Transparency, or the lack thereof, in Whatcom County Administration / Facebook post, Sj Robson

personius to sandy hirst resolution 05022017

2 hrs  May 3, 2017  Sandy Robson

Copied and pasted below, and shown in attached screenshot photos, are my recent email communications with County Planning and Development Services Assistant Director Mark Personius, about the Resolution (2017-019) that County Council approved on April 18, 2017, requesting the state legislature to amend the Growth Management Act, relating to the Washington Supreme Court decision on the Hirst et al. case. My initial curiosity regarding the origin of the resolution was borne out of my having listened to part of the audio recording of the April 18, Council Natural Resources Committee meeting, during which Council members seemed to be unaware of who proposed the resolution. 

My concern was, that if the resolution did not originate from the Council members, then possibly certain state legislators might have been driving the creation of such a resolution which, if passed, could potentially be used to lobby their fellow legislators to create and enact legislation relating to the Hirst decision, and possibly other water-related issues. I had/have one particular local state senator in mind when I became aware of the fact that Council members seemed to be unaware of the origin of the resolution before them at their April 18th committee meeting.

**************************************************
From: Sandra Robson
Date: May 2, 2017 at 7:49:50 PM PDT
To: Mark Personius <MPersoni@co.whatcom.wa.us>
Cc: Council <council@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Barry Buchanan <BBuchana@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Carl Weimer <cweimer@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Todd Donovan <tdonovan@co.whatcom.wa.us>

, Satpal Sidhu <SSidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Ken Mann <kmann@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Rud Browne <RBrowne@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Barbara Brenner <bbrenner@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Tyler Schroeder <tschroed@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Jack Louws <JLouws@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Sam Ryan <JRyan@co.whatcom.wa.us>

Subject: Re: Regarding the resolution requesting the state legislature to amend the GMA (relating to the Hirst decision)
Dear Mark,

Thank you very much for your prompt and detailed response in which you specifically addressed my question.

Sandy to Personius hirst resolution 05022017

Respectfully, I just want to point out a few things I feel are important in terms of your continued characterization of the basis for creating the resolution, in saying it was a response to the “Council’s concerns about being more transparent with the public about actions the County had taken or supported regarding the Hirst decision and water resource planning initiatives.”

You gave that same reasoning to Council at the April 18th Natural Resources Committee meeting when you were asked by more than one council member about who it was that had proposed the resolution (as they were unaware). And, you gave the same reasoning to me in your April 27th email response to my original question about the origin of the resolution.

personius to sandy hirst resolution 04272017

In reading the resolution, it’s pretty clear that
it was/is not simply about providing an accounting of the County’s actions related to the Hirst case issue and water resource planning in an effort to be more transparent to the public. The resolution was/is aimed at requesting the state legislature to amend the GMA.

While the “Whereas” sections in the resolution may provide an accounting of the history of the Hirst et al. issue, water resource planning initiatives, and County actions, which does provide more transparency, the “Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved” and “Be It Further Resolved” sections which direct the specific action/s of the resolution, are clearly making a specific request of the state legislature to create and pass a legislative amendment or amendments to the GMA.

You said that you (PDS), Karen Frakes (Prosecutor’s office), and Tyler Schroeder (Executive’s office) jointly, made the decision to have PDS draft the resolution. According to the audio recording of the April 18th Natural Resources Committee meeting, it seemed as though you three had not informed the Council members that you three had made that decision to have PDS create and draft the resolution.

Also, on the Agenda Bill (AB2017-129) for the resolution, under the “Clearances” section, across from “Originator,” the word “Council” is typed there, yet Council members had not been the “Originator.” You, Karen, and Tyler were the “Originator.”
I asked each one of the Council members in emails I sent them about a week ago, if they had requested this recent resolution be drafted by PDS, and none of them said they had requested it.

18301676_1544183598948884_3799732737059507155_nAnd, when queried by Council members at the April 18th Natural Resources Committee meeting, about the origin of the resolution (who proposed it/where it came from), you were not transparent about who had proposed that resolution in terms of where it came from, which apparently was you, Karen, and Tyler.

I called the County Executive Office on April 19th, and spoke to Suzanne Mildner, explaining to her that from listening to the Council committee meeting audio, it sounded like the Council members themselves did not know where the resolution originated from. I asked her if she could help me find out where the resolution originated from. She said she would inquire and get back to me. Suzanne called me later that same day and told me that the resolution came from Council, that “they [Council] wanted the resolution.” She said they asked for assistance in language for it.

