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Archive for the ‘City Manager’ Category

Islander Bob Seaby submitted this letter, detailing communication he had with City Manager Doug Schulze after Gary Tripp sent out multiple Trippwires about personnel matters at City Hall. These Trippwires leveled unsustained allegations against named employees, misrepresented the facts, and interfered with the confidentiality of the investigation and disciplinary process. 

On Wednesday of this week Gary Tripp via the Bainbridge Defense Fund sent out an e-mail  announcing that COBI had initiated an investigation into the activities of at least one of its employees. Mr. Tripp also stated:The City Manager confirmed to me that the City is investigating [*name deleted] and other employees in the planning, code enforcement and permitting department for wrong doing.” I was concerned that the City Manager had provided this information to Mr. Tripp and I wrote and stated my concerns. Mr. Doug Schulze, the city manager, responded by stating: “Mr. Tripp did not receive any information from me or any City employee.

Mr. Schulze added, “I have not told Mr. Tripp that the investigation was directed at any individual employee. In fact, Mr. Tripp has criticized me for not naming the individual employee”. (more…)

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If you haven’t made up your mind about the City Council races, here’s a roundup of news article that might help:

***Do you want a government that serves only a select group of “customers,” or one that serves an entire community of multiple stakeholders who don’t necessarily agree with each other? Do you want elected officials who will try to shoehorn government into the for-profit business model? Do you want money to take precedence over every other community value? Or do you want officials who know the job of government is efficient, responsive service to the public and to the common good?

Val Tollefson has a long record of public service. Dick Haugan has years of experience in marketing and advertising. This article highlights the differences: Bainbridge candidates bring business and public service approach to dais. 

***Dick Haugan is running on his expertise as a businessman who can solve the City’s “fiscal woes.” But read this article, and you’ll see that Haugan is either math-challenged or honesty-challenged. Then ask yourself how such a person is qualified to run our City: Candidate’s claim on total SMP cost raises questions.

***On the truthfulness of the claim that our City has “fiscal woes,” read this article about its excellent credit rating. Moody’s doesn’t believe T-PAC candidates and your shouldn’t either.

***Read about Wayne Roth, who has been a “key figure in shaping today’s dynamic and successful public radio system” in this article: KUOW’s Wayne Roth, co-founder of SRG, to retire in September. Roth is credited for reinventing National Public Radio, reducing its reliance on federal funds, while strengthening local stations, nurturing careers and increasing participation in minority and rural stations. He’s known for astute management decisions as well as dedicated public service. In 2005, he received the Edward R. Murrow award, public radio’s most prestigious honor. (more…)

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One of the most disturbing charges made by T-PAC candidates is that the City of Bainbridge Island (CoBI) is in financial trouble.

“I believe we have struggled more than most due to 1) an excessively broad scope of services, 2) shrinking revenues, 3) lack of fiscal controls,” Arlene Buetow says on her campaign website.

Dee McComb says tackling budget issues and controlling expenses are a top priority for her.

“The City finances are unsustainable,Dick Haugan told Inside Bainbridge.

“The main reason I’m running is to introduce sound, fiscal management to our city,” he wrote in a Bainbridge Review ad.

“We need to fix this fiscal mess,”  he said in a mailing to shoreline property owners.

Those are serious allegations. But are they true? Not according to Moody’s Investors Service.

This past August, Moody’s assigned an Aa3 rating to CoBI’s general obligation bonds. 

The Aa3 rating means CoBI demonstrates “very strong creditworthiness relative to other US municipal or tax-exempt issuers or issues.”

“The rating primarily reflects the city’s continuing trend of improvement in its financial operations, moderately-sized tax base which has yet to return to growth, and above-average wealth levels of city residents,” Moody’s wrote in its summary rating rationale.

The rating also reflects the city’s strong management team and conservative financial policies.”

Moody’s listed as key strengths CoBI’s strong reserve levels, the trend of structural balance in the last three audited years and its low debt burden. (more…)

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mad-men-elisabeth-moss-3_610The dustup over the keeping of minutes by city committees continues. On July 30, City Manager Doug Schulze sent an email to all city committees and commissions, passing on the advice from the city attorney that they are to conduct themselves as if the state Open Public Meetings Act applies to them. Staff will continue to provide the mandated public notice via the city’s website and distribution lists after receipt of an agenda from the committee chairs. Schulze reiterated current city policy on the taking of minutes, asking committee members take the minutes and provide a copy to the city staff for posting on the city website.

At the end of 2010, citizen committees and commissions were advised that, due to budget constraints, the city could not longer provide staff support for the taking of minutes.

Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) Chair Arlene Buetow responded to Schulze in two emails. The first email expressed disappointment that he had not said in his correspondence that this was a new interpretation of state law.

