Freeholders vow to follow 'spirit' of Open Meetings Act

"The Kitsap County Board of Freeholders Tuesday passed a resolution to exceed both the spirit and letter of the state Open Meetings Act, and ensure public participation in all freeholder committee meetings.The resolution presumably ends a month-long controversy for the freeholders, who were advised in early January that the Open Meetings Act did not require them to allow public access to, or press notification of, committee meetings. After considerable parliamentary wrangling, freeholder Karl Duff submitted a resolution declaring that All citizens of Kitsap County are invited to attend all meetings of the Board of Free-holders and its committees. The resolution passed unanimously.We intend not only to obey all the requirements of the state Open Meetings Act but we intend to go beyond it, to the spirit of the law ... including non-quorum subcommittee meetings, said Duff, who represents South Kitsap on the 21-member board.At a previous meeting, freeholders narrowly voted down an amendment to their by-laws that also would have declared all committee meetings open to the public and required freeholders to notify media outlets at least 24 hours prior to any such meeting. Duff's resolution declared that the freeholders always have recognized that open participation by the citizens of Kitsap County is absolutely essential for public confidence. It also said area news outlets have inaccurately indicated the purposes and policies of the Board.Most of the 18 freeholders present - Gordon Walgren, Leif Bentsen and Rob MacDermid were absent - expressed exasperation about the open meetings issue.I have a very strong desire to get over this thing about open meetings and providing information, said freeholder DeWayne Boyd, a former Bremerton School District superintendent who lives in Illahee. This is the third meeting we've spent on this and we're in danger of wasting more time on it.It's such a non-issue that we've made such a big deal of, added freeholder Jim Avery of Manchester, who also is the county assessor.The 21-member board of freeholders was elected in November to write a new charter for Kitsap County. They have until June 2002 to complete the task, after which the completed charter would go before voters for final approval.The freeholders' next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue fire station on Silverdale Way. "

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