Thursday, January 10, 2013

MRC WTF?

Here's the text of an email to the new Council from a constituent (see below). If you've been following recent events regarding the Marine Resources Committee (MRC), you will have noted that they seem to have a problem with authority, specifically the Council's authority. Back in November, Linda Lyshall of the MRC sat in front of the Council and told them that the MRC reported to the Northwest Straits Commission, not the County Council. Then, in the past week, we find out the MRC has been corresponding with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) about fish window closures*, and then cc'ing the Council after the fact.

Business as usual for the MRC.
I apologize for my recent barrage of comments, but given that the Council is addressing the committees issue, I wanted to raise a few more points about the MRC that have troubled me, as a lawyer, for some time.

First, is it true that one of the tribes paid for the MRC coordinator’s salary for 6 months, and if so, isn’t that a conflict of interest, given that the tribes have repeatedly threatened to sue the County if they are not happy with the “all shoreline is critical” and sea level rise provisions that Council enacts?

Second, has the MRC figured out where the $17,000 came from? This money is almost certainly grant funds provided to the County (although I understand that a few dollars may be contributions, which fact raises its own issues—is the MRC authorized to solicit, accept and spend donations?). Grant funds come with obligations that the state and federal governments take seriously, and the County is almost certainly on the hook for them. In my experience, grant funds are tightly supervised and an accounting rendered quarterly or annually, depending on the program.

Third, I did not understand why the MRC sought and why the prior Council granted the MRC $10,000 out of County “rainy day” funds for a coordinator. The MRC is legally authorized to perform two functions, so far as my legal research has gotten: advise Council on marine matters and advise Council on which projects should be funded through the salmon recovery program. The “Lead Entity” coordinator seems to be the natural coordinator for the second responsibility. The MRC members are supposed to be experts in the relevant areas, with the exception of the general citizen member. That being the case, it is a bit puzzling why the MRC would need additional staff support. They already have a third County staffer preparing minutes, which is something else that is puzzling. Based on PRA documents that I have reviewed, I believe that the current MRC coordinator has even undertaken to revise and amplify the “contractual requirements” demanded of the County beyond those originally proposed by the NWSC/Ecology, to include more “work.” Negotiating against the County, as it were. Given the fact that NWSC funding (and most other state and federal funding) is drying up, that does not seem wise, even if allowing a County employee to write his or her own position description ever made sense.

Fourth, the County allocated $10,000 to the MRC conditionally in the 2013 budget, based on what was unearthed about the MRC “mystery” funds recently brought to light. I believe that a decision whether to charge those costs against the MRC mystery funds instead should be teed up before the end of the current 6-month obligation.

Finally, I assume that Council and the Prosecuting Attorney will be conferring on the committee issues. I have raised several and the PA has agreed that, in the two specific cases, the committees had exceeded their authority.
* note the original post said that the letter concerned closures on the west side, whereas the letter actually deals with extending the work window closures in marine areas to protect juvenile salmon. A copy of the letter is available from the linked article in the Island Guardian.

18 comments:

  1. Looks like the tail is wagging the dog ...

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  2. MRC has exceeded its scope of authority -- pure and simple.

    The Council better write the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and say. Hold on a second, they do not speak for the county.

    Then the Council better ask for all of the MRC's pencils, paper and crayons so they cannot do it again.

    Trust me, I have a 5 year old who sometimes writes stuff (usually on walls) without authority and this works.

    I am, rich in crayons, Nick Power.

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  3. Um, nothing in this post is true. Please email me (the MRC coodinator has my email address, if you would like the facts). Thanks.

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  4. The topic of the letter to WDFW was incorrect, but it's been corrected in the post now with an explanatory footnote.

    The letter from WDFW was sent without County knowledge. Lyshall did speak before the Council and say that Northwest Straits was the MRC's parent organization, not the Council.

    As for the points in the letter, we'd love more information. We'll send you an email.

    Thank you for helping us understand.

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  5. Would that Sharon Blogvisto be as responsive to corrections we might be on the way to responsible civic journalism around here. Kudos to Kit and the Trojan Heron. This stuff gets complicated and as the lawyers would argue, "it's a correctable error."

