Edmonds Council Resolution 1237 explained

My Edmonds News today received a draft copy of Resolution 1237, which wasn’t listed on last night’s council agenda but was approved with minimal discussion and no explanation to the public.

A letter that accompanied the resolution, written by Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper to City Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Michael Plunkett, states that the council has authorized the city to provide “reasonable costs of legal representation which you may incur in the course of a workplace investigation.”

The resolution states that “an investigation into a workplace complaint will require the participation of councilmembers.” It also notes that the City Attorney can’t represent the individual councilmembers “due to potential confict of  interest,” as he will be representing the city.

My Edmonds News is looking into the workplace investigation and will report back on any details we learn.

  1. Are you kidding me! Councilmember Buckshnis has been in office for less than a year and already has a complaint of some sort filed against her that needs legal counsel! It is amazing that the two council people who are so concerned about cutting corners is now asking the city to pay legal fees. This is especially humorous coming from Buckshnis who has attacked Mr. Snyder on numerous occasions for the fees he receives. Talk about a waste of money. I think we should require the retired banker and long time Councilman Plunkett to pay for their own legal counsel. If they are found not liable on all counts, the City can reimburse them.

  2. I’m guessing that this is likely a discrimination complaint. During my working years we quite often got those kind of complaints from employees who weren’t getting their jobs done, so they dreamed up a complaint to give themselves some protection. If I’m right about the charge, then I’m confident that Ms. Buckshnis and Mr. Plunkett are not guilty.

  3. @Ron, I have represented many workers in discrimination complaints. I can assure you that none of those complaints were made on to harass the employer. Lawyers can get disbarred for filing complaints that have no bais in law or fact.

  4. If I read the resolution correctly, the indemnity for the Council members is not a blanket indemnity. Since none of us have any facts, making any judgments is premature.
    However, the video was messed up of Council meeting right around the passage of that resolution. Does anyone know how the vote went? Council members Buckshnis and Plunkett, I assume, didn’t vote on this.

  5. Priya:

    The last company that I retired from had a staff of corporate attornies, but I had enough legal work in my own department to have an attorney, practising law, on my staff. Often times I reluctantly agreed to settlements, even when I knew my staff member was not guilty of anything, as that was the most expedient and least costly course to take.

  6. Diane:
    I attended the meeting and I believe that the vote was 7-0. Ms. Buckshnis checked with Mr. Snyder and was told that she could vote.

  7. @Ron, you missed the point. The point is not whether it is sometimes easier to settle a case. Th point is that most lawyers to not file complaints to harass when there is no basis in law or fact for the suit.

    Even beyond that point, I think it is hypocritical for Councilwoman Buckshnis to complain about attorney fees paid by th City but, then request the City pay hers. Hey..but, that’s just me.

    Even more interesting is that if it is a discrimination issue, then why would there be a conflict of interest between Buckshnis and Plunkett’s defenses unless they are pointing the finger at each other. Not like that ever happed on finance. (being sarcatic.)

  8. @Priya – I was a banker from 1974 to 1986 and made a salary of about $44K and our bonus was a turkey or ham at Christmas. I spent the majority of my time as a bank auditor, credit examiner and policy writer. Banks no longer have these type of departments as they were not revenue positive. I was approached by the Regulatory arm of government when the banking industry had its first savings and loan debacle.

    The next two decades I was a regulator and regulatory consultant to two countries (Lithuania and Kazakhstan) assisting them in deregulating their Soviet regulations and reforming their systems to a more transparent and strengthening the capabilities of examining banks and credit unions.

    In my decades of fiscal review, I have examined and reviewed thousands, if not millions of financial statements, budgets, brokerage filings, laws, regulations, etc.

    As part of my platform last year, while you were running as well, I vowed for financial clarity and transparency and to create fiscal policies. I achieved the fiscal policy directive in April of this year when the City Council voted 7 to 0 in favor of citizen friendly financial disclosures that are similar to Governmental Finance Officers Association best practices. Before crafting those policies, I had researched hundreds of website and reviewed dozens of policies to ensure that we had a citizen friendly ordinance that most importantly disclosed the General Fund and in dollar amounts of actual to budget but all funds as well. In this regard, at any given point in time any citizen that wants to understand the financial condition of this City can go to our website and review in detail our financial situation without staff discussions. The administration has not fulfilled this goal of compliance to these policies and we are still waiting.

    Mr. Walmbolt has been very active in keeping involved in understanding my educational citizenry approach in attempting to get financial clarity and transparency. Rather than guess, you might want to utilize his wisdom.

    Just to let you know, I will not debate you on this since you seem to forget that I was a retired banker back in the 80’s and have spent the last few decades attempting to bring clarity of financials to citizens in the form of a regulator or regulatory consultant.

