News Ticker


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

They Should All Take A Sick Day

At this morning's citizen access time, there was an appearance by Shireene Hale, former head planner in charge of our CAOs, and David Dehlendorf, current head of the San Juan County Democratic Party and persistent supporter of Shireene Hale. You can watch their appearances on video at this link.

Now, before we talk about the Hale/Dehlendorf appearances of today, let's walk down memory lane for a moment. When heading up the CAO effort, Hale frequently claimed that the public intimidated her. She referred to some of our CAO public participation meetings as "awful". She even asked sheriff's deputies to show up at public meetings. When a former Planning Commissioner jokingly suggested that she might want to take a "sick day" as a means of avoiding one potentially contentious meeting, Hale accused him of (wait for it) ... intimidation. She also accused a former County Commissioner of intimidation, because of comments he made during a CAO meeting.

The County didn't abandon the "intimidation" angle after Hale left. It was adopted by Gibboney and Mike Thomas in their recent efforts to dump former Building Head John Geniuch. When contractors and other islanders supported Geniuch, the County claimed an angry mob was being organized (yes, Gibboney really did use the words "angry mob" in an administrative law hearing ... but the judge was not persuaded). Gibboney and Thomas took the "intimidation" melodrama so far as to send out an email instructing employees to call the sheriff if John Geniuch was seen on County property.

Okay ... now for the events of today. Hale shows up at citizen access time this morning and says that Pamela Morais (our local County Catbert) and Mike Thomas intimidated her prior to yesterday's public access time. Hale said they pressured her into withholding comments about Portland Fair. Dehlendorf then followed Hale's comments by calling for Mike Thomas to be reprimanded ... even resign, for intimidating a private citizen into silence.

Ever seen that picture of a snake eating itself? Shreene Hale, the woman who invented intimidation as public-participation kryptonite used it in her public comments to accuse her former employer of intimidation tactics that she used when she worked there ... which aforementioned tactics said employer still uses against employees and the public (e.g., Shireene presently).

The ever-composed Mike Thomas, who is accustomed to helping people invent intimidation stories rather than be on the receiving end, found himself out-maneuvered ... caught off-guard. After Dehlendorf finished, Thomas asked to make some comments himself. It stings to be out-smarted by Hale, and it showed in Thomas' comportment. Thomas said he was offended by the public access comments (although he didn't say they were untrue).

In upcoming posts, we'll explore the codependent relationship that has developed between the Council and Mike Thomas. It seems wherever Mike Thomas goes, allegations of misconduct follow. Mike Thomas has now been accused publicly of intimidating private citizens. The Prosecuting Attorney found that he violated County policies and procedures. This, along with other allegations, would appear to violate the County's employment contract with Thomas.

But, we have reached the point in San Juan County where Mike Thomas doesn't just run San Juan County government, he IS San Juan County government. Whatever Mike Thomas says, goes. The job of this Council is simply to back up Mike Thomas. They have given him raises, cleared him of wrongdoing. Mike Thomas is bulletproof. As the Prosecuting Attorney declared when clearing Mike Thomas of Improper Government Action (IGA) in the Portland Fair situation:
Manager has the duty to "comply with all lawful governing body directives, state and federal law, Employer policies, rules and ordinances. ..." See County Manager Employment Agreement and San Juan County Charter Section 4.40 and 4.41. The IGA Report mentions similar obligations of employees in the Personnel Rules Section 15, but the Personnel Rules (which have not been updated since the adoption of the Charter in 2005 or Charter Amendments in 2012) were not written to apply to management level employees and do not apply to the County Manager. See Section 1.010 and Chapter 4 of the 1992 Personnel Rules.
No rules apply to him. This is why Mike Thomas can approve (or disapprove) any wetland study ... or anything else for that matter. He can do whatever he wants, and the Council (and the PA too) have backed him. The dynamic that has emerged within the employment ranks of San Juan County is that if you are loyal to Mike Thomas, your job is safe. If you aren't, you will be eliminated.

Looks like Gibboney is safe.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

That Hole Is Getting Deeper!

On Friday, the Council came out with a memo regarding their investigation of the Portland Fair wetland affair. You can find the memo here.

