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Posts Tagged ‘Doug Schulze’

The City has sent out the following press release about last night’s Council decisions on next steps in the process to develop the Suzuki process:

The Bainbridge Island City Council has established a path to move forward with the development of the Suzuki Property, including completing an ecological study of the property and identifying a development team, the Olympic Property Group, to begin negotiating a development agreement.

At their Regular Business Meeting on March 23, the City Council laid out a path to move forward with an ecological study of the Suzuki Property. The citizen advisory Environmental Technical Advisory Committee (ETAC) will work with City staff to identify information already available regarding the property, and will identify additional information needed to establish an ecological baseline for the site. Once the additional information needed has been identified, ETAC will make a recommendation to the City Council as to the best path moving forward to gather the identified information.

The Council also voted to direct the City Manager to move forward with negotiating a development agreement with the Olympic Property Group. During their next meeting on Tuesday, April 12, the City Council will discuss the scope and parameters that will inform the City Manager during these negotiations. The exact details of the development contract including requirements for affordable housing, types of community amenities, etc., will be decided during these negotiations. All Councilmembers have already expressed a strong desire that the developer be required to carry out an extensive public engagement process as a condition of the development agreement.

 

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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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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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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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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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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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