The second contained an ultimatum: either provide staff support for UAC minute-taking or she will cancel the upcoming UAC meeting.

Arlene Buetow’s emailing habits have already been covered here. But on the subject of minutes, there’s something to be said in her defense.

Women know how often eyes turn to them whenever minute-taking comes up at meetings. Men who might be enlightened and wonderful in other parts of their lives, suddenly come down with a Mad Men style sexism when there are secretarial duties at hand.

The UAC has five members: four men and Arlene Buetow. Come on men. Get off your hands and help her out. Here’s a helpful tip from a couple of male former UAC members who did manage to prepare minutes, while fully participating in meetings: (more…)

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Inflammatory emails released by the city pursuant to a Public Records Act request reveal behind-the-scenes strategizing and advocacy among some Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) members, frequent emails about city business from UAC Chair Arlene Buetow to certain council members’ personal email addresses, testy exchanges between Buetow and City Manager Doug Schulze, and scorching criticisms by Buetow of city staff, UAC colleagues and citizens with whom she did not agree.

Buetow assumed the chairmanship of the UAC in March of 2012 and is now running for Bainbridge city council.

Under her leadership, the UAC’s mission has expanded well beyond the scope of the city’s UAC ordinance. She regularly emailed council persons Sarah Blossom, Steven Bonkowski, David Ward and/or Debbi Lester at their personal email addresses, with extensive comments on utility issues. Those four council persons often vote as a bloc on a variety of contested issues. When they were running for council, Ward, Blossom and Bonkowski were critical of the city’s management of utilities. Their candidacies were supported by the Ratepayers Alliance, a group that sued the city in 2009 over utility issues. Sally Adams, secretary of the Ratepayers Alliance, was occasionally included as a recipient of Buetow emails.

Except for routine matters like scheduling and a thank-you note to Anne Blair, Ms. Buetow did not include council persons Bob Scales, Kirsten Hytopoulos or Anne Blair in the emails produced to me.  (more…)

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On June 5, after an extended break from blogging, I attended a city council meeting to hear discussion about a proposed agreement with Kitsap Public Utility District to manage the city’s water utility. Along with others in council chambers, I watched in disbelief as council member Steven Bonkowski jettisoned the agenda item we’d come to hear and instead made his own presentation about the utility. Although City Manager Doug Schulze was scheduled to discuss the contract, Bonkowski would not allow him to speak to the issues or defend himself from critical remarks Bonkowski made about his work.

Because the unorthodox maneuvering seemed orchestrated with several council colleagues ahead of time, I was curious about the preparation that had gone into Mr. Bonkowski’s presentation. I was particularly interested in the input he had received from the city’s Utility Advisory Committee (UAC). I went to the city’s website to look at UAC minutes, and learned that none had been submitted since October of 2012. As a result, I made requests under the state’s Public Records Act for documents relating to the city’s utilities and the UAC. As the city began producing installments of responsive records, I realized some council persons were receiving a lot (so far, over a hundred) of emails about city business at their private email addresses. I also saw that UAC Chair Arlene Buetow was the author of many of those off-the-grid emails.

I wrote in a previous post about the records I’d received to that point. I’ve also written a piece for Inside Bainbridge, which I’ve posted on Bainbridge Notebook as well. Last week, I posted an article about advice concerning the state Open Public Meetings Act, given at the July 24 council meeting by Interim city attorney Jim Haney.

Contrary to accusations by Buetow supporters, I did not make these records requests to dig up unflattering information on Arlene Buetow, who is currently a Central Ward candidate for city council.

Unfortunately, that is what I found.

Reading these emails has made me heart sick. They reflect a persistent disrespect and hostility toward city staff, citizen volunteers, council persons, the city, the democratic process and even, horrifyingly, the recently deceased.

Some emails reveal violations of city policy and ordinances, if not state law. Others indicate a practice by some of our leaders of communicating privately on important city issues, cutting out the public, and council persons or committee members with whom they do not agree. Most land in a gray area—offensive but not necessarily unethical or illegal. (more…)

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At the June 5 council meeting, councilman Steven Bonkowski tossed aside an item on the agenda to consider whether to enter into an agreement with the Kitsap Public Utility District to manage the city’s water utility. Without any prior notice to the council or the public, Mr. Bonkowski took the podium and made his own presentation concerning water rates and the utility’s reserve. He proffered six motions for council consideration, including cutting water rates by 35% and refunding $3 million of reserves to ratepayers. Mr. Bonkowski took great exception to the analysis contained in a memo from City Manager Doug Schulze, saying it “misrepresents many issues,” and “failed” to respond to various aspects of council’s direction. The Bainbridge Review’s article about it is here. The Inside Bainbridge article, with more detail, is here. 

