Monday, October 8, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #57 - No Public Allowed

For months, three County Council members and several County staff met as part of the CAO Implementation Committee. At first, based upon an initial analysis from the Prosecuting Attorney that some have called ludicrous, the Council mistakenly believed the Committee could hold private (non-public) meetings since only three members of the Council were present. However, after taking a second look at the matter several months later, Randy Gayord subsequently concluded that three Council members did constitute a quorum for taking negative action (i.e., blocking an ordinance), and so the CAO Implementation Committee meetings had been held in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).

Of course, by that time, months of meetings had already transpired, and on top of that, there were scores of emails involving three Council members, each email thread itself could potentially be construed as a violation of the OPMA since discussion took place and actions were taken. In an effort to minimize the apparent damage, Council Chair Miller tried to explain that nothing substantive was discussed during the CAO Implementation Committee meetings, only scheduling matters (see email below). However, the trail of emails tells a very different story. The CAO update process was discussed, matters relating to buffers, the SMP Inventory and Characterization Report, Ecology letters, and who knows what else.

There is simply no easy way to fix that blunder. It's a fatal flaw associated with the proposed CAO.

I get the feeling that the stench of death surrounding the proposed CAOs is beginning to become noticeable, even to some of the Council members. Privately, I understand some of the key players are starting to distance themselves from it, saying, for example, that they never liked the "site-specific" approach in the first place. Had they ever developed a site-specific approach, that complaint might be more credible. But don't confuse whining for outright opposition to the CAOs. Feeling as if there is nowhere else to go and having a dearth of courage, Council members are likely to vote for the CAOs while simultaneously distancing themselves from it, which is a position that only a politician could grasp.

It seems that even the local union branch of County employees, Local 1849, may be growing tired of the shenanigans of our elected leaders.  As a case in point, the Local has not endorsed either of the incumbents seeking re-election, but they have endorsed Marc Forlenza, who is running against Councilman Howie Rosenfeld.

Not much time now before our current Council votes on the CAO. At this point, hardly a soul cares for it, but like some over-budget nuclear power plant, the Council is fixated on the sunk costs and feels they must finish it.  Best just to toss it to Randy Gaylord and hope for the best. Handing it off to Gaylord may be a fitting event, not because he's the Prosecuting Attorney, but because he's also the coroner, and the proposed CAO is so flawed that it's dead on arrival.

From: Patty Miller []
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2012 12:31 PM
Cc: Pete Rose; Shireene Hale
Subject: CAO Implementation Committee Meetings

Ms. Dickinson,

I believe you made a request to be notified of when and where the CAO Implementation Committee meetings are taking place.  The Committee meets very infrequently (generally less than once per month) and we do not have any future meeting scheduled at this time.  Historically we have not opened these meetings to the public since there is not a quorum of the council, any staff recommendations are discussed in open Council meetings, and these meetings are primarily just focused on coordinating
schedules and timing.    It would be up to the group to reconsider this

Thank you,

Patty Miller
Chair - San Juan County Council


  1. I have examined the tealeaves and entails for omens and signs. Hear me.

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
    All the Friend's minions
    and all the Friend's Friends
    Couldn't put Humpty together again.

    Trying to create a horrible law like this with $800,000 of other people's money (taxpayers) over more than six years, two councils and a two forms of government really has some predictable phases.

    1) Unbridled regulatory enthusiasm and irrational political exuberance.

    2) Shock. Panic. Circling wagons.

    3) Hunt for the guilty. Demonizing enemies. Holy inquisition. Burnings at the stake.

    4) Punishment of the innocent, impoverished and honest working.

    5) Praise and honors for officials elected on false promises of saving the world and doing God's work on earth.

    6) Nice raises for public officials and department managers.

    7) An exhausted public returns to business as usual.

  2. If there is one thing that you need to know to be an adequate manager is that "sunk costs are sunk" and all decisions must be made at the margin. It is tempting to give in to the idea that we have already spent X dollars and so we should take that into account. It is counter intuitive, but you have to not look at these costs and look at the MARGINAL COST of doing something, not the sunk cost. While it is a shame that we spent the $800,000 including it in a decision making calculus is an error. This is not an opinion of mine, but a cost benefit truism. The only question going forward is what is the marginal cost compared to the marginal benefit of passing the CAO.

