by Jack Mayne A door that has been locked every night at 9 p.m. since 2009 caused two Burien City Council members to walk out of Monday night’s (April 20) meeting because citizens might not have easy access to the City Hall chambers. It is part of a deal with the partners that own the building, and an agreement with the King County Library system says the outside doors from the main floor lobby are locked every night when the library closes, said City Manager Kamuron Gurol after a mid-evening recess. Signs tell late comers to call a telephone number “or knock.” “We put up signs on either door so that if a member of the public wants to come into the meeting, we open a door here so we hear a knock or take a telephone call from someone who wanted to enter the meeting so they have access to this meeting,” he said. “We will make sure than anyone who wants to come in has the ability to come in to participate.” LaurenBerkowitz042015Berkowitz said she was under the impression that the signs were removed and the doors unlocked. “Is that incorrect?” she asked. “Are the doors still locked?” “The doors are still locked,” Gurol said. “At this time I feel that it is an unlawful restriction on access to the meeting,” she said. “It requires someone to have cellphones. There is no way I can hear a knock, I don’t believe that hearing a knock is something that can be relied on,” Berkowitz said. “It also could cost money to have minutes to use on their cell phones, if they have cellphones.” Here’s a Tweet sent out by Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz at 9:36 p.m.:

Berkowitz says she’ll go “At this point, unless the doors are unlocked, I will personally leave this meeting because I feel it is in violation of the open public meeting act. Each one of us is personally liable …” Berkowitz said. Councilmember Gerald Robison said he had the same questions as Berkowitz. “Does this mean the doors are locked now? And they are automatically locked at 9 o’clock every time we show up here?” he asked. Gurol said that it has been that way as a “matter of course” for the year he has been city manager. He said the signs were put up to be sure that people who might want to attend the meeting, who come in late, “can, in fact, get into the meeting.” “We do have people that are near the doorways that can listen to that and make sure that anyone who wants to gain entrance to the building can come into the building. The doors are locked because they automatically lock and because we don’t have anybody out in the lobby to monitor that lobby area.” That is not a problem during normal library hours because library staff people are watching the lobby and the lavatories, he said. “Let people come in to attend the meeting, but the rest of the building isn’t open after 9 o’clock,” Gurol said. Heard for first time Robison said he does not have concerns about the open meeting act with the actions that have been taken, but wanted to get the opinion of the interim city attorney. “But I am very concerned that this is the first time I’ve heard this,” Robison said. “One of the concerns is that somebody steps out for a cigarette or just to talk without being overheard by everybody else on their phone and then they can’t get back into the building. “It just seems this is quite a restriction on the real estate – it just bugs me that this is the first we learn about it as a Council and it feeds into my continuing distrust of the library and the way they handle things – why are we subject to the library’s decision that they are going to shut the doors at 9 o’clock when they close?” Gurol it is has been part of the protocol since he has been in Burien and long before that. “I am sorry that some Council member, maybe all the Council members were not aware of it,” the city manager said, adding that they are taking care to allow people to step out and return to the meeting. Berkowitz cited the state public meetings act about attendance. “A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a governing body, to register his or her name and other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance,” says the state law. Leaves no room “That does not leave any room for you to say whether or not a condition is reasonable. Under that, I will be leaving this meeting unless the doors are unlocked immediately. I did not have any knowledge that this was happening, I had no knowledge that this was happening before tonight; I believe this is a violation of the open public meeting act.” Berkowitz said she went into the lobby to use the restroom after 9 p.m. and saw someone knocking for entry and she let them in, adding that if she had not been in the lobby area, no one would have been available to let the person in. She moved to adjourn the meeting even though Gurol thought the locked doors were not a condition of attendance and therefore a violation of law. Robison seconded the motion but the Council voted 4 to 3 not to adjourn. Voting to adjourn were Councilmembers Berkowitz, Robison and Bob Edgar, and to stay in session were Mayor Krakowiak, Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta, and Councilmembers Steve Armstrong and Debi Wagner. Berkowitz said it was her duty to leave the meeting and she left the chambers. [caption id="attachment_85155" align="alignright" width="250"]AttorneyRobertFNoe042015 City Attorney Robert F. Noe.[/caption] Attorney wants time Robison asked Interim City Attorney Robert F. Noe if the note on the door and someone listening for a knock was “sufficient to comply with the open public meetings act.” Noe said there needed to be some time to look at the problem. “I think, in general, that the open public meeting act would require that the meeting be open and accessible as a general matter, but there are exceptions for purposes of safety … I think we need to look into it more.” Robison said, “based on that lack of clear guidance, I feel I am going to have to join the other Councilmember in leaving the meeting at this point.” Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta repeated an earlier suggestion to prop the door open so the meeting was accessible, prompting Robison to ask if that would violate the agreement with the library. “It’s possible,” he said, adding it would violate his personal agreement to lock the doors. Councilmember Steve Armstrong said the Council gets “bogged down in some of this stuff and we don’t seem to move forward…” Library bond issue This all came about through a partnership between the King County Library System and the City of Burien. Ralph Nichols wrote in The B-Town Blog in 2009:
“The new Burien Library occupies the lower two floors and the new city hall is located on the third floor. The $18 million library was funded as part of the $172 million library capital bond approved by voters in 2004 to finance major improvement projects at all KCLS libraries. The new library includes more books, music, movies, magazines, computers, space for children and teens, and community meeting space. “On the top floor the City has its offices, work areas, conference rooms and a large public lobby. A large meeting room on the first floor will be used by both the library and the City for large meetings and will serve as the City Council Chambers.”