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Posts Tagged ‘Bainbridge government’

Mayor Anne Blair is recovering from heart surgery today in a Spokane hospital after falling ill while on vacation. We are sending our prayers and thoughts for a complete and quick recovery to Anne and family. Here is the press release sent out by her family. 

On July 15, 2015, Anne Blair had heart bypass surgery at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington. Anne was vacationing in the Spokane region with family when she experienced chest tightness and shortness of breath. While Anne did not have a heart attack, doctors determined that she needed bypass surgery to eliminate some blockages in her heart and help prevent future problems.

“By all reports, the surgery went very well. The surgeon said she looks like she’s 10 years younger than she is,” said daughter Jessica. “We hope for and expect a speedy and full recovery.”

As expected after open heart surgery, Anne remains in critical condition and in intensive care. She will convalesce at Sacred Heart Hospital over the next several days before returning to Bainbridge Island early next week. From there, doctors anticipate that she will need a full month of recovery before returning to work. “Mom’s always been committed to her work. Letting that go for a few weeks may be as hard on her as the surgery,” joked Jessica.

“To say that all of us were all surprised by this would be an understatement,” said husband Wayne. “She’s been a fairly healthy eater, walks regularly and hasn’t had any health issues. It is a good lesson for others to take symptoms of potential heart problems seriously.”

During Anne’s absence from the City Council, please direct any pressing business to City Manager, Doug Schulze, Deputy Mayor Mike Scott, or Councilmember Val Tollefson.

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Last week, Council member Steven Bonkowski sent a letter to the press, trying to rehabilitate his reputation after his unlawful and costly violations of the Public Records Act. We sent the letter below to the Bainbridge City Council, the City Manager and the City Attorney. 

Dear Council, Mr. Schulze, and Ms. Marshall:

We read Steven Bonkowski’s letter to Inside Bainbridge this week, in which he attempts to re-litigate arguments he lost in court. His false statements are so significant that we think it’s important to correct them in writing. We also want to express our alarm that as a sitting member of the Bainbridge City Council, Mr. Bonkowski continues to substitute his own incorrect interpretation of the law for the judgment of two courts, suggesting that he is within his rights to continue the unlawful behavior that has cost the city so much money.

The following are false statements by Mr. Bonkowski:

Bonkowski: “I want the community to know that I did not conduct city business from my private email account, and I did turn over my emails to the city in a timely manner for the public records request.”

The facts: Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton held that the documents we sought were “related to the financial information that Mr. Bonkowski discussed at the June 5, 2013 meeting, and thus do come within the realm of ‘public records.’” In fact, when Judge Dalton discussed Mr. Bonkowski’s flawed reasoning in determining what constitutes a public record, she wrote the criticism that has been so often repeated in the press: “The Council members knew well what the Governance Manual requires, and any hesitation by them in turning over such emails is a grave concern for the people of Bainbridge Island.”

Moreover, Mr. Bonkowski did not turn over his emails in a timely manner, because, as Judge Dalton found, he “admitted to deleting records that were responsive to the PRA requests.”

The Court of Appeals supported Judge Dalton’s positions, writing that Bonkowski and Ward “undisputedly violated the Governance Manual by using their personal accounts for city business, by failing to forward emails received on their personal accounts to City servers, and by deleting emails which constituted public records, thus making it impossible for the City to adequately respond to Paulson and Fortner’s PRA requests.” (more…)

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Bainbridge City Council member and Deputy Mayor Val Tollefson wrote a letter to the editor, published on Inside Bainbridge yesterday, expressing his views on our lawsuit and the core importance of open government. It’s a welcome public statement from someone who was not on the Council when we filed the suit. As one of the plaintiffs, I can confirm his statement that “this suit could have been settled much earlier and cheaper but for the insistence but for the insistence by the involved Councilmembers that their Constitutional right to privacy was paramount to their obligation to the City.” I also agree with the the other views he expressed in this letter, particularly the importance of transparency in government.

