The hearing will be held at the time and place stated in the notice of hearing. The notice of hearing is sent to potentially interested parties and publicized in accordance with the procedures stated in the municipal code. In addition, each notice of hearing is posted on the Hearing Examiner's home page, under the link entitled Notices of Hearing. Clicking on this link will allow you to view or print a copy of any posted notice of hearing. The Hearings Calendar will also state the time and place for pending hearings.
Most hearings will be held in City Hall, either in Conference Room 2B (second floor) or in the Council Briefing Center (lower level). On some occasions, the City Council Chambers will be utilized to conduct a public hearing, typically when it is anticipated that a larger room is needed. Some hearings are held off-site as well, such as forfeiture hearings. The notice of hearing should be consulted to ensure that you obtain accurate information about the time and place for an upcoming hearing. If there are questions about the schedule or location for a hearing, you can also call the Hearing Examiner's office for more information.
Yes, in appropriate cases. Changing the hearing date to a later date is commonly referred to as a “continuance.” The proper method to obtain a continuance is to submit a “request for a continuance” to the Hearing Examiner's office. Such requests should be made in writing. The requesting party should clearly state the reasons that support the granting of a continuance. Requests for continuance are not automatically or routinely granted. The Hearing Examiner has broad discretion in deciding whether or not to defer a public hearing. Further, the Hearing Examiner will commonly invite other interested parties (e.g. the respondent in an appeal) to either consent or object to a request for a continuance. Generally, the Hearing Examiner will only reschedule the hearing when there is reasonable justification for doing so, and there is no apparent prejudice to the other interested parties arising from a deferral of the public hearing. A request for continuance will not be granted when a deferral will result in violation of a hearing deadline established by law.
The Hearing Examiner conducts two kinds of public hearings: (1) hearings on applications; and (2) hearings on appeals. Both types of hearings are open to public observation. However, who may participate in the hearing depends upon the type of hearing being conducted. In a hearing on an application, any member of the public can submit evidence and offer testimony either for or against an application. In a hearing on an appeal, by contrast, only the parties to the appeal can participate in the hearing. The parties to the appeal include the appellant, the applicant (if not already included as the appellant), and the respondent (usually a city department). Any witnesses allowed during the appeal hearing must be called to testify by a party to the appeal. In an appeal hearing, members of the public are generally not allowed to submit arguments, offer testimony, or otherwise participate in the appeal.
Yes. To ensure impartiality and fairness in the decision-making process, the Hearing Examiner is prohibited from engaging in “ex parte” contacts. An ex parte contact is a communication with only one party to a case, outside the presence or without the involvement of the other party. A neutral decision-maker, like the Hearing Examiner or an administrative law judge, cannot discuss the substance of a quasi-judicial matter with only one party or with only selected parties. Therefore, all discussions about the substance of a case should take place in the public hearing itself. This ensures all interested parties are fully informed as to the matters to be considered by the Hearing Examiner, as well as have the opportunity to address any comments, questions, or evidence presented. The rule against ex parte contacts is intended to prevent anyone from attempting to influence the outcome of a case through private communications with the decision-maker. In other words, the discussion of a case should take place in the open, and be subject to the scrutiny of anyone who could be affected by the decision.
It should be noted that the rule against ex parte contacts does not prevent communications on purely procedural questions. Even so, because the distinction between substantive and procedural questions is often unclear, inquiries to the Hearing Examiner's office will first be reviewed by the Hearing Examiner's staff, to safeguard against inadvertent violations of the rule.
The Hearing Examiner's office can answer procedural questions, explain the process, and describe how hearings usually run and what to expect. The Hearing Examiner's office cannot assist with, or give advice on how to put together your presentation, what questions to ask witnesses, whom to select as a witness, whether to get a lawyer to help, or with similar questions, because providing such advice or assistance could be interpreted as advocating for your position or giving legal advice.
During a hearing, you can raise procedural questions to the Hearing Examiner. Before and after a hearing, such questions should be submitted to the Hearing Examiner's staff, rather than directly to the Hearing Examiner. This is necessary to avoid violating the prohibition on communicating with the Hearing Examiner outside the actual hearing. As discussed above, such communications are referred to as ex parte contacts and are prohibited by law.
