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Judge rules UW Board of Regents’ private dinner parties discussing public agenda are open to all

IMAGE: Amanda Schemkes (right) and activists from Don't Expand UW Primate Testing share a laugh shortly after winning their case. In a King County Superior Courtroom activists from Don't Expand UW Primate Testing are suing the University of Washington Board of Regents for violating the state's Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) in Seattle, Wash. on April 24, 2015. The group led by Seattle University law student Amanda Schemkes alleged the UW was discussing official business at the Board's private dinner meetings held the night before public meetings at the residence of the UW President. They cited this happened 24 times since 2012. Of particular concern to the group was a dinner meeting held in November 2013 where the Board decided to build a new Animal Research and Care Facility without public input. Judge Laura Inveen ruled in their favor. (© Karen Ducey Photography)
April 24, 2015
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Seattle, WA – In a King County Superior Courtroom today, activists from Don’t Expand UW Primate Testing won a lawsuit against the University of Washington Board of Regents accusing them of violating the state’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).

The group led by Seattle University law student Amanda Schemkes alleged the UW was discussing official business at the Board’s private dinner meetings held the night before public meetings at the residence of the UW President. They cited this happened 24 times since 2012. Of particular concern to the group was a dinner meeting held in November 2013 where the Board decided to build a new Animal Research and Care Facility without public input.

Judge Laura Inveen ruled in their favor saying from the university’s website it was difficult to know dinner party meetings occurred and that they looked like a social event, not a public meeting. Curious she personally tried to find the President’s address online and couldn’t.  “A reasonable person would not find this to be an open meeting.” she said.

Lawyer Claire Tonry for Don’t Expand UW Primate Testing,  said the ruling would have broad implications for university governance statewide. “The university is not unique in this regard,” she said. “Five of six of the state universities hold dinner meetings before their regular meetings.”

The state’s Open Public Meeting Law is among the strongest in the country.” The statute by the Supreme Court makes it explicit that its purposes is to “guarantee public access to, and participation in, the activities of their representative agencies.” said Tonry.

A large demonstration protesting the building of the new lab is being held tomorrow at 2pm in Red Square on the University of Washington campus.

The lab is expected to hold hundreds more animals to be used in scientific research.

IMAGE: Construction on the University of Washington Animal Research and Care Facility on April 24, 2015. ((© Karen Ducey/ AnimalsNorthwest.com

IMAGE: Construction on the University of Washington Animal Research and Care Facility on April 24, 2015. ((© Karen Ducey/ AnimalsNorthwest.com

 

IMAGE: IMAGE: Construction on the University of Washington Animal Research and Care Facility on April 24, 2015. ((© Karen Ducey/ AnimalsNorthwest.com

Construction on the University of Washington Animal Research and Care Facility on April 24, 2015. ((© Karen Ducey/ AnimalsNorthwest.com

 

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