  9. Just for the sake of a spurious argument:
    Millions is a lot. To have reviewed only a million such documents over the course of 30 years, figuring a 5 day work week (and vacation…using 250 days per year) would be 133 such documents per day.
    Hyperbole is not generally useful. Having reviewed a few of these myself (a couple of hundred)…it can easily feel like a million, though it isn’t.
    As a citizen, I do not see any clarity in Edmonds financial statements. The flow of the funds from the TBD through the General Fund was not clear at all, and I tried to follow it. The “annual report” of the TBD is one of the poorest examples of an “Annual Report” I have ever seen, and when I asked how the TBD spent the money, I had to bother “staff” and the answer was vague at best. I never did get solid information on what projects that money was used for.
    Our finance director, Mr. Hines, has been very helpful in helping me understand the City’s financing. As a CPA, he has passed a series of brutal tests to gain that CPA status, and has the ability to translate that information so that I can understand it.
    I am surprised to hear that banks no longer have auditors, credit examiners or policy writers….

  10. @Diane T..you are right…it is probably hundreds of thousands since I started looking at cash flow statements. But, I have seen many and go to any website (Bainbridge Island, Renton, Lynnwood, Issaquah, Shoreline, Kirkland, Lake Oswego, Portland OR, etc.) and you will see the normal citizen does NOT have to contact its Finance Dept., to figure out where the money flows.

    Yes, it is unfortunate that our bankers and regulators allowed to “pay CPAs” for these options of internal audit and credit examination and then the regulators went to risk base examining as opposed to CAMEL. What a different world we would have today if we would have keep those departments as well as strong regulating standards based on qualitative and quantative standards of all aspects of operating. happened in the early 90’s but can’t quite remember.

  11. The calculation was not difficult. Your statement was a gross exaggeration. Banking and City financing are two different entities. Cities must balance their budgets by law and cannot make a profit. They have, in fact, different accounting standards, and the City’s records are public. They are also audited by the State.
    The ordinances you spearheaded to create transparency in Edmonds financial reporting created more work for our Finance Department (by requiring them to create more reports) without concurrently adding staff to that department so that those reports could be accomplished in a timely manner by an already very busy understaffed department.
    Transparency is great but it isn’t free. Mr. Hines still needs to prepare his documents to comport to the state’s auditing requirements.
    Perhaps cooperating with our finance department toward the goal of transparency
    would be a better strategy than constantly complaining that you haven’t gotten the reports in the form you prefer.

  12. Thank-you for your perspective. I would advise you to come more than just two finance meeting over the last year as well as listen to Mr. Walmbolt who happens to attend all meetings.

  13. @Councilwoman Buckshnis:

    It is not clear to me how your banking history is relevant to the legal action you are now facing or are threatened with and whether you are liable. In fact, we don’t even know what the legal issue is about. We are all just guessing. You are very good at answering questions that do not exist. Why not tell us what the underlying issue of the legal action pending or threatened against you and we the citizens can decide whether we want to foot your legal bills.

  14. Priya,

    City Council already decided upon this issue, 7-0. We elected our council members to make these decisions, as our representatives. This is the democratic process.

    I support having legal funds available to council members in circumstances such as this. Being an elected official is an enormous responsibility. It is also very poorly compensated for the time that we all know is involved in serving the citizens of Edmonds. To expect that council members would also foot any legal bills incurred in the performance of their role, is highly unreasonable and unfair to council members, who are ALL doing their best to serve the public.

    You appear to have council members you support, and those you do not support. It is very clear from your past comments on MyEdmondsNews, and your immediate criticism of Michael Plunkett (who you ran against) and of Diane Buckshnis (who you have criticized before), that you do not support these council members, regardless of the issue. I suspect that the facts would not make a whit of difference to you, regarding these council members, even if the facts could be openly shared at this time.

    You admitted above that you do not know the legal issue involved. Then how can you presume to immediately judge the situation?

    Priya, I have observed that your comments are frequently nasty and inflammatory, rather than geared towards expanding understanding of the issues. Please keep in mind when you join public discourse that this is how I, and I believe others, experience what you have to say.

  15. Joan,

    Thank you for your evaluation of the situation. However, I disagree with you.

    Councilwoman Buckshnis campaigned on open government. Now, there is a pending legal action or threatened legal action for which the City has to pay outside counsel because of a conflict of interest between two council members. Open government would demand letting the public know what the legal issue is about. Open government requires that I know what my tax dollars are being spent on. That is all I request. You can feel free to argue using personal attacks however, all I have requested is the facts — I have requested an open government.

    And, btw, when it comes to government and government affairs, I do not play favorites. Ask Councilmen Wilson and Peterson how many times I have taken them to task.

