City of Edmonds shares details of $50K public records settlement

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The Edmonds City Attorney on Wednesday released details of a $50,000 settlement between the city and Edmonds resident Finis Tupper regarding a dispute over a public records request.

The Edmonds City Council approved the settlement following an executive session on July 7.

According to the settlement agreement, on Oct. 18, 2014, Tupper submitted a request to the City of Edmonds “for certain public records.” Between Dec. 10, 2014 and Feb. 5, 2015, the city “provided or otherwise made available documents” in response to Tupper’s request, the settlement said. However, Tupper contends that the city violated the Public Records Act by not providing the documents in a timely manner and “by not fully responding to the public records request.”

“The city contends that it complied with the Public Records Act and denies the contentions made by Tupper,” the settlement notes.

Tupper filed an action in Snohomish County Superior Court on Feb. 20, 2015, to enforce the alleged violations “and to recover penalties allowed under the Act and injunctive relief,” the settlement said. In response, the city denied the allegations contained in the complaint.

The settlement agreement was crafted “to avoid the time, expense and uncertainty of litigating the pending matter before the Snohomish County Superior Court” the document said, and  “should be not be construed as an admission by the City that it has violated any law or failed to fulfill any obligation under the Public Records Act.

The city agreed to pay Tupper $50,269.25 in exchange for Tupper agreeing not to sue the city.

City Attorney Jeff Taraday said he couldn’t elaborate on the settlement, and Tupper did not respond to an email from My Edmonds News requesting a comment.

 

48 COMMENTS

  1. there is a public records act in this state we still do not have the details of the case I don’t know what she was looking for if she ever got what she was looking for or when she got what she was looking for, I don’t know what time frame goverment city state or county has to respond to a public records request but they have to respond and turn over those public records,I would suggest to solve this situation make those records totally public ala web sites so there it is you want to see it just look it up someday that will happen somebody gets 50 grand with a public records request this situation isnt going away

  2. what the h— is wrong with the city if they do not follow the rules that were plainly laid out???? Better start getting things done correctly or look for a different position. Who is at fault here??

  3. The Freedom Of Information Act and Public Records Request are LAW and this is so citizens have available to them, information from government operations, and this keeps a government TRANSPARENT and makes sure our LAWS of the land are followed by our government.

    A government entity following the laws, rules and regulations would not have any problems with FOIA requests or public record requests. A $50,000 fine is not a small amount of money and our city evidently paid heavily for not following the rule of law. or rules or regulations…….My theory is is that a TRANSPARENT, above board, ethical, follow all the laws government entity does not have so many requests as they are all of the above in the first place.

    We have had “tricky” (deceptive, law breaking, up to the very top of government) government in the past and I doubt anybody wants to travel that avenue again. That government was the only one in our history that had an at the TOP government official that had to step down while in office. A shameful time in our history. ……sans transparency….Now we have laws regarding transparency and checks and balances that can be done by citizens that officials actually represent.

    checks and balances

    • So then why not call for an immediate release and posting of the original requests, court documents and city council meeting notes related to this. They released the settlement claiming no admission of fault. Does the Council and Administration not expect anyone to file a request for these documents to understand what the real story was that prompted the city to pay as of 2013 the 21st largest PRR settlement in the state? Then rather than anyone claiming a conspiracy or refusing to believe this may have been a legitimate matter we could all make up our own minds about whether this was a case of too large of a workload or a lack of transparency. Taking a look at the case docket, it is interesting that the City Attorney did not appear for the City.

      • The City attorney for Edmonds, let his corporate business license expire, and never applied for a City of Seattle license for over five years!! This is the level of “legal expertise” the City of Edmonds hired at $ 41,000.00 per month. He was fined by the City of Seattle almost $ 13,000 just a few months ago. Stated as an oversight.
        His favorite reply regarding law is, “I don’t read it that way”, in other words, I do what I want.
        This was exposed by a Citizen, who follows the law, applies the law, and is a very nice person.
        Thank you Mr. Finis Tupper.

        • So I hope MEN will request from the city FULL disclosure of the city attorney’s licensing status, licensing history, Tax status, and any and all discussions about their dealings regarding how to address this. Will there be a recoup of fees paid in the time period, review of his opinions, some proof that there is oversight and actions are being done in the best interest of the citizens? Or do we have to file FOIA requests for this and chance another lawsuit?

        • This seems to be a standard for our government, ” I do what I want” with a group in town that think that is just fine……those that will even just go along and those that protect this at all cost……this is a no brainer……We are a country of laws and those that think they can skirt the laws, rules and regulations are absoltely wrong, even private business cannot skirt laws. ……..From my research, the criminals are just plain stupid and justice usually gets served

          So for all out there who think they can always just do what they want, in the end, they will see how wrong they are.

