As government jurisdictions across Washington one-by-one follow the lead of Lincoln County, which two years worked with the Freedom Foundation on a resolution to open its collective bargaining processes up to public scrutiny, one local school board has chosen a hybrid approach.
On Feb. 27, the Centralia School District became the latest domino to topple when it adopted a new policy requiring portions of it collective bargaining negotiations to be streamed live online, archived and made available to the public.
In addition to live-streaming the negotiations, the documents used in negotiation sessions including “…district-prepared fiscal impact analyses, union-prepared fiscal impact analyses, offers and counteroffers, memoranda of understanding, and tentative agreements…” will be made available to the public immediately at the time of the meeting and online within seventy-two hours.
The lesson is that, while full disclosure and complete transparency is the best, most responsible course of action, there are myriad of ways to go about it, and what works in one community, isn’t necessarily the only way.
Spokane County, for example, recently joined the growing list of local governments to pass a resolution to open its collective bargaining to the public. And, after doing so, Commissioner Josh Kerns urged all local jurisdictions to “find a way to bring more transparency into your government that fits your entity, your physical and technological constraints.”
The public benefits most from full transparency, i.e., observation allowed at meetings; video, and audio recording; and widespread availability of online documents. But, on the road to complete transparency, there are dozens of alternatives, including:
- Agreeing to have video and audio streamed live, but have meetings closed;
- Agreeing to have closed meetings recorded and make the recordings available online within a specified time period;
- Agreeing to have closed meetings but recording and making them available upon request;
- Opening collective bargaining to public observation but allow for the meeting to be closed if there are sensitive topics that pertain to a specific employee(s) or a grievance (no other issue shall be discussed behind closed doors other than that of personal or sensitive information about personnel);
- Openly conduct meetings wherein an elected official participates in the bargaining discussion;
- Closing meetings, but posting all related documents and proposals online;
- Closing all meetings to the public but providing recording/filming to management immediately and making the recordings available to the public upon the successful negotiation of the contract in question.
For assistance in crafting a resolution that fits your local government, contact the Freedom Foundation.
360.956.3482 | PO Box 552 Olympia, WA 98507