Not wise to give Whatcom County Executive authority to spend up to $250,000, or 15% of contract amount / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Sj Robson

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13 mins  June 29 2016  Sandy Robson

Below, is my public comment on proposed ordinance AB2016-191 that I gave last night during Open Session, at the June 28 County Council meeting. My verbal comment was an abridged version of an email letter I had sent the Council yesterday. For anyone interested, I will post my email letter in the comments under this post.

According to the County’s Action Taken June 28, 2016 record, proposed Ordinance AB2016-191 was “Held in Committee.”

I encourage those who do not think it wise to give the Whatcom County Executive authority to purchase/spend up to $250,000, or 15% of contract amount whichever is greater, without requiring approval from our County Council, to write the Council and voice your opinion as this ordinance is still being considered.
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June 28, 2016 verbal comment:

I’d like to voice my objection to the proposed ordinance (AB2016-191) amending “Whatcom County Code 3.08, Purchasing System.

I ask that the Council reject this proposal.

In the subject line of County Executive Louws’ Memorandum contained in Exhibit A, attached to the Ordinance, it only states “Whatcom County Code 3.08.100.”

It concerns me that while there are certainly amendments proposed in 3.08.100 which are shown in the documents contained in Exhibit A, there are also amendments proposed in section 3.08.090. However, those proposed amendments in 3.08.090, are not noted anywhere in the Memorandum.

So, while the Council has a more discerning eye, and is likely to come across those amendments in reviewing the changes to 3.08, the public may not have realized those proposed changes because 3.08.090 was not referenced anywhere in the Memo.

The Memo alerts readers to the Comparison Table included in Exhibit A showing a brief comparison of Whatcom County to King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. That Comparison Table does not provide important information with which to make a real comparison, such as population figures for all of those 4 counties which can make a big difference.

According to U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts, it estimates the population in King County is 2,117,125, Pierce 843,954, Snohomish 772,501, and little ol Whatcom 212,284.

Because those 3 comparison counties’ population numbers are so much larger than Whatcom’s population, the budget/spending and thresholds for those those particular counties will be likely much greater than Whatcom’s.

Also, the Comparison Table does not reference amendments proposed to section 3.08.090 in which there is at least one significant change beyond the $250,000 threshold number referenced in both section 3.08.090 and 3.08.100. That would be the change to add the language “not to exceed $250,000 or 15 % of contract amount whichever is greater.”

I do not believe that the proposed amendments to WCC 3.08 are clearly conveyed to the public, so I think this proposal should at the very least, be re-written/re-packaged and placed in a future Council Agenda, so it will then be brought forward much more clearly to the public on this proposal.

It is vital that there be the highest degree of checks and balances between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch, in our County government. Not less, which this Ordinance would bring with it.

In the Memo, Mr. Louws said “…we have increased the transparency through contracts online and through enhanced project budget reports.” Mr. Louws may think that he and his administration, have increased transparency, but I disagree.
Executive Louws showed us last year when he decided to use over $44,000 of County funds for the controversial “Jail Mailer,” sent to some, not all, registered voters in Whatcom County in October 2015, during the the Nov. general election. That cost information was provided to me by Whatcom County Deputy Executive Tyler Schroeder.

The WA Public Disclosure Commission PDC received multiple official complaints about County Executive Louws’ actions relating to the “Jail Mailer,” and that matter is still presently under official investigation by PDC officials.

Please reject this proposal.

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Click on any of the images in the above document collage to view the individual documents

Read Sandy’s post in the Whatcom Hawk Facebook group here.


Here is the letter that Sandy sent to the Whatcom County Council that she posted in the comment section of her Facebook post:


From: Sandra Robson
Date: June 28, 2016 at 12:31:26 PM PDT
To: SSidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us, bbrenner@co.whatcom.wa.us, BBuchana@co.whatcom.wa.us, cweimer@co.whatcom.wa.us, kmann@co.whatcom.wa.us, tdonovan@co.whatcom.wa.us, RBrowne@co.whatcom.wa.us, council@co.whatcom.wa.us
Subject: Correction – Fwd: I oppose proposed ordinance amending “WCC 3.08, Purchasing System (AB2016-191)

Dear County Council members:

I just noticed a correction to a WCC code number I referenced in my email (forwarded below) that I sent you earlier today.

I referred to WCC “3.08.90” when in fact the correct number is “3.08.090.”

Sorry for my having left out the “0.” I just wanted to make sure you had this correction.

Can one of you please confirm you received this email? Thank you.
Regards,

Sandy Robson

Begin forwarded message:

From: Sandra Robson
Date: June 28, 2016 at 11:08:06 AM PDT
To: SSidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us, bbrenner@co.whatcom.wa.us, BBuchana@co.whatcom.wa.us, cweimer@co.whatcom.wa.us, kmann@co.whatcom.wa.us, tdonovan@co.whatcom.wa.us, RBrowne@co.whatcom.wa.us, Council <council@co.whatcom.wa.us>
Subject: I oppose proposed ordinance amending “WCC 3.08, Purchasing System (AB2016-191)
Dear Whatcom County Council:

The June 28, 2016 Whatcom County agenda, shows that the Council is considering a proposed ordinance amending “WCC 3.08, Purchasing System (AB2016-191) (From 6/14) Pages 9-17.” In reading the Memorandum from County Executive Jack Louws, who has proposed the amendments, the subject line states “Whatcom County Code 3.08.100.” (I have attached a screenshot photo of that Memorandum).

