Council Deals with Records Request Behind Closed Doors

By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.

The Everett City Council voted to go into executive session Monday night, for the purpose of discussing the possible public release of minutes from three executive sessions that took place between 2010-2015.

When the Council emerged from that closed door meeting about the minutes, they made no statement about the public records request or the sessions that are impacted by it.

Everett City Solicitor Colleen Mejia and special counsel Michelle Randazo of the law firm KP Law, addressed the Council and explained that due to a public records request seeking the release of all executive session minutes from Council meetings between 2010 and 2015, the city had obtained those minutes form the City Clerk.

The purpose of bringing them to the Council was to ensure there was nothing in the minutes that is still pertinent to on-going litigation or other legal action, which could place the city’s interests in jeopardy.

However, some members of the Council seemed to misunderstand or mistrust the purpose of the request and Council President John Hanlon indicated that he felt the minutes were supposed to be sealed for a defined period of years, based on the wishes of the Council vote at the time.

Councilor Wayne Matewsky, asked Mejia and Randazo the identity of the person seeking the public records release, but Mejia explained that the request came from a corporation identified only as Muck Rack and that the city received the request via email and had no further information it could share. MuckRack.com is an on-line PR service for journalists, but it is not clear that this public records request is related at all to that website.

Randazo told the Council that during the five-year period covered by the request, the Everett Council only went into Executive Session three times, and that the conference Monday night with this council was only to ascertain whether there remained a need of confidentiality in any of the three instances.

The Everett Independent has asked the City Solicitor to provide the reasons for the three Executive Sessions, as the purpose of any Executive Session must be made public at the time the council votes to go behind closed doors and becomes part of the public record right away. As of the newspaper’s deadline, the Independent is still awaiting a response.

With the state’s revamping of the Open Meeting Law in 2010 and the coming update to the public records law on January 1, 2017, public requests for this type of information could become more commonplace going forward.

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