Bainbridge Island recently settled a lawsuit brought by two of our citizens claiming that the City violated the Washington Public Records Act. The suit involved delays and ultimately failure of two members of the Council to produce email messages that they had received concerning City business on their personal email accounts. This suit was a very expensive lesson. The money spent should have been used for a constructive purpose for our City. Since the taxpayers won’t see any tangible benefit from these tax dollars, they are at least entitled to some comment. So here goes:

  1. The use of personal email accounts for City business was against City policy. This suit demonstrated clearly the problems that can result, and the City has tightened procedures to ensure that everyone doing business on behalf of the City has access to and knows they must use a City email account.
  2. This suit could have been settled much earlier and cheaper but for the insistence by the involved Councilmembers that their Constitutional right to privacy was paramount to their obligation to the City. I will ask the Council to take steps to ensure that Councilmembers agree that service to the City requires a reasonable limitation on that claim to privacy.
  3. Compliance with the Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act are at the core of the City’s obligation to provide good, transparent service to the community. The citizens who brought this recent lawsuit performed an invaluable service to the community at great personal expense. Bob Fortner and Althea Paulson should be thanked for insisting that the City be held to account.

—Val Tollefson City Council, North Ward

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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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The following article of mine was published by Inside Bainbridge on July 18, 2013. I am re-publishing it here to have it archived on my blog.

Documents released by the city pursuant to a public records request reveal that Arlene Buetow, Central Ward City Council candidate, lobbied four members of the Council at their private e-mail addresses on behalf of her homeowners’ association. Shortly after she sent three e-mails to the four requesting an exemption from the city’s business licensing requirements, Councilmember Dave Ward made a motion to do just that at a regularly scheduled council meeting.

On April 14, Buetow sent an e-mail to the personal e-mail addresses of Councilmembers Steven Bonkowski, Sarah Blossom, Debbi Lester, and Ward—who constitute a quorum of the Council—attaching a memo explaining her objections to a recently adopted ordinance that included homeowners’ associations among those entities that must obtain a business license. Buetow, who identified herself as president of the Tiffany Meadows Homeowners’ Association, said the license requirement subjected homeowners’ associations (HOAs) to “superfluous and unnecessary staff review.” She argued that the Council never meant to include HOAs in its ordinance.

On April 15, she sent another message to the four Councilmembers at their personal e-mails, writing, “Dave Ward asked me to provide details on the timing of this Ordinance through Council and how that relates to the Notice being sent out to the ‘affected parties.’” She attached portions of previous Council minutes at which the licensing provisions were considered and adopted.

Although I submitted a Public Records Act request for Councilmembers’ e-mail records, as of July 17 I had received no records showing how Ward communicated his request to Buetow. In fact, I have not received any e-mails from Bonkowski, Lester, or Ward on the topic of the HOA business licensing provision. (more…)

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If you’ve seen enough drama at City Hall this year, Pay Attention. If you want the Council to deliver on promises to quiet the turmoil, Speak Up.

Interim city manager candidate Michael Caldwell has been clear that he sees no reason to calm the turbulence at City Hall. His interview answers directly oppose earlier Council assurances on that subject.

At several meetings in March, Council member Steven Bonkowski, speaking on behalf of the ad hoc city manager search committee, promised that no more changes are in store for City Hall until a permanent city manager is hired.

At the March 21 meeting, Bonkowski emphasized that the Council’s philosophy during the transition to a new permanent city manager would be stability and avoidance of conflict. He took pains to assure city management in the legal, planning, finance, public works and police departments that they will continue in their roles. Changes may come, he added, once a new city manager is in place, but won’t occur now.

He repeated those assurances at the March 30 meeting, promising that in its search for an interim city manager, the city isn’t looking for a “change agent.”

But here’s that promise in action at last week’s Council meeting, while the Council was interviewing Mike Caldwell. Caldwell is the only candidate under consideration for Interim City Manager other than Acting City Manager Morgan Smith (whose experience has been found wanting by members of the ad hoc committee): (more…)

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