It troubles me that while there are certainly amendments proposed in 3.08.100 which are shown in Exhibit A (attached to AB2016-191), there are also amendments proposed in 3.08.90, letter M. However, those proposed amendments in 3.08.90, letter M, are not noted anywhere in the Memorandum. (I have attached screenshot photos of 3.08.100 and 3.08.90).

So, while the Council has a more discerning eye, and is likely to come across those amendments in reviewing the entire WCC 3.08, the average citizen, the public, may not have seen those proposed amendments because 3.08.90 was not mentioned anywhere in the Memorandum. I know that I did not catch the proposed amendments to 3.08.90 until my third read-through to make certain I did not miss something.

There were three listed items under the Enclosures shown at the bottom of the Memorandum. Number 2 specifically states: “Exhibit A to Ordinance AB2016-191 WCC 3.08.100 proposed language change.” Numbers 1 and 3 under Enclosures do not reference the proposed language change that appears in 3.08.90, letter M. I believe this is misleading to the public, even when it might be unintentional.

Therefore, I do not believe that the proposed amendments to WCC 3.08 are clear to the public, so I think this proposal should be re-written/re-packaged and placed in a future Council Agenda, so it will then be brought forward clearly to the attention of the public, so citizens have ample opportunity to comment on this proposal which includes amendments to both 3.08.100 and 3.08.90.

If for some reason, the Council does not agree with my point above, and it still wishes to vote on the proposed amendments to WCC 3.08, I request that the County Council vote “No” to this proposal as I do not think the proposed amendments to WCC 3.08 are in the public’s best interest for the reasons I outline below:

1) County Executive Louws’ Memorandum alerts readers to the Comparison Table (I have attached a screenshot photo of that table) included in Exhibit A showing a brief comparison of Whatcom County to King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. That Comparison Table does not provide important and relevant information with which to make a real comparison, such as population figures for all of those 4 counties. For instance, the population figures information can make a big difference.

According to the online U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts data, it estimates (July 2015) the population in King County is 2,117,125, the population in Pierce County is 843 954, the population in Snohomish county is 772,501, and the population in Whatcom County is 212,284.

Whatcom County’s population is much, much smaller than those other 3 counties used as comparisons. Because those 3 comparison counties’ population numbers are so much larger than Whatcom’s population, the budget and spending in those particular counties will be likely much greater than Whatcom’s. Using those particular counties with much greater population numbers does not make an appropriate of realistic comparison for the public reading that chart/table.

2) In County Executive Louws’ Memorandum, he said “…we have increased the transparency through contracts online and through enhanced project budget reports.” Mr. Louws may think that he as County Exec., and the County government, have increased transparency, but I disagree with him.

Actually, County Executive Louws showed us last year with his actions in deciding to use over $44,000 of County funds for the infamous “Jail Mailer,” sent to some, not all, registered voters in Whatcom County in October 2015, during the height of the general election at that time. That cost information was provided to me in a January 13, 2016 email from Whatcom County Deputy Executive Tyler Schroeder. (I have attached a screenshot photo of that email).

While Mr. Louws’ defended his actions in doing this without notification to the public, or even you members of the County Council, proclaiming that the Council had approved a contract with consultant DLR. Somewhere in the hundreds of pages of that document, it outlined things in such a way that allowed such an expense, but it was not clearly stated as such in that document.

When Mr. Louws was checking with our County Attorney’s office, and the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), he could have also brought that to Council’s attention. He chose not to do that. To me, that is not transparent to both the public and to the Council that serves the public. The PDC received multiple official complaints about County Executive Louws’ actions (he was a candidate running for re-election as County Exec. office at that time) relating to the “Jail Mailer,” and that matter is still presently under official investigation by PDC officials. I should note, here, that the complaints to the PDC relating to the “Jail Mailer,” also included Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, and Whatcom County Prosecutor David McEachran. (I have attached a screenshot photo of the PDC complaint).

I think most Whatcom citizens would agree that there is greater transparency with our County Council legislative branch because matters are discussed at meetings open to the public. However, that critical transparency to the public is many degrees less in the case of the Executive Branch of our County government which County Executive Louws oversees. This is another reason that I do not believe the amendments proposed to WCC 3.08 would not be in the public’s best interest,

The present Purchasing System our County operates under reflected in our current WCC 3.08, does not appear to be burdensome for our County Government. I think that overall the Council is fair and even somewhat deferential to our County Executive. The instances when the Council may not be so, typically involve controversial or contentious matters, which warrant a more protracted decision-making public review process, and a more discerning eye from both the Council and the public in terms of input.

I hope you give consideration to my remarks here, and I respectfully request that the County Council vote “No” to the proposed amendments (by our County Executive office) to WCC 3.08.

Thank you very much.
Regards,

Sandy Robson
Birch Bay, WA

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