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Judge: UW Trustees' Private Dinners Violated Open Meetings Laws

Kyle Stokes
Drumheller Fountain on the University of Washington campus.

For nearly three years, members of the University of Washington's top governing board regularly violated state public meetings laws by discussing official business during private dinners, a King County judge ruled Friday.

The UW Board of Regents discussed official business during 24 of these "dinner meetings," held at the home of the school's president, between January 2012 and September 2014, according to an order from Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen.

But the judge's decision did not include the sanctions some activists had wanted.

A group opposed to UW's construction of an underground animal testing lab — the subject of a November 13, 2013 dinner meeting — filed the open meetings case. They hoped the finding of a violation of Washington's Open Public Meetings Act would halt construction of the facility.

Inveen's decision said regents had sufficiently re-hashed their private discussions during their actual meeting, so construction of the lab will move forward.

But plaintiff Amanda Schemkes, a Seattle University law student, UW graduate and leader of a protest against the lab, said the ruling still ought to raise public concerns about the Regents.

“The public meeting I and others attended was a sham, a performance intended to ratify what had already been decided behind closed doors, while maintaining the appearance of openness,” Schemkes wrote in a statement.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.