          I say thank goodness we have Mr. Tupper and Mr. Reidy and others holding our government accountable to our laws. Its about being civilised and having a system of right and wrong…….for all

          One cannot cherry-pick our laws, rules and regulations for their own ends…….Question those who believe we need laws for some people but not others and those that think they are above the law

    • Ive done many FOIA requests with this city regarding a major crime involving a member of my family whose life was lost (a 15 year old girl) and Ive worked with enough cold case groups including law inforcement people to know when Im getting the run around……we’re not talking about a “conspiracy” here, we’ re talking about transparency and government……….and yes, I could sue and Ive chosen not to

      Again, a government following all laws, rules and regulations would not have so many law suits or information requests …….

  4. Thank you Mr. Kellerman. I used to work in the City Clerk’s Office and the requests for public records takes half of the time of this department. Some of the request are just spite. I remember one time I copied a complete file and called the requester that the file was ready for them to pick up and guess what, they never picked it up. What a waste of time and money.

  5. I think every city has one of these types of people. I worked for another city before I moved to Edmonds and the city clerk there was always overworked trying to get out records on time to a particular person who constantly requested records- probably also trying to get a “ransom” settlement as well- that’s money out of all our pockets and that’s not a good thing

  6. There are certainly requests that are submitted for reasons that are not legitamate and even if legitamate cause a tax on staff. However, that is part of the point of transparany. By default post everything and narrowly claim the priviledge of privacy. When there is 38+ executive sessions that never see the light of day they should expect people to wonder and this is what they get.

    • I am saying neither. At this point I do not KNOW that the requests were wrong, and I do not KNOW the settlement was wrong, and I do not KNOW the city simply missed providing the information or intentionally did not provide it. And frankly I do not KNOW anything in the executive sessions is wrong. What I do KNOW is that executive sessions are by state law an exception and are to be used sparingly. They are certainly appropriate for the exceptions allowed. However, after the issue they are used for has passed they are available to the public. A truly open and transparent government should post the information just like they post the City Council minutes, and if for legal reasons something needs to be redacted then do it, the jist of the meeting will come through. The load to do this would certainly be below the load to reply to various records requests. As for deserving, I would not use that word however I would say they certainly should expect interest from it’s citizens and be thoughtful on how to mitigate the work involved.

  7. well if you want transparency they should release the folks who are requesting public records, what records they are requesting and how often..make it all open to the public on both sides then us tax payers will know A : our city staff not doing there job or B : certain individuals are abusing the process, city staff and my tax $! or C: the amount of requests are legit vs similar cities and we don’t have enough staff to handle it

    • All you need to do is ask for that information. The Clerk’s office is really quite pleasant to deal with and very helpful. It is all public record.

  8. look they the city needs to come up with a system where the records are public, everybody can look at them I can go to snohomish county and look up any property and find out all i need to know about it, so whats so hard about putting public records on pdf and letting the public having acess . paying somebody $50 grand wait a minute whats going on here thats taxpayers money will someone explain why there wasn’t a fight city says they did’nt do anything wrong really they why did’nt you fight

  9. Dollars that is $100,000.00 so many things have not been disclosed to the public, we shouldn’t have to request information, city council sits there for hours breathing, asking stupid questions, not even making regular conversation, 45 minutes into watching the city council on tv and still no clue what the subject of conversation is about. Stop wasting time, money and energy trying to waste time to get more money to expel no energy.

  10. Mike – I believe the City purchased public record request software in the recent past and I do not know what the status of its implementation is. I imagine it has been implemented and the City can easily provide the information that you would like to see.

    The following is cut and paste from an internet search that provided a link to an old page on the City’s website:

    “Public Records Requestors and Charts”

    “For 2012, data reflects early testing of the records request software. It represents a majority of the requests made but, due to limited access by staff during testing, represents only a fraction of the time staff spent on fulfilling requests. Beginning late 2012, early 2013, as training and usage of the records request system is extended to all city staff, the data will be more complete. Thanks for your patience.”

    I have made MANY public record requests – possible more than anybody else. I sincerely believe all of my requests are legitimate and not abusive of the process.

    Often my requests are for Executive Session Meeting Minutes. Many of the items I request are returned to me redacted. An example is page 1 of the October 18, 2005 Executive Session Meeting Minutes. It is very hard to understand why it would still be redacted when the related real estate transaction closed in late 2005.

