WashCOG will pursue its Redistricting Commission lawsuit in trial court.

WashCOG will pursue its Redistricting Commission lawsuit in trial court

Press release
Jan. 6, 2022

George Erb, WCOG secretary, geoerb@seanet.com
Juli Bunting, WCOG executive director, info@washingtoncog.org

The Washington Coalition for Open Government 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 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. Only then can citizens determine whether officials acted wisely on the public’s behalf.

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.

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.

The Washington Coalition for Open Government is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 2002. We are an independent, broad-based advocate for public records, open meetings and informed citizens.

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