  16. If one looks up the laws regarding the Workplace in Washington and the laws, there are only a few areas that can apply to Council persons (since they do not supervise nor make decisions about employees). It is logical to assume that this is not about wages, nor leave time. One of the obvious areas is discrimination of some kind.
    Not knowing the facts of this particular case, doesn’t mean that one must remain silent. I agree that the Council should be free of fear of legal fees while performing their duties, but it is difficult to understand how a City Council person would be involved in a “work place complaint investigation” while performing their official duties.
    @Ms. Bloom, Ms. Buckshnis was not elected, she was appointed by the Council. The elected Council members spend considerable amounts of money to be elected, knowing the compensation is meager. They don’t do it for the money, and they do not have my sympathy regarding their compensation.
    I am very concerned about the treatment of our Edmonds City Employees. They are who truly makes this a great little town, and deserve to be treated respectfully at the very least. That there is even the hint of a workplace complaint by one of those valued employees against our Council members, is very worrisome to me.

  17. To quote Priya:

    “Are you kidding me! Councilmember Buckshnis has been in office for less than a year and already has a complaint of some sort filed against her that needs legal counsel! It is amazing that the two council people who are so concerned about cutting corners is now asking the city to pay legal fees. This is especially humorous coming from Buckshnis who has attacked Mr. Snyder on numerous occasions for the fees he receives. Talk about a waste of money. I think we should require the retired banker and long time Councilman Plunkett to pay for their own legal counsel. If they are found not liable on all counts, the City can reimburse them.”

    To quote myself:

    “Priya, I have observed that your comments are frequently nasty and inflammatory, rather than geared towards expanding understanding of the issues. Please keep in mind when you join public discourse that this is how I, and I believe others, experience what you have to say.”

    Now, please tell me, Priya, which of us is “using personal attacks”.

  18. Now ladies. I have had the pleasure of meeting Joan, Diane and Priya but fortunately not all at the same time. That’s a joke ladies. All these points are interesting and time will give us all a bit more insite of what this is all about. I have my hunches but they are just that. You three ladies are incredibly talented and thoughtful in your remarks. Maybe while we wait for the rest of the details to emerge we can spend some time discussing so ideas that will help Edmonds. I have 3 suggestions.

    1. Lets talk about what the Economic Development Commission is doing to advance the plan to have Edmonds develop a Strategic Plan. See the new open letter from the EDC that is posted on the first page of the My Edmonds News. A stategic plan for our town would give the citizens a real opportunity to lay out their collective views of where this town should go.

    2. With the recent failure of the TBD that would only have funded about 1/3 of the requirement for keeping our streets in decent repair and the removal of funding for street overlays being removed from the General Fund budget we could spend some time talking about how we can work on funding to keep our streets properly cared for.

    3. And this is my favorate. We could spend some energy on talking about how we elect a city council in the future. The current approach of having positions and then people running for a particular position has not always made for a positive campaign and the best people may not get elected. If we were to have all our positions be at large we would get a better result and the best people would get elected. For example if we had two seats open the primary would have all candidates run for a seat. The top 4 in this case would be selected in the primary and then the top two vote getters in the general election would get the seats. This would make for a more civil campaign. Instead of running against someone one would have to run for something and let the voters decide who what the best set of candidates.

    I would think that the creative energy that Diane, Joan, and Priya bring to the discussion could get us working on some good things for town. Just a thought. No I guess that was 3 thoughts.

  19. Darrol.
    Really interesting idea. I agree with looking at how we elect future Councils. The at large idea has some great appeal. How do citizens get to making such a change? Positive campaigns. Wow. You are a very well versed guy, and this is a truly good idea!!!!

  20. If I understand it correctly the council could vote to make the change. If the idea has merit and support I am sure we could find out what the steps would have to be to create such a change. I have talked to one council member who supported the idea and said he/she would move the idea along. What it will take is some public discussion and research to find out how to do it. Thanks for your response Diane, you have always been a good thinker.

  21. Joan and Priya? Any response from your usually well articulated viewpoints? Maybe we could change the dialog for elections from union labels to what we want Edmonds to become??

  22. Darrol,

    I read the open letter from the CEDC. Great information about strategic plans. I look forward to being involved in this in the future.

    Thanks so much for your hard work as a volunteer on the CEDC.

  23. I have recieved several emails about my comments on a new elections process. Clearly from the comments I did not explain the concept will. Here are a few more thoughts to make the concept more clear.

    A candidate would still have to live in Edmonds but rather than filling for a specific position they could “run for the council”. In 2011 we will have 4 positions open and the process would go something like this. Let’s say that Steve, Diane, Lora, and DJ all decide to run. They would file to “run for council” but would not specify a particular position. Then if 10 other people filed to “run for council” we would have a total of 14 candidates in the race for 4 positions. No candidate, incumbent or challenger is running for a particular position they are simply running for council.

    Here is how the primary would work. All 14 candidates would articulate their message of what they want to do for Edmonds and the voters would vote for 4 since there are 4 open positions. Since this is the primary election we would allow the top 8 candidates to advance to the General Election.