    I have requested Executive Session Meeting Minutes partially because of the following:

    From Page 8 of the June 5, 2007 Edmonds City Council Approved Minutes:

    “With regard to the allegation that something occurred in Executive Session, Mr. Snyder advised once the process was concluded, all Executive Session minutes would be available to the public. As the minutes would reveal, he was very clear to the Council when this was discussed that a settlement proposal had been presented to the Council; the settlement proposal depended upon passage of the development agreement. He assured he had not polled the Council and only sought reactions and feedback regarding negotiating the terms. He had advised the Council they could not make a decision in Executive Session and that they should not give direction regarding the development agreement. The Council was not asked their opinion regarding the development agreement in Executive Session as that could only be done in open session after a public hearing.”

    Please note that the approved City Council Meeting Minutes clearly indicate that Mr. Snyder advised the following: once the process was concluded, all Executive Session minutes would be available to the public.

    I believe Mr. Snyder’s representation supports the general concept that Executive Session Meeting minutes will be made available to the public after the related process is concluded.

    Furthermore, the following discussion related to recording Executive Sessions and/or releasing Executive Session minutes is found in the November 27, 2007 Edmonds City Council Approved Minutes:

    Councilmember Plunkett commented his understanding was that once an executive session issue was resolved, the City made the minutes of the executive session public. He asked whether the proposed legislation would prevent the publication of the minutes for two years. City Clerk Sandy Chase answered Edmonds was unusual as they maintained minutes of executive sessions; the majority of cities did not. Currently, once an issue was resolved, the minutes become public record upon receipt of a public records request.

    • Ken..Hope all is well..you say the city purchased software recently..do you know what it does to assist in getting these records to the requestee in a timely matter? It seems to me to simply have a computer sitting at the city desk w a printer next to it so you or anyone else can walk in enter the request and have the documents printed out right there would be simple and cost effective. The city would have a record of who is requesting what and who possibly would be abusing the system. My concern is tossing out $50k to someone is opening a pandora’s box for folks who want to head on down and start requesting a zillion public records and then when not getting them in timely matter threatening to sue..maybe I am missing something as I have never requested public records..thx for your thoughts..

  11. Hi Mike – I searched the City’s website for more information on records request software and didn’t find any additional information. Maybe somebody from the City will read this and clarify how the testing of the software worked out and whether or not it was fully implemented. It does seem like there has to be a better way to manage this process.

    My opinion is that the volume of public record requests can relate to the level of citizen trust or distrust in our government. I would hope that efforts to build trust would lead to fewer public record requests. I think there is much work to be done in that area. Not saying I am right….just my opinion.

  12. Not sure there is complete disclosure as the city did not disclose what the request was for. If I remember correctly the city was asked and was going to look into posting all public records request, subject and who filing. Dont know what happened.

  13. Once again, suing. Taking a settlement for 50k speaks volumes. I would love for the 50k to be donated back to the City for specific alternatives to help speed the FOIA requests. That cash would buy a pretty nice scanner, some fine computers, and probably some great off the shelf software. Instead, it encourages more folks to bombard the city with FOIA requests.

    My hope is that the recipient puts the cash to good use. Donate it back, the point was made.

    Next time someone raises hell about sidewalks and stop signs, call Finnis. They have 50k to patch up a few.

  14. What is interesting here is those that this day and age would actually want a secret government because THAT is what you are talking about when saying the citizens the government is supposed to represent should be left in the dark……..Our government has 5 days by law to release the information (or have a good reason for making the time period a little longer) they have right at their finger-tips. We dont live in a secretive third world country where a government is allowed to have SECRETS and/or operate in the dark.
    Some of you need to educate yourselves at the Attorney Generals office or the Department of Justice office……..

    Transparency of government……I would start looking at those that dont want that . Perhaps those people could explain why they would want a secretive government or why they might think some people should be left in the DARK regarding functions of government.

    There are cases every day (brought by the federal govt.) across the country of those taking advantage of the public trust……….Be greatful we have laws regarding an open government and many who expect those working in government to follow all laws.

    Be very wary of those encouraging a secret government and denigrating those that want our government to be lawful…….Again we are not a third world country ……We move forward, not backwards

  15. First off, I have provided My Edmonds News with an email from City Attorney Patricia Taraday to my Attorney requesting a Settlement Offer letter and my Attorney’s Settlement Offer Letter. I am sure that if someone requested these documents from the City Clerk they would be denied access to them.

    Also I have requested the email addresses and IP Addresses of Jonathon Kellerman & Jonathon Waxman. My Edmonds News has deleted all comments made using these two fictitious names because their true identity could not be confirmed.

    I requesting the person or persons who made the comments on My Edmonds News to come forward and identify yourself.

