Editorial: Oak Harbor needs to do the right thing

Rep. Barbara Bailey should be commended for asking for a formal state Attorney General’s opinion on the city of Oak Harbor’s confusing policy on city council meetings.

But she should never have had to ask.

As thoroughly reported in this newspaper, the issue is the three-member standing committees. When other council members attended, this produced a quorum of the seven-member city council, which constituted a full council meeting. The city argued with this interpretation, but eventually worked around the Open Public Meetings Act, designating standing committee meetings as regular city council meetings. That way any council member could attend. They are not allowed to vote at these meetings, but their presence means informal agreements can be reached, essentially out of the public eye.

Mayor Jim Slowik also commended Rep. Bailey for her role in seeking clarification of whether the city is complying with the state Open Public Meetings Act. But he shouldn’t be sitting back and hoping the Attorney General lets Oak Harbor get away with its confusing meeting schedule due to some technicality. The fact is, the city council meeting policy as it now stands is unclear, confusing to the public, and all those meetings makes it impossible for any concerned citizen to regularly follow the council proceedings. Council meetings are held at various times and locations and we defy any city council member to recite from memory when the next three meetings will take place.

If Mayor Slowik refuses to see the light of the Open Public Meetings Act, the council should take it upon itself to make the city’s meeting schedule understandable: If standing committees must exist, limit them to three city council members only. That way the issue of a quorum will never arise and citizens will have no worries that city business is being decided in some obscure setting. It shouldn’t take a high state official like the Attorney General to tell the city to do the right thing.

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