So, in creating a resolution that you say was about bringing more transparency to the actions of the Council relating to the Hirst decision issue and water resource planning initiatives, you/PDS, the Prosecutor’s office, and the Executive’s office are not then transparent with the Council and the public when queried about the origin of that resolution.

What was the reason for that lack of transparency on the Agenda Bill itself, when you were asked a direct question by Council about the resolution at the Natural Resources Committee meeting, when Suzanne in the Executive’s office was asked a direct question by me about the resolution, and when you were asked a direct question about that by me, in my April 27th email?

That lack of clear and transparent communication is concerning to me, and I imagine it might also be concerning to the rest of the public, and to the Council.

Again, Mark, I do appreciate that you answered my questions about the resolution promptly.

Thank you very much.
Regards,

Sandy Robson

Read Sandy’s post on her Facebook page here.

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3 thoughts on “Transparency, or the lack thereof, in Whatcom County Administration / Facebook post, Sj Robson

  1. Comment the Resolution started with Ken Mann in an earlier form and was passed in December (I think). It was amended a lot in May by the Council to make it broader and more constructive than the original. Jim Hansen

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    • (I am responding to Jim Hansen’s comment here in two parts. This is Part 1):
      Jim, thank you for your comment in which you wrote: “the Resolution started with Ken Mann in an earlier form and was passed in December (I think). It was amended a lot in May by the Council to make it broader and more constructive than the original.”

      I was aware of the first resolution (relating to the Hirst decision), Resolution 2016-050, that was approved by Council on December 6, 2016, which was at that time identified in Council’s Agenda Packet as “Agenda Bill 2016-309B”.

      The front page of AB2016-309B showed Council member Mann’s name typed-in the “Originator” field/box (under “Clearances”) which indicates that he was the originator of that December 2016 resolution. Although, I noticed that in the “Date” field/box next to the name “Mann,” the date typed-in there is “12/7/2016.” That seems odd to me since the resolution would have had to be drafted at least a number of days prior to the December 6, 2016, Council meeting. It’s quite possible that the “12/7/2016” date is merely a typo, but it causes me to want to know more about how that December 2016 resolution process unfolded from the beginning.

      In the case of this recent resolution (Resolution 2017-019) approved by Council, on April 18, 2017, from everything I have been able to ascertain, it appears that the Council was unaware that Mark Personius (PDS), Tyler Schroeder (Executive Office), and Karen Frakes (Prosecutor’s Office), jointly decided to create the resolution requesting the state legislature amend the GMA, and that those three were the “Originator” of the resolution, even though on the front page of the Agenda Bill it showed the word “Council” typed-in the “Originator” field/box.

      Sandy Robson

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      • (Part 2 of my comment response to Jim Hansen):
        Jim, at the April 18th Council Natural Resources Committee meeting, when Council asked Mark Personius about the origin of the resolution, he was not clear at all in his response to that question. That is not okay with me. Then, when I asked a staff person in the Executive’s Office about the origin of the resolution, I was told that the Council had wanted it. I assume that staff person had either asked Tyler Schroeder of the Executive Office, or Mr. Personius of PDS to obtain the answer she gave me because she had to check first before letting me know later that same day. Then, when I emailed Mark Personius on April 27th and asked him from whom did the resolution originate, he gave me a fairly vague response which did not specifically address what I asked. I persisted by sending a follow up email on May 2nd to Mr. Personius, in which I said:
        “In my question to you quoted above, I had asked who asked or directed PDS to draft the resolution. Your response appears only to indicate that PDS drafted the resolution, but it does not address whose idea it was/who suggested/who requested/who directed PDS staff to draft the resolution.

        “I am wondering if either the County Executive office or the County Prosecutor’s office suggested, or requested, or directed PDS to draft the resolution?

        “I would appreciate further clarification on addressing that part of my question, please, as it’s important to me to know that in terms of the origin of the resolution.”

        I did finally receive a clear response from Mr. Personius on May 2nd, to my question, which I appreciated that he gave me. My point in writing the post I did on this subject was to show the lack of transparency from the County Administration to the public, and apparently, in the case of this most recent resolution, the lack of full transparency from County Administration to the County Council. This is not the first instance of the County Administration demonstrating a lack of transparency to both. I hope my comment here provides further input, Jim. Thanks again, for your input.

        Sandy Robson

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