Remember the May, 7, 2016 Donald Trump rally at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden, that so far, has cost Whatcom County taxpayers approximately $130,000 in terms of law enforcement and agency response expenses?
Did you know that a “Proclamation of Emergency” (dated May 6, 2016) was prepared by Whatcom County’s Division of Emergency Management for County Executive Jack Louws to sign regarding the Trump rally?
I was unaware of that fact until a concerned citizen obtained public records from Whatcom County and shared those with me.
Although the proclamation was eventually not officially executed, according to email records, Sheriff Bill Elfo signed the initial Proclamation of Emergency document prepared by the Division of Emergency Management (fyi-the proclamation copy shown in the attached photo is the revised proclamation, not the initial one Elfo had signed). County Executive Louws was prepared to sign it too, after Chief Civil Prosecuting Attorney Dan Gibson, first would sign it, according to a May 6, 2016 email sent (at 1:18 PM) from Louws to Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management, Program Specialist Frances Burkhart, and County Deputy Executive Tyler Schroeder. In his May 6th email, Louws wrote, “Get Dan Gibson to sign prior to my signature.”
A May 6, 2016 email from Tyler Schroeder sent (at 2:26 PM) to Frances Burkhart (Ccd to Jack Louws) asking for a word copy of the proclamation document as Dan Gibson wanted to “make some changes to the proclamation.” Tyler Schroeder said with Gibson’s changes that he would then get County Executive Louws to sign revised proclamation, and would bring that to a 5:00 PM meeting that afternoon at the Emergency Operations Center, and have Sheriff Elfo sign the revised proclamation. Ms. Burkhart responded immediately, at 2:28 PM, to Schroder’s email with the word copy of the requested document.
After that May 6th email sent at 2:28PM from Frances Burkhart to Schroeder and Dan Gibson (Ccd to Louws), there were no more email communications relating to the Proclamation of Emergency on May 6th, May 7th, or May 8th, at least as far as the email records provided by Whatcom County.
There were two more email records provided that showed a May 9, 2016 email sent (at 9:35 AM) by Arden Landry, Executive Assistant/Communications Coordinator for County Executive Louws to Frances Burkhart and Emergency Management Coordinator Chalice Dew-Johnson, saying that “the executive proclamation that was sent over Friday afternoon was not executed by the Executive, and was not needed this weekend.” And, the May 9th response that was sent at 4:20 PM to Ms. Landry by Ms. Johnson, thanking her for closing the loop on that.
If I were to guess why the proclamation was “not needed,” I imagine that when Chief Civil Prosecuting Attorney Dan Gibson was reviewing the proclamation document as he was looking to make some changes, he evaluated the situation further, and likely came to the conclusion that the May 7 Trump rally in Lynden was not really the type of event/incident for which Proclamations of Emergency are intended. From everything I read about Whatcom County Proclamations of Emergency, the Trump rally does not seem appropriate for such an extraordinary measure to be initiated.
Here’s some background on Whatcom County Proclamations of Emergency:
The Whatcom County Emergency Operations Plan/EOP/Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan’s purpose is to prevent, prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made emergencies and disasters.
Direction and control of emergency management functions for Whatcom County government is the responsibility of the County Executive. The County Executive has delegated that responsibility to the Director of Emergency Management, who is the County Sheriff. The Director of Emergency Management is responsible for the direction and control of emergency management activities in the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County ordinance 89-115.
The Director of Emergency Management is subject to the direction and control of the County Executive regarding disaster-related decisions about priorities and disaster response policy.
The Division of Emergency Management (DEM) is the lead agency for evaluating a situation to determine if the extraordinary authority of an emergency proclamation by the County Executive is necessary. If so, the DEM show make such recommendation. All Proclamations of Emergency are prepared and processed by the DEM, and are signed by the County Executive, and then sent to the State EMD for consideration and presentation to the Governor.
A local Proclamation of Emergency is the legal instrument that authorizes extraordinary measures to solve disaster-related problems. A proclamation allows for the emergency use of resources without regard to time-consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by law, and activates extraordinary measures as outlined in the plan.
RCW 38.52.10 (5)(a) states: “‘Emergency or disaster’ as used in all sections of this chapter except RCW 38.52.430shall mean an event or set of circumstances which: (i) Demands immediate action to preserve public health, protect life, protect public property, or to provide relief to any stricken community overtaken by such occurrences, or (ii) reaches such a dimension or degree of destructiveness as to warrant the governor declaring a state of emergency pursuant to RCW 43.06.010.
“(b) ‘Emergency’ as used in RCW 38.52.430 means an incident that requires a normal police, coroner, fire, rescue, emergency medical services, or utility response as a result of a violation of one of the statutes enumerated in RCW 38.52.430.
“(6) ‘Emergency response’ as used in RCW 38.52.430 means a public agency’s use of emergency services during an emergency or disaster as defined in subsection (5)(b) of this section.”