    I am Nick Power

  3. This whole mess is the Environmental Precautionary Principle in action. It says that "all activity which might negatively impact the environment is forbidden. In addition, absence of scientific information about the potential causes and effects is insufficient reason to prevent forbidding any activity which might be suspected to cause unspecified damage. No other impact (financial, societal, etc) other than the potential negative environmental impact can be considered, and no other activity or effect can be considered as mitigating the possible unknown negative environmental impact"

    No amount of good or bad in any other area can be considered if something bad might happen. What might happen need not be actual, just possible.

    We're screwed!

  4. According to science, we are getting screwed.

    Perhaps we should hire Sharon K. To shout "you f@&$&ing liar" at Ms. Buffun who has pretty much "voted for the 87 billion dollars before I voted against it. ""

    If you change your mind along the way, just admit it.

  5. could someone please name the three council members?

  6. The CAO Implementation Committee, which also seemed to discuss SMP topics, included Lovel Pratt, Richard Fralick, Patty Miller, Pete Rose, Shireene Hale, Jon Cain, Colin Maycock. Janice Biletnikoff from planning sometimes/often attended as well.

  7. ooh, I coulda' guessed it...

  8. Those behind the door meetings certainly rate a higher rating than "Flaw #57" with that huge crew on board maybe this often overlooked happening should have been in the top ten. (Another designation may be necessary for the really, really just plain unvarnished BAD the Council has been up to. This full court press would certainly make that new list.) Oh yeah, we just discussed schedules and such other minor items. Bullshit, Patty! You and this little gang cooked the books.

    Another, often overlooked source of handshakes and out of public and pats on the back are the "RETREATS" This is a border line illegal meeting where all the big decisions are actually made.

    How did we get in this mess? Read Flaw #57.

    I find it refreshing that at least one person running for office thinks all the above should end.

  9. Can the Council be sued for violating the public meetings act, using emails as proof of what they discussed?

  10. What are the recall/impeachment rules for our county councilmen???? We can no longer tolerate them, how can they be removed.

  11. Sure would like to see more of those CAO Implementation Commitee "scheduling only" emails. How and where can one look to find them?

  12. If you have documentation of what was said during an Implementation Committee meeting, the first step is to file a complaint with SJCPA and then if no action is taken file a RCW 42.20.040 False Report

    RCW 42.20.040 False report
    Every public officer who shall knowingly make any false or misleading statement in any official report or statement, under circumstances not otherwise prohibited by law, shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

  13. One problem is that the CAO/SMP Implementation Non-Committee kept few records--no notes, no memos, no minutes. So how does one "prove" what they were doing? One does not.

  14. Would all those folks on this implementation committee stand behind Miller's characterization that discussions were pretty much confined to scheduling matters?

    Scheduling -- a pretty important part of "due process" can be enormously influential in driving a public policy agenda leading to law making.

    Deciding what gets deliberated on and in what sequence and timing ... is that what "implementation" was all about?

    Wow. That there is a hell of a lot more to this than just checking calendars to figure out when all those folks could get together and do lunch.

  15. "So how does one "prove" what they were doing? One does not."

    Good question. You don't need "proof" to file a lawsuit for an injunction, only reasonable suspicion.

    According to science, the time to stop this is NOW.

  16. Given the three branches of government, courts really don't like to invoke injunctions against a lawmaking process (ie. a county council creating an ordinance). Basically that is a good thing. It would have to be a very strong case with a smoking gun. It's not like, whoa, smells kinda funny, everybody out of the pool until we sort this out. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff and the bar will be set pretty high.

  17. Thanks for the legal opinion on this process. (The last poster).

    I am hopeful that something will come to fruition that can put the brakes on this before we get broken.

    According to science, we are screwed.

  18. I'm sure you all know this, but I'm going to post it anyway:

    October 15, 2012
    "Today, Citizen's Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR) filed a legal action in San Juan Superior Court against the County of San Juan alleging both violations of Washington's Open Public Meetings Act and violations the Washington's Growth Management Act. All but one of the causes of action allege procedural and substantive errors in the County Council's deliberations during the County's revision of the Critical Areas Ordinance and the Shoreline Master Plan."

    HT to The Whatcom Excavator