The length of a public hearing can vary greatly depending upon the circumstances of a particular case. There is no predetermined minimum or maximum length for a public hearing. The length of a public hearing is primarily determined by the complexity of the issues involved and the number of participants. A public hearing will usually take at least one hour to complete. In an uncontroversial case, it is not uncommon for the hearing to be completed in 1-2 hours. If there are a large number of individuals present to comment on a proposal, or a significant number of participants or witnesses to provide testimony or argument, a public hearing can take a day or more to complete. In some cases, the hearing can take place over multiple days.
The time frame for the issuance of the Hearing Examiner's decision varies depending upon the type of decision being made. The Hearing Examiner will state the anticipated time frame for a decision during the introductory remarks at the public hearing. That being said, in the vast majority of cases, the Hearing Examiner's decision will be issued within ten working days of the conclusion of the public hearing, pursuant to the municipal code. If the Hearing Examiner decides to hold the record open for a period of time after the conclusion of the hearing, to receive additional evidence, documentation or arguments, the Hearing Examiner's decision will be issued within ten working days of the closure of the record of the case.
The decision will be mailed or emailed: (1) to the appellant/applicant and any designated agent of the appellant/applicant; (2) to the respondent and any designated agent of the respondent; (3) to all parties of record; and (4) to any person who specifically requests a copy of the decision. The parties of record include all persons who submitted written comments which are included in the record and all persons who attended the hearing and testified on the matter. Parties that testify will be asked to state their address for notice purposes at the time testimony is offered. In addition, there is a sign-in sheet at each public hearing which includes a space for contact information, for both participants and observers. When written comments are submitted, contact information should be included in those comments for notice purposes. Parties who do not provided the Hearing Examiner's office with an accurate and legible address or email address will not receive a copy of the decision. Finally, it should be noted that the Hearing Examiner's decisions are available online. A link to the Hearing Examiner's decisions is found on the Hearing Examiner's home page, which can be found here.
Yes, an interested party has the option of seeking reconsideration. Pursuant to SMC 17G.050.210, the applicant, an opponent of record, or a City department may request that the Hearing Examiner reconsider a decision. If a party elects to make a request for reconsideration, it must be submitted in writing. In addition, any request for reconsideration must: (a) contain the required information; (b) be accompanied by the applicable fee; and (c) be filed by the reconsideration deadline. The procedures to seek reconsideration are specified in SMC 17G.060.210. Upon receipt of a request for reconsideration, the Hearing Examiner will determine whether or not to change his or her decision.
A properly filed request for reconsideration stops the running of the time period for filing an appeal of the underlying decision. Once the Hearing Examiner has ruled on the properly filed request for reconsideration, the appeal period begins to run anew, and a party who wishes to appeal has a new time period in which to file an appeal. This time period is the same as the underlying time period for filing an appeal. See the following Question concerning appeals.
An interested party is not required to seek reconsideration as a pre-condition to filing an appeal. It is an optional procedure. If an interested party would rather skip this step and simply file an appeal, he or she is free to do so. If a party is successful in persuading the Hearing Examiner to reconsider a decision, the need for an appeal may be eliminated. This assumes that the Hearing Examiner revises his or her decision in a way that is satisfactory to the party seeking reconsideration. However, if the Hearing Examiner declines to reconsider the decision, or makes changes that do not provide the desired relief, then an appeal would still need to be filed in order to challenge the Hearing Examiner's decision.
At the end of the decision, after the Hearing Examiner's signature, there is a paragraph that states the deadline to file an appeal and identifies who will decide the appeal. Most decisions of the Hearing Examiner are appealable to Spokane County Superior Court. A limited number of decisions are appealed to the City Council. It is up to the appealing party to follow the applicable procedures to file the appeal within the time allowed. This typically means that the appealing party will need to review the applicable laws (e.g. state statutes, administrative regulations, local ordinances, etc.) to ensure that the appeal is properly commenced. If an appealing party needs legal advice to pursue an appeal, the appealing party will need to consult with an independent attorney for guidance. The Hearing Examiner's office cannot provide legal advice.
Room 605, City Hall
808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Spokane, WA 99201
Brian T. McGinn
Lee Ann Reid