WA Redistricting Commission to Pay Fines and Court Costs | United States government and politics
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington’s redistricting commission will pay fines and legal costs of more than $137,000 to settle two lawsuits filed by government transparency watchdogs after redistricting talks last year ended in chaos and deception.
The four members of the redistricting commission and the nonpartisan chairman will each pay $500 fines and undergo training on the open meeting law.
And the commission has agreed to pay $120,000 to cover legal fees for the Washington Coalition for Open Government and an additional $15,000 for legal fees for transparency activist Arthur West after admitting its members violated the law. on the state’s open public meetings, the Seattle Times reported.
Under a proposed consent decree announced Wednesday, the commission also promised reforms to prevent a repeat of the illegal conduct that took place during final negotiations last year over new maps of Congress and legislative districts. of State.
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The consent decree is subject to final approval by a Thurston County judge. This will not cancel or alter the policy maps belatedly agreed by the commission, which will be in place for the next 10 years.
The terms of the settlement were welcomed Wednesday by open government advocates who filed the lawsuits. In exchange for the promised reforms, the plaintiffs dropped their request for the courts to invalidate the final agreement on the commission’s map.
“This consent decree ensures that the next time redistricting maps are drawn, people will know what is going to be approved in advance, and the commission will not be free to produce final maps in a secret meeting in Hampton Motor Inn Party Hall. in the wee hours of the morning,” West said in an emailed statement.
West was referring to the chaos that secured the race for the bipartisan commission to try to meet the midnight Nov. 15 legal deadline to vote on new maps once a decade, she called an online town hall meeting at 7 p.m.
The four polling commissioners – Democrats April Sims and Brady Walkinshaw and Republicans Joe Fain and Paul Graves – disappeared from public view for much of the next five hours as they tried to reach final agreements at a hotel. of Federal Way.
The commissioners reappeared just before midnight to conduct rush votes on ostensible final card offers that have not been publicly displayed. The next day, commission members admitted that they had in fact failed to reach a final agreement by the legal deadline, meaning the cards ended up in the state Supreme Court.
In December, the High Court declined to exercise its authority to draw its own maps, deferring to the agreement forged by the two Democrat and two Republican commissioners, who were appointed by the legislative caucus leaders.
In a press release, the redistricting commission said the settlement “will resolve the dispute and preserve the validity of the maps the Commission has developed for the legislative and congressional districts of this decade.”
The commission has pledged in the future never to call a public meeting and then take time off to speak privately, except for matters that are allowed to be discussed in executive sessions behind closed doors. He also agreed that commissioners would not vote on final redistricting plans or frameworks in private and would make the final maps available to the public before voting on them.
These promises of greater transparency will apply to the next redistricting commission, which will be appointed in 10 years, following the 2030 census.
For additional copyright information, see the distributor of this article, The Seattle Times.