    Anyway, Linda hasn't been on the job for a year and folks sometimes get a little anxious appearing in public before the Council. I'm sure she means well.

    Thanks!

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  6. “And this mess is so big
    And so deep and so tall,
    We cannot pick it up.
    There is no way at all!”

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  7. Kit Rawson is working on a response, and we'll post it when it becomes available.

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  8. "Kit Rawson is working on a response"? Another WTF moment. There are 10-15 members of the MRC and we have to go to Tulalipville in Marysville for information about our COunty's MRC? Mr. Rawson has worked for the Tulalip tribe for what, decades?--as a "treaty rights" lobbyist. He is paid to push the agenda of the tribes that (1) they are co-managers of the county's resources (salmon, mostly, but land and sea resources) and (2) the county's resources are being mucked up by people building houses near the shoreline and that is why the salmon are dying out. He has been on the San Juan MRC (and was chair of the MRC) for something close to a decade. Why do we havae tribal representation on the MRC? The tribes are sovereign entities and have repeatedly threatened to flat-out sue the county if it doesn't declare all shoreline "critical" and if it doesn't plan to move homes and roads to accommodate something like a six foot rise in sea level. (I might have that number wrong, but it is on the far high end of sea-level rise conjectures.)

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  9. The confusion about which particular correspondence by the MRC is involved is understandable. For some reason, NOAA--after conducting extensive rulemaking on the westside no-go zone only last year, and after hearing from Council in no uncertain terms that the "no go" zone was a non-starter--has suddenly reappeared saying it had excess money in its budget that needed to be spent (!) and so they wanted to revisit the no-go zone issue in yet another visioning/ coordinating/consensus-ing set of meetings with the MRC and its friends across the spring. Do you think that occurred out of thin air? I'm willing to bet that the idea came from the disgruntled MRC and friends. But I could be wrong.

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  10. The question is whether the MRC should be sending out letters to any governmental agency about anything, especially on its own letterhead. The MRC doesn't exist except as an arm of the county government. If the county has something to say, the county (council) should say it. The MRC shouldn't be speaking to other government agencies. It doesn't matter what the topic of conversation is.

    But of course, these matters become particularly messy since the MRC charter says that there will be non-county government agency representation (tribal representative) on our MRC.

    There are fundamental flaws here that need to be remedied

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  11. Rawson says "Nothing in this post is true?" Heron, how could you have made so MANY mistakes?

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  12. Nothing, except for Lyshall being on videotape from her Council appearance. Nothing, except you can find a copy of the MRC letter and the accompanying story on the Island Guardian, sanjuanislander, and watch the video of the last council session where they discuss it. And then there are the questions in the email in the post, and I believe one of the questions refers to the tribes provided $15K to the LIO for Lyshall's salary.

    That's a whole lot of nuthin'! I'll be interested to see Kit Rawson's response nonetheless.

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  13. If Kit is monitoring this little backwater blog and preparing written responses is this part of his job on the company dime?

    Well anyway if there are any old fans of the Firesign Theater out there just remember:

    "Everything you know is wrong."

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  14. The MRC has terminated access to all of their published minutes from 2012. (as of yesterday). Go figure.

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  15. I went to the MRC website just moments ago. There is an enormous amount of verbage about strategy and summaries of the so called monitoring activities. However, there is not a single shred of data or conclusions from the vast effort that lots of organizations and volunteers seem to be performing.

    How would the Council or a citizen know that any of this "science" is valid?

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  16. Carl Sagan's GhostJanuary 10, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    Independent third party peer review using best practices ...

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  17. One of the fundamental nice things about research, "science," is the element of surprise.

    Some people "know" "all" about fish and there are those speak for the fish, and there are those who exploit the fish and don't want anyone else in on their turf/water.

    And no surprises are allowed. Go Fish.

    In the meantime SJC should close down the "MRC" and butt out of the whole issue.

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  18. Wow, it got really quiet over there in Tulalipland.

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