      • Darrol the Public Records provided to My Edmonds News fully disclose the legal authority of the lawsuit.

        Hopefully Teresa will post them with a follow story and provide any tracking data of Jonathon Kellerman and Jonathon Waxman t.

        The readers of My Edmonds News have the right to know who posted the deleted comments.

        • Not looking for the legal authority. Based on the outcome the legal authority must have existed or the case would have gone no where. What I asked, using my own name, is what information or records did you ask the city to provide. Just thought is would be easier to ask you rather than do a public records request to find out.

        • Darrol, My Edmonds News has posted the Settlement Offer Letter but not the email from the City Attorney. The letter provides the documents I requested and was not provided. Of course, the City doesn’t want the citizens to see their email requesting a letter of settlement.

          What do you think about people posting with fictitious names? Should My Edmonds News provide the tracking data on their server of persons that cyber-bully the readers of My Edmonds News?

          Your opinion would be appreciated! Stay in Touch.

        • You are welcome to copy and paste the email content you are referencing as part of your reply. It was not submitted to me as a separate PDF for me to upload, so I did not do so.

        • I would like to remind everyone that as the owner and chief bottle washer at this website, I am in charge of the personal data and I am not making it publicly available. I value the privacy of my readers. I do my best to ensure that there is a real name and face behind every comment and that people are held accountable; occasionally, one slips through the cracks. Fortunately, I have never claimed to be either perfect or infallible, and I own up to my mistakes. The offending commenters and their comments have been removed, I thanked Mr. Tupper for pointing them out to me and I told him personally via an earlier email that I would not be providing IP addresses for his tracking purposes. I hope this puts an end to the matter. If anyone is dissatisfied with my decision, they can choose to not read My Edmonds News.
          Sincerely,
          Teresa

        • Finis, Nice to see you at the market last night. The salmon I was carrying was a hit for my WI friend when BBQed perfectly. Your question deserves an answer and it is only my opinion.

          MEN is a private business and has been very generous in letting all of us have community discussions. Some of those discussions are great and others are really not in keeping up with the need for good public discourse.

          So as a private business MEN is under no obligation to release any information about posters. MEN news has the right to cut people off who abuse it policies, it has the right to eliminate comments by people who do not exist, and it has the right to challenge individuals about the things they post. They are a private business and not a government entity.

          I was challenged on time for my comments when a ready accused me of being a bully. That’s fine. I was not kicked off the system after I explained my position with facts and figures. Facts count and fact based opinions count far more that some of the same old tired discussions that often occur.

          Fictitious names are interesting. If cyber-bullying is going on, one needs only to point that out to MEN and it will be taken care of in short order. Sometimes fictitious named people can do a good public service if they are just trying to get people to think or for individuals to come up with supporting facts. When I was working on the Street and Maintenance Levy a few years back their was a person, “Joe Morgan” who was rather regularly challenging some of the things I was saying. It only sharpened my need to present the factual components in a way that could be more clearly understood. Someone complained and “Joe” was kicked off MEN. Just before leaving “Joe” said I may have actually convinced “him” or “her” to vote for the levy, so I took “Joe’s” comments as constructive.

          “Joe” has emailed me from time to time and even offered to reveal “his or her” identity. I did not follow up on the offer. I did not want to “taint” the words that were offered. The words were more important that who was writing them. So fictitious names can be good or bad, just like the rest of us who actually reveal who we are with our true identity.

          MEN has posted some of you records and explained with the follow why they did not post something else you mentioned.

          MyEdmondsNews · July 28, 2015, 5:55 pm Reply

          You are welcome to copy and paste the email content you are referencing as part of your reply. It was not submitted to me as a separate PDF for me to upload, so I did not do so.

          If you want the public to know what else you wanted to share MEN has suggested a way for that to be done in the note directly above.

          Finis, I hope that answers your question about my opinion. By the way the salmon was great and impressed my WI friend.

          I hope “Joe” is doing well.

        • A few years ago someone posted numerous comments using the alias Joe Morgan. He could not be tracked to his true identity because he provided MEN a gmail address. gmail addresses evidently cannot be tracked. If Kellerman and Waxman used gmail addresses, perhaps it’s time to cease accepting comments with that address.

        • Every email address can be tracked back to its source by its header. I believe that My Edmonds News has the email addresses of those that are at the site, so would have the header to all emails. Unless the person/persons are living in tim buck two in some other foreign country, and I believe this party is local, their email address can be tracked. LE does it all the time and so do investigators regarding crimes and that would be international also……Sooooooooo, I believe THAT is totally untrue, particularly this day and age and I don’t believe that “I’ve deleted it or lost it” works with investigations or LE, Justice Department, etc. etc .

