, the commission said in a Friday news release.

The lawsuit argues that in its meeting Nov. 15, the redistricting commission engaged in secret negotiations to draft and come to agreement about proposed legislative and congressional district maps. The commissioners’ private action and public inaction violates the OPMA and should be voided, the suit says.

The commission announcement also said:

Our concern remains that the commissioners convened an open business meeting, only to do business and take action in private and not on the public record. Our purpose is to ensure public participation and transparency, not redistricting or any redistricting outcome.

We had hoped the state Supreme Court would take original jurisdiction, which we believed would save time and taxpayer expense.

WashCOG also had asked the redistricting commission itself to recognize its mistakes publicly through an Administrative Procedure Act petition for declaratory relief. Commissioners voted Thursday to decline that request, saying the commission had no authority to enforce the Open Public Meeting Act.

Ironically, the commission deliberated over the issue behind closed doors and ratified it in open session without any public discussion.

WashCOG is reviewing the Redistricting Commission’s decision, and we are weighing all of our options.

Founded in 2002, the Washington Coalition for Open Government is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. It describes itself as an independent, broad-based advocate for public records, open meetings and informed citizens.


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