Submitted by San Juan County Public Hospital District 1
There are questions in the community about whether the San Juan County Public Hospital District 1 commissioners violated the Open Public Meetings Act after the resignation of two commissioners in January. The OPMA has not been violated.
The OPMA limits how commissioners may transact business on behalf of the public. In Washington State, most boards by law have either three members or five. On a statutory five-person board such as SJCPHD 1, no more than two commissioners may discuss any public business outside of a public meeting. On a three-person board, such as San Juan County Fire District 3, they may not discuss business outside of a public meeting whatsoever.
The OPMA’s rules rest on quorum requirements. No board may meet as a quorum without notifying the public. A quorum simply means that commissioners may transact business on behalf of the public. A three-person board requires only two members to act as a board, whereas a five-person board requires three people – regardless of any vacancies. Whether a five-person board is short on members or not, it still functions like a five-person board in requiring three commissioners to transact on behalf of the public. There are special rules for a board that does not have sufficient members to form a quorum.
The OPMA is only violated when hospital district commissioners gather together as a quorum (three or more) without notifying the public. Therefore, any two commissioners on the district’s five-person board may discuss public business as they wish without violating the OPMA. This has been confirmed by the district’s legal counsel and by the attorneys at Municipal Research and Services Center, the authoritative source for these sorts of issues.
If anyone has further questions about this information, contact the district superintendent Pamela Hutchins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-378-2857.