POULSBO — As advocates for open government waited with bated breath last week to hear whether Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee would veto a Senate bill — which sought to exempt members of the state Legislature from adhering to Open Public Records law — the Port of Poulsbo held its own small demonstration of government transparency during a regular March 1 meeting of the port commission.
Commissioner Jonothan Saunders explained that an inquiry was made into the legality of certain commissioner communications after fellow commissioner Stephen Swann sent an email to Port of Poulsbo Executive Director Brad Miller seeking to remove a public comment period from the agenda.
In the email dated Aug. 7, 2017, Swann also copied it to then-commissioner Jim Rutledge. This caused concern among the other commissioners that this could be construed as doing business outside of an open public meeting.
“It is, I believe, inappropriate behavior. Luckily it was not responded to by the other commissioner,” Saunders said at the meeting.
According to Miller, Saunders was correct in his assertion that Rutledge’s lack of response was indeed lucky.
“If he had responded in such a way that would’ve directed me to make a change, then yeah, that would be conducting business outside of a meeting,” Miller said.
When asked whether he worries about accidentally being dragged into a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act, given his role as a go-between in the past for Swann and Rutledge in the email exchange, Miller said he needs to be on his toes.
“I have to be careful not to help the commissioners even inadvertently conduct business outside of a public meeting,” he said.
“If something comes across my desk that seems like it might be headed that way, then I’ll put a stop to it. I’ll just simply say, ’This has got to be discussed in a meeting and leave it at that.’”
In following suit with the Port’s commitment to open public records, the North Kitsap Herald has made the decision to publish the email between Swann and Miller. The email is as follows:
The second public comment opportunity is now routinely turning into an offensive, vulgar, and disrespectful diatribe. There is no right to make public comments during our business meetings.
Let’s remove the second public comment period from the agenda. Additionally let’s not mention this change to the agenda… we don’t have to explain this (or ask permission).
Additionally the next time Aaron, Mark or one of their flock engages in vulgar and profane language, I intend to offer them the opportunity to leave, or I will leave after making a motion to the chair to immediately adjourn. Maybe stopping the meeting will get someone’s attention. Comm. DeSalvo can stick around and “hold court.”
This is getting ridiculous…. We don’t have to tolerate this level of disrespect.
Old Legal Maxim: “never wrestle with a pig… you get dirty and the pig likes it!!!”
Stephen L. Swann
Port of Poulsbo
—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter for the North Kitsap Herald. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org