Saturday, January 12, 2013

San Juan County's Lil Wayne

The lawsuit against the County for holding secret meetings about the Critical Areas Ordinances (CAOs) is at the deposition stage. Thus far, the three Council members who allegedly took part in the secret meetings have been deposed. Depositions have been taken from Lovel Pratt, Richard Fralick, and Patty Miller in that order. Shireene Hale is scheduled for deposition this coming Thursday.

The transcripts for the depositions will be available shortly, and we will post them. However, so as not to interfere with the discovery process, the Trojan Heron won't be releasing any details until after Shireene Hale has been deposed at the earliest. If further depositions are subsequently scheduled, we may reconsider our timing, but our hope is to share the transcripts sooner rather than later.

Once you see the transcripts, you'll be able to answer the riddle of who in the County most resembles Lil Wayne. Based on the evidence gathered so far, the case against the County seems to have substantial merit and is growing stronger.

Lawsuits cost money. The Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR) is the organization that brought the suit, and yesterday, they put out a press release which included a request for help in funding the lawsuit.

Below is the CAPR press release, and if you are interested in getting to the bottom of the secret meetings and their affect on the CAO process, please consider a donation.

Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights,
San Juan Chapter, (CAPR) Lawsuit Update
On October 12, 2012 a lawsuit was filed against San Juan County for violations of Washington State’s Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”). The complaint alleges that “Individual Council members participated in three-person subcommittee meetings,” and they knew, or should have known, “that their actions were in violation of the OPMA.” Dennis Reynolds of the DDR Law firm is representing CAPR in this legal action.

The CAO/SMP Implementation Team or Committee included Council Members Lovel Pratt, Richard Fralick, and Patty Miller. The “Team” also included Jon Cain of the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, planning staff, various consultants, DOE, and the County Administrator. During the 25 or more meetings of the Implementation Team, “ideas and policies are brought forward, discussed, narrowed and discarded and approaches are formulated.” (Gaylord memo 4/25/12).  Decisions were made and action was taken.

Even though it was listed as part of the official CAO “public process,” the public was not allowed to attend these meetings. There was no public notice and no minutes were taken. The 3 Committee members reported back to the full Council with their recommendations.
The schedule to pass this CAO legislation before year’s end was hurried along by the Committee before two of their members left office (Lovel Pratt and Richard Fralick). The 3 Committee members Lovel Pratt, Richard Fralick, and Patty Miller, voted as a block for final passage of the five CAO Elements. (3 Council members can’t pass legislation, but in a body of 6 they can stop anything from passing with a tie vote).

CAPR believes that open and transparent government is the right of every citizen. We should not have to go to court to enforce it. Although the actions of the Council were not consistent with the law, it explains why public testimony was ignored, science was rejected, and people were only allowed limited time to speak before they were rudely cut off. The decisions had already been made in the backroom with staff and consultants calling the shots. In this case the people were treated disrespectfully and their concerns dismissed.

Eighty-five percent of the voters in San Juan County voted in favor of transparent government in the last election. It was so important that we added strict language to our Home Rule Charter to eliminate any confusion. It shouldn’t matter if the subject is the budget, solid waste, or the CAO, the County Council should not be allowed to ban the public and the press while discussing policy decisions in secret subcommittees. Transparency in government and fairness in the deliberation of ideas and policies is the goal of this lawsuit. We hope you will support our efforts. 

Donations to the San Juan CAPR legal fund can be sent to P.O. Box 1866, Friday Harbor, WA.


  1. The knowing or intentional violation of the Act may provide a legal basis for RECALL of elected officials.

  2. Intentional or not, this is a huge issue. If it was intentional, then that equates to corruption and trying to circumvent the process. I'd it was done out of ignorance, with a claim of "not knowing" then they are clearly wholly unqualified to hold the positions they do.

    Where do I send money??

  3. Didn't I hear that Lovell said she was the "first one" to express concern about the legality of the meetings? Does anyone know?

  4. I remember Lovel saying something about how important public participation was ... mumble ... mumble ...

    But yes, she tried to get out ahead of the curve when this issue first hit the fan.

    If intentional then corruption.

    If not intentional, then negligence.

    Which would you rather be, a crook or a fool?

    Either way is toast. No way out. The fines are I think $100 per violation, dunno, does that mean times 30 meetings or whatever?

    And everyone will know, forever.

  5. The fines are $100 per violation of the OPMA, but we never know where the evidence will take the suit either. A few posts back, this situation was referred to as a classic prisoners dilemma. It is. It could go sideways for the participants if they are not forthcoming. And if they aren't forthcoming, I'd hate to be in their shoes.

    There is an old joke about a high school teacher and four students who were late to class one day. The four students walked in late, and told the teacher that they their car had a flat tire. The teacher accepted their excuse and told them that they had missed a short quiz and would have to make it up before they could rejoin the rest of the class. He put each of the students in a corner of the room, and the teacher said, "There's only one question to this quiz. I want each of you to write down on a piece of paper which tire had the flat."

    We have three depositions already. I don't know what they say, but each has told us which tire was flat. Up next, it's Shireene's turn.

  6. The PD is such a good way to look at this situation. There are only two strategies to insure anything resembling a beneficial outcome in PD. Either all the parties collude, or they try to save themselves, in this case by telling the truth when others do not. You could see this whole situation in game theory terms because all the parties tried to collude in the CAO secret meetings, but collusion is an unstable equilibrium and always breaks down after a while. The only stable equilibrium is the Nash equilibrium which occurs where everyone ruthlessly pursues their own self interest and tries to save their skin by telling the truth.

    Whoever doesn't tell the truth in these depositions is counting on collusion to save them. Big mistake from a game theory point of view. Paraphrasing Gene Hackman's character in the movie Unforgiven, "And when their lies ain't the same as your lies... Well, I ain't gonna hurt no woman."

    Who gets hurt in this case remains to be seen.

  7. I think the public got hurt in this case. Now we're just trying to figure out who to hold accountable.

  8. Watch out for the advice of counsel defense based on Mr. Gaylord's original, incorrect legal opinion with regard to whether or not the OMA applied to the gatherings (which were, of course, for scheduling purposes only, according to at least one participant).

  9. I could be wrong, but didn't the editor of the Island Guardian once get into a bit of a public tiff with Pratt about whether or not these meetings should be open to the public?

    Remember, Pratt, was unable to wrap her mind around the concept of Conflict of Interest in her efforts to vote on the public trough funding of the brick works.

    The OPMA may have been a mental challenge for her too.

    I do think they all might skate free using the "Advice of Council" gambit. The PD dilemma is richly deserved by all.

  10. Heck, 30 meetings comes to a lousy three grand. I'm an unabashed liberal and I paid more than that to CSA in backing that honest effort to get these jerks to listen to the public.

    Let em break rocks while we throw over ripe tomatoes at them.

  11. Isn't the point ultimately less about the "free skating" and more about the validity of the decisions made under the influence of the meetings?

  12. You are correct. Money pales in value compared to the damage done to the public. (I would still like to hurl a few over ripe tomatoes.)