At the June 19 meeting, the council discussed Bonkowski’s proposals and put the rate reduction on the June 27 agenda. Council member Bob Scales said he may not be available that day and that it was customary for votes on significant issues to be scheduled when all seven council members will be present. Mr. Bonkowski said that the views of each council person were already known and indicated he would add the item to the agenda at the June 27 meeting.

I sent the following email to council today.

Dear Council:

It was discouraging to hear at last week’s council meeting Mr. Bonkowski’s opinion that the presence of dissenting colleagues is unnecessary when the council votes on important water utility decisions. That position is contrary to general principles of democratic process and also appears to violate Section 8.5 of your Governance Manual, which gives dissenting council members the right to state their reasons for dissent on the record.

This is not the only recent violation of good process and best practices by council members, and by citizen committee members appointed by the council majority. I have learned via emails obtained in a public records request, that before Mr. Bonkowski made his June 5th water utility presentation, he obtained help and research from UAC member Eric Turloff. Mr. Turloff’s out-of-view assistance was conducted with the knowledge of UAC Chair Arlene Buetow, and UAC member Jeff Kantor, as well as council member Dave Ward, all three of whom were cc’d on several emails. This is in direct violation of BIMC Ch. 2.33 (which governs the Utility Advisory Committee). That ordinance provides that “The committee shall act in an advisory capacity to the city council…” The ordinance does not allow for a few committee members to act in advisory capacity to a few council members. Rather, the committee must act as a whole to advise the council, also as a whole. Further, section 2.33.060 provides: “Meetings shall be open to the public.” Discussions via email, phone or in person by a quorum of three members of the UAC would be a meeting which was not open to the public, and thus violative of section 2.33.060.  (more…)

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Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began last night at sundown. It marks the commencement of the Days of Awe in the Jewish calendar, a ten-day period of study, self-examination and repentance, ending next week with the holiest day in the Jewish Year, Yom Kippur–the Day of Atonement.

In a holiday filled with beautiful rituals, one of the most mysterious and powerful for me is that of the scapegoat.

On Yom Kippur in ancient Israel, the high priest put his hands on the head of a young goat and confessed over it the sins of all of the people. The goat, burdened by the communal wrongdoings, was led away to wander in the wilderness, never to return to the tribe. The carrier of sins was an “escape goat”, shortened in English to scapegoat.

The scapegoat, along with other rituals for repentance during the Days of Awe, allowed everyone to be cleansed of impurity, to start fresh in the new year.  But the holiday teaches that we cannot be cleansed of our misdeeds through mere substitution of the goat for ourselves. Only after self-examination, a sincere desire to be forgiven, and the resolve to change our ways, can we atone for our failures and shortcomings.

Scapegoats seem to serve a deep human need, for we see them all over the world in every era. In our modern, literal world, the scapegoat signifies an unfair cruelty, and no longer offers a sense of relief and forgiveness. Nevertheless, we continue to find people, nations, and cultures to blame for our own failings. (more…)

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By Bob Fortner

Last year’s Council “fixed” the water utility problems…high rates were reduced to those proposed by the KPUD, overhead was reduced and a trial period was established. The Utility Advisory Committee would review operational data quarterly and report to Council in June 2013.

Without waiting for or seeking operating data, Council members Bonkowski, Ward and Blossom with the support of Mayor Lester are pursuing early re-engagement with KPUD regarding management or ownership of the City’s Water Utility. Using 5 years of financial reports, Bonkowski alludes to data on the other city utilities compared with water to support his contention that all is not right with utility management and therefore the early re-engagement is justified.

Perhaps in his relative newness here, he fails to factor in that the previous Finance Director was dismissed in August of 2010 after 6 years of fiscal obfuscation which contributed to our near bankruptcy. Bonkowski may have found what he believes are discrepancies or a “straw man” to justify divestiture. Basing the reengagement decision on an analysis of those records, without a previous examination of current data, seems inconsistent with his experience in the business world. (more…)

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Emails released under the Public Records Act suggest that Interim City Manager Morgan Smith will put police Chief Jon Fehlman on paid administrative leave as soon as he is well enough to assist in the investigation into the Bainbridge Police Guild’s no confidence vote.

The Guild took a vote of no-confidence in Fehlman’s leadership on June 11, after he’d been out on medical leave for a month due to pancreatitis and a heart condition. He was so ill he could not attend any portion of the Ostling trial in May, even though he was a named defendant in the high profile case involving the shooting death of a mentally ill man by a Bainbridge police officer. A jury determined that Fehlman and the City of Bainbridge Island failed to train its officers in dealing with the mentally ill and returned a $1 million verdict.

Defense lawyers have requested a new trial for Fehlman because of his inability to appear in court and testify in his own defense.

On June 15, Smith engaged lawyer and independent investigator Rebecca Dean to investigate the allegations contained in the vote of no confidence. Dean’s work is expected to take four to six weeks.  (more…)

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