The period 2004-2005 saw little controversy in Sammamish. Rather, this was a period of developing projects that had direct benefit for the residents.
History of Sammamish
A moratorium on building development, adopted when the City incorporated in 1999, remained in place. It would be lifted by the end of 2005 after developers sued, alleging the length of the moratorium was excessive. Fighting the lawsuit, and potentially losing it, could have bankrupted Sammamish. So, it was agreed the moratorium would be lifted.
But the moratorium didn’t stop the City from developing and upgrading parks and roads. The fight over development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail—of which the City was not a part—continued.
Two civic events were launched that have become popular draws: Nightmare at Beaver Lake and Summer Nights in the Park.
Council Members routinely used private email accounts for City-related business.
Expansive Public Records Request during 2015 Council elections brought issue to fore.
One Council Member, acting as a private citizen, demanded emails on private account from another Council Member.
The City Attorney, paid for by tax dollars, became de facto attorney for the “private citizen” Council Member.
Two Council Members subsequently failed to produce emails from their private accounts.
One of the two Council Members failed to produce emails from her private account again in 2016 pursuant to a PRR.
Hillary Clinton’s email was a story that wouldn’t die in the presidential campaign, dogging her right through the Nov. 8 election.
The City of Sammamish has its own problems over emails. Council members routinely used private emails for city business and when it comes to complying with the Washington State law for Public Records Requests (PRR), some members aren’t always forthcoming with documents.
One City Council Member was explicit that a controversial topic should be discussed using private emails to avoid public disclosures through City emails.
The City Attorney’s position on compliance in responding to Public Records Requests appears inconsistent.
The issue is about transparency in government and complying with the law.
Requirements to hand over emails from personal accounts is well established in Washington State. A Bainbridge Island case is illustrative. See here and here.
The 2003 Sammamish election presented an opportunity to shift the balance of power from a Republican-conservative leaning City Council to a Democratic-left-of-center membership.
As the election season approached, the Council was generally, though not reliably, split 4-3. Ken Kilroy, Ron Haworth, Troy Romero and Jack Barry were reliably a voting bloc. The minority three were Michele Petitti, Kathy Huckabay and often, but not always, Don Gerend.
Petitti won her seat in 2001. The others were all original council members from 1999.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.”
The City of Sammamish has tried to keep an arm’s length to final development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail, but this hear-no- evil, speak-no-evil, see-no-evil approach began to unravel last year as King County’s over zealous approach to building the North end spurred outrage among homeowners.
A review of two years’ of emails, videos of Council meetings, conversations with city council members and homeowners along the Trail paints a picture of:
a complacent city staff routinely engaged with the County that kept the City Council in the dark;
frustrated property owners reaching out to the County and City;
a City Council that didn’t want to know what was going on;
inflighting among Council Members, who largely tried to ignore the one Council Member who was raising red flags about the County’s development of the Northern most section of the Lake Trail;
a City Council that ignored homeowners who complained; and
a City Council that finally awakened to the issues but remains muddled about what to do next.