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Posts Tagged ‘Dave Ward’

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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imagesUpdated at the end of the post:

Denise Garcia, the tireless and awesome Bainbridge ambassador to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense-WA, sent a note this morning about last night’s city council action on a resolution to support I-594.

“Just a quick email to let you all know about last night’s vote,” she wrote. “We had about a dozen Moms members in the chamber and two of us spoke.

“The council voted 6-1 to approve the resolution supporting I-594! Dave Ward’s was the lone dissenting vote. Bainbridge Island now officially joins Mercer Island in this important endorsement!”

Garcia quoted Mayor Anne Blair as saying, “Please extend my appreciation to the whole crew of folks who support this effort and encouraged, urged, pushed and cheered us on as we voted last night. Onward we go – now to get voters across the state to follow this pattern!” (more…)

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Last August, we filed a Public Records Act lawsuit against the City of Bainbridge Island and certain individual councilpersons, after learning they had been conducting City business from their personal email accounts, and had failed to produce these records after receiving our public records request.

As we said in our press release at the time, “The last thing we want to do is sue the city….But the way the Public Records Act is written, we have to sue the city in order to require rogue officials to obey the law.”

We have tried to make clear throughout this litigation that our primary concern was not with individuals on the City’s staff, whom we had found to be cooperative and professional. It was unlawful activity by the councilpersons that troubled us, because they have consistently placed themselves above the law and have refused to turn over public records. Council members Dave Ward and Steven Bonkowski have admitted under oath that they deleted emails concerning City business, relying upon their own personal definition of what constitutes a public record, and without seeking advice from the City. In doing so, they ignored guidelines that were provided to them on multiple occasions.

In a 32-page decision issued May 29th, Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeannette Dalton agreed with us, finding that the councilpersons’ refusal to turn over the records was of “grave concern for the people of Bainbridge Island.” Judge Dalton found that the City failed to do an adequate search for the requested records as required by law, because even after the City knew the council members were conducting City business on their personal accounts, it did not make any effort to search those accounts. She ruled that the City violated the Public Records Act and ordered the City to pay our attorneys fees and sanctions for the violations.

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Today, the New York Times has a story about a report on climate change just released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest non-governmental general science membership organization.

AAAS convened a task force of climate science experts, economists, community leaders and policy makers for its “What We Know” Initiative, to address the continuing lack of public awareness of the full spectrum of climate risks. Scientists from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Woods Hole and other research institutions are guiding the effort to educate people about the scientific evidence on climate change, raise the alarm about serious risks and consequences to the planet, and debunk myths and misinformation.

The report contains no new science. Instead, it is clearer and “more accessible than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date,” the Times writes. The initiative is intended to cut through public confusion, and identify:

The Reality–Surveys show that the public is somewhat concerned about climate change, but believes there is still significant scientific disagreement about the causes. This is FALSE. According to AAAS, “Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.”

The Risk–AAAS writes: “Earth’s climate is on a path to warm beyond the range of what has been experienced over the past millions of years. The range of uncertainty for the warming along the current emissions path is wide enough to encompass massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems: as global temperatures rise, there is a real risk, however small, that one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes.”

Worst case forecasts include severe food shortages, rising seas that would inundate coastlines, extreme heat waves, droughts and floods, and massive extinction of plants and animals.  (more…)

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trick-or-vote-graveyardI’m now sending daily nag-texts to my three 20-something sons to vote and mail their ballots. Like most Americans, they’re not much interested in local elections, even though the government decisions that affect us most directly are made at the local level.

For the past decade, the turnout on Bainbridge in local elections has been in the neighborhood of 40%. By contrast, the island’s turnout for the 2008 presidential election was over 90% in many precincts.

Low turnout can happen when voters don’t think their vote will have much consequence. Several council candidates in the past were unopposed. Christine Rolfes and Bob Scales walked on in 2003. Hilary Franz and Barry Peters were unopposed in 2007.

Most races hand the winner a convincing victory. The closest race in the past two cycles was the 2009 matchup between Bob Scales and Debbie Vancil. Scales took the race with 250 votes, which was a two percentage point advantage.

The Anne Blair/Melanie Keenan race was the most lopsided win in the past two races, with Blair garnering 1389 more votes than Keenan, beating her by 16 percentage points.

Turnout was lower in 2011 than it was in 2009. The numbers vary slightly by Council race, but in 2009, the Kirsten Hytopoulos/Tim Jacobsen race gained the most votes at 9959. In 2011, the most votes were cast in the Barry Peters/Steven Bonkowski matchup, with 9173 votes cast.

The year 2011 was also when the island saw the emergence of a special interest group promoting a slate of candidates. The Ratepayers Alliance rallied voters in Winslow, many of whom were angry over high water rates charged by the City. The Alliance was in litigation with the City and its members had urged that the City divest itself of the water utility.

Sally Adams, Alliance secretary, hosted at least one campaign event (to which I was invited, and still have the invitation) for the slate of Sarah Blossom, Dave Ward and Steven Bonkowski.  According to state campaign finance records, Sally Adams and Dick Allen (president of the Alliance) made contributions to Blossom’s campaign. Allen also contributed to Ward’s campaign. At the time that Allen made his contribution to Ward’s campaign, Ward was a member of the City’s Utility Advisory Committee, which was working on its recommendation to Council on whether to divest the City’s water utility.  (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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