          Did this publisher say that email address owners that registered with this site cannot be tracked???

        • MyEdmondsNews · July 28, 2015, 6:05 pm ..

          MEN has spoken and settled this issue!!! See MEN comments at date and time shown above. It is a private business that allows us to weigh in on public issues. We all need to take care and use this great public resource in the way it was intended.

  16. “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people in delagating authority, do not give their pubic servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so they maintain control over the instruments they have created.”

    Washington Public Records Act RCW 42.17.251

    “…..the people insist on remaining informed…..”

    Gee, what a concept. This is why many people from third world secretive government countries around the world wish to come to America.

    “…..remaining informed….” Again, I say QUESTION those denigrating people that wish to be informed of the processes of our government. We do not live in a kingdom here.

    Celebrate those that ask the questions to make sure our government serves the will of the people lawfully and yes, expect our government to follow all laws, rules and regulations. THAT is certainly expected of us citizens!

  17. Ive looked at this whole thing the letter fromTupper jr to the citys law firm Is there any monitary reason this guy Finis Tupper needed these records in 5 days, did it cost him a whole bunch of money not to have the records, or is he just getting money because of some dumb law if thats the case he should give it back really

    • Michael, Reading the settlement letter suggest the city was a bit over the 5 day limit in the law. I read, 44 days, 45 days and 100 days for various docs. Some of what was requested looks like canned reports that likely were able to be found and transmitted in very short order. My file system is not very good but I can find stuff in less than 40 days. We the public may never know unless Mr. Tupper or the City tells the “rest of the story”. Mr. Tupper has shared with us what was requested but the city has not shared with us why it took so long.

    • Hi Mike:

      I have a counter proposal, if you can get the City of Lynnwood to refund all red light tickets for the past five years or the Edmonds Court to refund all marijuana violations for the past 30 years I will return my settlement to Edmonds.

      Go for Mike!

  18. So let me get this straight I can go and request public records if i don;t get a responce within 5 days i can sue and probably get some money,and i don’t have to show any monitary damages to me by not having the public records, finis im not communicating with you. IM just making a comment

  19. Tere – an example of this type of City behavior is documented in the June 2, 2015 City Council Meeting Minutes about the emergency Ordinance:

    RCW 36.70A.390 requires a public hearing within 60 days and adoption of Findings of Fact
    – Due to an oversight, 77 days have elapsed since March 17
    The City has taken steps to ensure that does not happen again
    The City Attorney felt there was no substantive effect of missing the 60 day timeline and should not affect the validity of the ordinance

    There really isn’t any question that the action taken on June 2nd violated State Law. I believe that the two attempts to justify the oversight are irrelevant. The law is pure, simple and clean.

    I fear that the City’s take on action like this is that if somebody doesn’t like what the City has done, it is that party’s duty or obligation to take action to try and stop the City from doing what it wants to do. I wish the City would just keep it simple and follow laws.

  20. MEN has a code of conduct for users that can be found on the home page, under “About” which says: ” My Edmonds News readers will:
    – be accountable for stories they post and follow up by correcting known errors;”

    I would like to be more accurate in something I said in my post above… see post at:

    Darrol Haug · July 29, 2015, 1:24 pm

    While answering Finis’s question about my opinion on MEN releasing details of fictitious posters, I was not as complete or as accurate in my answer as I could have been.

    People using real names can be bullies or not.
    People using fictitious names can be bullies or not

    MEN seems to deal with bullies real or fictitious in the same way. Their posts are removed.

    For fictitious people seem to be handled with more interaction between MEN and the real person using a name that is not real or is incomplete. People not using their last names was and issue in the past and those people were given the opportunity to stay on line by using their last name.

    In my above post I said: “Someone complained and “Joe” was kicked off MEN.” Someone did complain but “Joe” was not kicked off MEN. My experience suggests Teresa deals with these types of issues fairly and respectfully. As stated above I was called out by a reader along with another person for being a bully. Teresa contacted me discussed the situation in a fair and respectful manner and we went forward. (Note: I do not challenge that reader for back up facts as often as I did back then.)

    What in all probability happened with “Joe” is the opportunity to continue posting was given but a real name would have to be used.

    So “Joe” was not “kicked off” but simply choose to not post using a real name.

    Sorry “Joe” and all other readers for not being a bit more accurate in my post.

    “Freedom of Speech” is wonderful but ACCURATE!!! Freedom is Speech is better. I think I am allowed to use all caps once and I don’t think using MEN as all caps counts toward my one per post limit???

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