By Scott Hamilton
March 14, 2022: Another complaint to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office over Sammamish’s delays in responding to Public Records Request (PRRs) has surfaced.
The complaint, filed February 4, asked for help from the AG’s office to spur Sammamish to respond to PRRs in a timely manner. When contacted by Sammamish Comment, the complainant asked for anonymity out of fear of adverse social media response from “the peanut gallery.” Responses to PRRs fall under the City Clerk’s office, who reports to City Manager Dave Rudat.
In addition to asking for help to get the city to produce records requested, the complaint alleges that some City Council members fail to produce records originating on personal email accounts and on personal phone text messages. The complainant told The Comment that there were instances in which one council member said there were no records from personal devices but that other council members engaged in the communications produced the records identifying the first council member.
“Public records requests for communications by Karen Moran using personal email addresses and text haven’t produced much because I don’t believe she’s providing the records when requested,” the complainant told The Comment. “Those communications are coming out via members of the public who have provided the records. This discussion was obtained via the investigation.
“I have an affidavit where Moran wrote a note on it that she didn’t know why people keep asking for records from her personal email as she doesn’t use her personal email for city business. I have emails of her using one of her business emails to get copies of records that Jason Ritchie obtained from the State Auditor. It appeared that Jason had to open a PRR with the State Auditor to get records pertaining to an issue that involved Dave Rudat while Moran was Mayor.”
In the complaint to the AG’s office, the complainant wrote:
“I am submitting this to request assistance in obtaining public records from the City of Sammamish. Records pertaining to contracts, financial records, council and City Manager communications, and an investigation funded by public money languish for months. Currently, there are records pending fulfillment from April 2021, some of which have not had any response from the City. Even requests for contracts are going unfulfilled for months. I have a public records request that asked for records provided under other public records requests – submitted back in November and still not completed. A request for 10 days of emails between council members submitted back in June, is still pending. It has come to the public’s attention that council members have been using personal email addresses to communicate – one council member forwarded the email to the city email address, the others did not and have even submitted Nissan affidavits to indicate that there are no records on personal devices. Can your office review the aging public records and provide guidance to the City to resolve this issue?”
“I will also be updating my complaint,” the complainant told The Comment. “The City has missed its obligation to respond within 5-days, it’s missed dates for installments and now it’s withholding records. Even records that have already been provided under other PRRs are being delayed. I have had instances where the City has sent records that were not what I requested and marked that an installment has been sent. It is my opinion that these tactics are to intentionally delay providing the records.”
The Comment can attest to the statement that records were sent that were not in response to the PRR submitted. The Comment filed a PRR for a five-day band of emails and text messages described in this story. The City Clerk’s office responded with an entirely unrelated set of 27 documents. It took a heated exchange of emails over several days before the office even acknowledged the error—and then it took months before the requested documents were produced.
Patterns to responses emerge
The Comment has reviewed an analysis of the City’s PRR response times and who filed the PRR. Responses to critics of City Manage Rudat faced long delays. Supporters received quick responses. One vociferous critic of Council Member and current Mayor Christie Malchow, Layna Crofts, received the requested documents in 10 days. However, several other Crofts PRRs took longer times, sometimes months, to complete because of the complexity of the PRR. But five PRRs filed by Crofts—Numbers 3830, 3831, 3832, 3833 and 3834—never received a 5-day response as required by law. Numbers 3840 and 3841 are pending nearly a year later.
Another vociferous critic, Ramiro Valderrama, received documents within three weeks. A request filed by someone going by the pseudo name Tickle Monster seeking records from Miki Mullor and Scott Hamilton to any city council member for the period between December 1, 2019, and February 10, 2022—a period of two years and two months–was filed February 16, 2022. The first installment was sent March 11.
PRRs requested by Mullor, this writer, and others with respect to Rudat or on issues related to the Town Center and an Environmental Impact Statement regarding traffic analysis—documents sought by Mullor for The Comment—took months to fulfill.
“Follow procedures—and the law”
In the interview with The Comment, the complainant remarked that “I would like to see the City follow its established procedures, ensure that all council members comply with the policies and laws, and the City be transparent in how it conducts business. Restore some honor and dignity to the dais. If there are council members that want to keep rolling around in the mud, it will be difficult for the City to attract, hire and retain top talent. The sad part of all of this is that the City is missing out on obtaining grant money – right now is an unprecedented time for funding. Instead of being in a position where the city could take advantage of these things, there’s drama and scandal. A lot of missed opportunities.
“Employees that are violating the law should be terminated.”
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