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.