How you interact with the Board of County Councilors depends on the board’s legal role in a particular issue. The board has two principal functions, and those functions determine the type of input citizens may provide. These functions affect what the board can or cannot do and bind the board to considering issues in specific ways.
Sometimes the law limits the board to considering an issue only in a public meeting. By law, this precludes public comments and individual board members having direct contact with interested parties. These limits are not set by the board, but are binding requirements of the law.
With that in mind, here are the two principal board roles and legalities that come into play regarding citizen participation.
When the board adopts resolutions or ordinances, it is carrying out its legislative, or law-making, function. Board actions such as adopting zoning codes, the biennial budget and leash laws fall within its legislative function. To take legislative action, the board must hold a public hearing and allow public comments.
How to participate: In addition to testifying at the public hearing, either orally or in written comment, you may contact county councilors directly. There are no legal restrictions about phoning them or writing them individually about an issue they will decide in a public hearing. The councilors can be reached at (360) 397-2232)
Work Sessions and Board Time
For issues such as roads and social services, councilors usually discuss policy with and give direction to county staff in work sessions and Board Time. These meetings, which typically take place on Wednesdays, are open to the public.
How to participate: Although the councilors are not legally required to seek citizen input at their work sessions or Board Time, they sometimes use ask for comments from people in attendance. These sessions are an opportunity to learn more about an issue and could be an chance to share your thoughts.
The board acts in a quasi-judicial role when it examines whether a law was applied correctly in a particular decision. This usually deals with the appeal of a decision made by a land-use hearings examiner regarding a development proposal. In its quasi-judicial role, the board is limited to determining whether the hearings examiner was in error based on the evidence provided to the examiner. The board is not deciding the case over again. The board makes its decisions on such appeals at public meetings.
How to participate: Legal restrictions limit the input councilors may recieve at an official public meeting when the board is to make a quasi-judicial decision. The board may not receive new information about the issue. Only arguments dealing with whether the original decision was or wasn’t in error, based on the evidence available at the time, are allowed. Those arguments must be provided in writing, in advance. By law, no comments are allowed at the public meeting itself. This means that for you to have input on an issue that might be appealed, you should get involved early in the process. Citizens have opportunity for input at the hearings examiner level. But once an issue is appealed to the board, fewer opportunities exist.
- Public hearing: Citizens may provide written or oral comments.
- Public meeting: By law, citizens may not provide oral comments. However, citizens may submit written comments prior to the meeting addressing whether errors were made in the case under review.