Port of Vancouver USA moves for summary judgment in Open Public Meetings Act lawsuit
VANCOUVER, Wash. – The Port of Vancouver USA has moved for summary judgment in a lawsuit calling its executive session practices into question.
The suit, brought against the port by Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and Northwest Environmental Defense Center, alleged the port violated Washington State’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) when it held executive sessions between March and July 2013 to discuss the minimum price of real estate related to the Vancouver Energy lease.
In July 2015, Clark County Superior Court Judge David E. Gregerson ruled in the port’s favor on five of the executive sessions in question. Following that decision, clarification was sought from the appellate court on the interpretation of minimum price as it is defined in the OPMA.
The Supreme Court issued a decision on June 8, 2017, that provided the first interpretation by the court of minimum price as it relates to real estate. The court then went a step farther and provided procedural guidance on the order of public meetings and executive sessions when discussing minimum price. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Superior Court for a new decision based on that interpretation.
The port analyzed the Supreme Court’s decision carefully and has concluded that at least one of the executive sessions held between March and July 2013 does not comply with the new interpretation of the OPMA.
“We were acting in good faith and believed we were complying with the law when we held these executive sessions in 2013,” said port CEO Julianna Marler. “But we now have, for the first time, interpretation and guidance from the courts on the timing of public meetings and executive sessions.
“Based on this new information, we have asked the Superior Court for a final determination on the executive sessions in question. We believe this is the right thing to do from a transparency and public stewardship standpoint, and we hope to resolve the case by the end of the year.”
If granted, summary judgment would not affect the validity of the Vancouver Energy lease. The port fully retraced its steps in compliance with the OPMA when the commission approved the lease during a public meeting in October 2013.
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The Port of Vancouver USA is one of the major ports on the Pacific Coast, and its competitive strengths include available land, versatile cargo handling capabilities, vast transportation networks, a skilled labor force and an exceptional level of service to its customers and community. For more information, please visit us at www.portvanusa.com.