Why Is Montesano Council Member Balking at Public Records Request?

スコップと砂

What’s the #1 rule for getting out of a hole? Well, as my dear old Dad used to say: “Stop digging.”

Apparently a certain Montesano City Council Member never got that Dad Lecture. Dog-gone if Montesano Council Member Marisa Salzer is trying to avoid complying with a public records request. (Just for fun, here are the RCW(s) on the topic.)

The request was filed with the City of Montesano by yours truly on October 14. It generated the following response to Ms. Salzer from Montesano City Attorney Daniel O. Glenn. It is dated October 14 and cites case law on the question (not opinion):

As you are likely aware, in her position as Public Records office for the City Ms. Powell has received several requests for public records in relation the matter of public records relating to the current City-related issue of interpretive services. The reason for this memo is that Ms. Lowder has submitted two more requests, copies of which are attached. As you will note they request as follows:

  1. “All emails and other written communiqués by Council member Marisa Salzer related to interpretive service.”
  2. “All records related to Marisa Salzer from March 1, 2014, to present: Emails, text messages and city & personal P.C. City policies and user agreements signed by Salzer.”

We may be requesting clarification of the latter request since by its language, the request could be deemed to include Council Meeting Minutes and other documents in which you are simply named. While the requests are broad, given the very public matter which this subject area has become, under the Public Records Act to the extent that any such document has been prepared or received by you, it is likely that the communication, record, or document is subject to required provision under the Act. That would be true regardless of the manner in which it was sent or received. If electronics are involved, that would mean whether sent or received upon the City-provided equipment or site or from your own e-mail address.

The City, as well as the officers and employees of it, are bound by the majority decision O’Neill v City of Shoreline, 170 Wn2d 138, a copy of which I am attaching for your reference. The City is undertaking a search of the records within its control. However, since the case makes clear that the responsibility to search and provide responsive documents goes beyond those directly within the control of the City, I would request that you provide to Ms. Powell copies of any records responsive to this request which are in your possession or which were sent from your personal computer. Once you have provided those documents, it may be necessary to have the City’s IP person to do a review of your computer’s hard drive to assure that the City and you are in compliance with the Court’s decision in O’Neill. We want to be able to avoid the situation through which the City of Bainbridge Island and several council members are going at this time in relation to a court order requiring access to the personal computers and potentially imposing sanctions for failure to comply.

Given the requirement to timely respond, I would ask that you give Ms. Powell an estimated time line. If there is a problem with accessing or tracking, the City’s IP person is available to help in searching or, in the event that anything has been lost due to a computer malfunction or been deleted, recapturing those items.

A Few Questions:

  • Why not simply comply with the public records request?
  • If Salzer has nothing to hide, why run?
  • Does Montesano have a Lois Lerner wannabe?
  • Has the beatification train derailed?

Any citizen can file a public records request, and the City has a responsibility to fill it. Inquiring minds want to know what those emails might contain.   Judging from the howls of protest the PRR has generated, they must be good.

Someone might want to lose the shovel.

Stay tuned.

Bow Wow Alert

 Yep, we still have a Comment Policy.

 

Glenn Oct. 14

Glen Oct. 14 pg. 2

 

Photo credit: public domain

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