Anyone who has been through the wetland process would think the memo is a late April Fools joke. No one ... and I mean, no one ... outside of the authors and their most blindly ardent supporters would fall for it. But that's not the worst part.

It was written and signed by the Council -- Jamie Stephens and Rick Hughes, with Jarman recusing himself -- without any apparent input from the Prosecuting Attorney's Office. In fact, it is addressed to the Prosecuting Attorney, so the Council owns this one in its entirety. Given that the Prosecuting Attorney already found that Mike Thomas acted contrary to County ordinances and written policies, this Council memo suggests a significant rift between the Council and the Prosecuting Attorney over this matter. But that's not the worst part.

In the memo, the Council defends their man, Mike Thomas, to the hilt. We "learn" several surprising facts. We discover that Jennifer Thomas had no role in this wetland situation, despite documentary evidence in the form of emails from Sam Gibboney saying otherwise, and despite the fact that "JT"'s involvement was documented in the permit database.  Now we learn that "JT" never existed as far as this project goes ... a figment of everyone's imagination. But that's not the worst part.

The memo from the Council alleges that the determination of a non-wetland was made by Gibboney based on a review from Mike Thomas himself (is Mike Thomas a qualified wetland scientist?). Perhaps the most amusing lines in the whole memo are:
Although in this instance, the County was providing the wetlands review at no cost to citizens and paying for it from funds set aside in the CAO implementation plan, Mr. Thomas saved the County an unnecessary expense by his review, and Ms. Gibboney by her determination.
Saving money? They actually claim that Mike Thomas is saving taxpayers money, and the Council gives him a pat on the back as a result. But that's not the worst part.

The Council says there was no wrongdoing ... but there sure seems to have been a coverup. I guess we are supposed to believe that Annie Matsumoto-Grah wasn't ordered to rewrite her report? Chris Laws wasn't ordered to rewrite his report? Ecology wasn't prevented from providing a report, even after Ecology employee Doug Gresham went on the record about wetlands on the subject parcel? More shockingly, the official County enforcement file was redacted to remove all mention of Mike Thomas and Bob Jarman ... with all redactions ironically placed in a folder titled "Chris Laws Personal Information" -- ironic because Chris Laws refused to redact the file himself, and ironic because personal information is not subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act, and ironic because they are hiding Thomas' and Jarman's involvement among the whistleblower's own "personal" information. But that's not the worst part.

The County Charter requires the Council to take action only by Resolution or Ordinance. Nowhere is the power of "investigation" given to the Council. The word "investigation" doesn't even appear in the Charter. Moreover, the County is currently being sued all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court regarding violations of the Open Public Meeting Act (OPMA). The OPMA requires that all government actions be deliberated in public. Action is defined in the OPMA as (emphasis added):
"Action" means the transaction of the official business of a public agency by a governing body including but not limited to receipt of public testimony, deliberations, discussions, considerations, reviews, evaluations, and final actions. "Final action" means a collective positive or negative decision, or an actual vote by a majority of the members of a governing body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order, or ordinance.
The Friday memo is neither a Resolution nor an Ordinance, but it is clearly an action taken by the Council. It was not deliberated in public. It is a conspicuous violation of the Charter and the OPMA. The signature line says that Bob Jarman "recused" himself. Recused himself from what? It is obvious that the Council worked on this memo out of public view and came to conclusions and then signed their name to their final decision. On its face, this memo alone would appear to present enough evidence of procedural misconduct to justify its own separate whistleblower complaint ... which, if it were to occur, would be the fifth this year. But that's not the worst part.

The worst part is the situation in toto. It is inconceivable how badly our County government has deteriorated, and it is time to publicly call for investigations. We, at the Trojan Heron, feel it is time for the State, or even the Federal government, to investigate corruption here in San Juan County government. As a friend of the Heron says, it is time to take the keys away.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Most Official County Response?

As a brief interlude ...

As some of you may know, Stan Matthews recently retired, so he's no longer the County public spokesperson.

A reader sent me the video below purporting to show the new County spokesperson providing the official County response to the ongoing controversy over the Portland Fair situation. I also was sent a related video purporting to show Mike Thomas and his wife being interviewed about their involvement in that controversy.