    Here is how the General Election would work. With 4 open positions and 8 candidates who have advanced from the Primary. The public would vote for 4 candidates. The winners would be the top 4 who got the most votes.

    In years that we elect 3 for the council all would candidates would run in the Primary and the top 6 (2×3) would advance to the General and the top 3 would be elected.

    In the past our elections generally have gone like this. If an incumbent runs for their position then potential candidates must decide in advance which incumbent they are going to challenge. Some incumbents have run unopposed while others have drawn a number of candidates. So the up front process for potential candidates is to find an incumbent to “target”. So if a 3 really good candidates “target” an incumbent then only 2 would advance today but typically only one advance along with the incumbent advancing. When that happens 2 really good candidates would not advance. Then in the general election and we so often resort to negative campaigns. Fund raising issues, union labels on campaign signs, and other negative points dominate the discussion. Little indepth discussion on real positions and ideas just negative points about your opponent. And in the example two good candidates were eliminated just because of who they choose to target.

    Using this coming election as an example with 14 candidates running for 4 positions the election strategy is less likely to be negative. To go negative would mean a candidate would have to come up with negatives for the other 13 candidates not just the ones running for a particular position. The candidate with a list of negatives for all 13 would probably be viewed as a negative candidate themselves and voters would see that. Can you imagine the newspaper ads listing negatives for 13 others? To stand out a candidate would probably have to develop a positive message of what they can do for the Edmonds. It would be really fun to see all 14 candidate try to show the pubic how they intend to help Edmonds rather than “my opponent did ——”

    Now in the General election we would have 8 candidates and it will still be hard to go negative on the other 7 so we simply would get a better campaign.

    Now for some other benefits:

    1. Potential Candidates would start from a position of “Here’s what I can do for Edmonds” and would not have to pick and incumbent to “target”.

    2. Incumbents who have served the public well would still have an advantage but they would have to spend more time demonstrating what they have done and would they would like to do in the future. Poor incumbents would have to convince the public that they could do better.

    3. More good candidates would come forward because of this better more positive process.

    4. The election dialog and candidate forums would change dramatically and would take on a more positive tone.

    5. In the end we would get to know what each candidate would do for Edmonds and that would provide for more informed public and better elections.

    I do not know what would have to be done to change our election process from what it is currently but I assume it could be done by council action.

    Regardless of how we choose to run our elections next year it will be exciting with 4 positions available. To get elected or appointed here is what happened last time for the existing positions. DJ got around 7200 votes, and Steve got around 6800 votes and Diane and Lora both got 4 votes. So the challenge for each candidate, incumbent or challenger, is so convince about 8000 people what you can do for Edmonds and not spend so much time trying to run your opponent into the ground.

    To me this is a process that would make our elections more positive and that would be a good thing.

  24. @Joan, Comment #18. I’m not sure how laying out the FACTS is a personal attack. Just because my opinion is different there yours makes it inflammatory? Sounds like you have a personal problem with me.

    @Darrol, thanks for the nice words. I think you should run for Council! I LOVE,LOVE your thoughts regarding the elections process.

  25. To Priya, comment #27.

    Oh sweet irony.

    Nothing brightens my day quite like unintentional irony. In your attempt to deny making a personal attack, you make another personal attack.

    As someone wiser than me once said: when you find you’ve dug yourself into a deep hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging.

  26. Ron, thanks so much for adding information to this discussion.

    If you saw “budget report after budget report” with figures that were impossible to trace one year to the next, and you have reason to believe that there has been a “long standing” problem in the finance department, then it seems likely that the new director of finances inherited something that will take a while to sort out.

    Do you have any thoughts on how to support council and the mayor in getting to the bottom of our budget woes? You suggested that “a qualified team be assembled”. Any ideas on how to go about doing this? I agree that the mayor and council should not ask the citizens of Edmonds for any additional tax money until there is absolute clarity about what our money has been spent on in the past. In other words, complete transparency, which is what Ms. Buckshnis has been asking for.

  27. Ron,

    I need a little time to take this in before commenting. I want to let you know, however, that I realize how important this information is to the future financial health of our city, and I will support you in any way in uncovering the truth.

  28. @Ron B
    The Council members do not have the right to attack, harass or publicly berate any city employee, they do have an affirmative obligation to be civil. That is not even an item open for debate. If there is a problem with any employee of the City, then the Council members need to address that with the Mayor and use the Civil service procedures in place. The Council is not the employer of the “staff”, they work for us and the administration is to whom they report.
    If there is a group of obstructionists, then who are they?
    Give me a link to the SAO management letters so that I may see if I want to be shocked or not.
    Are the finances a mess, and upon what exactly do you base your “suspicions”?
    If you are advocating that Edmonds needs an internal auditor, then advocate hiring one. If we need new accounting software, then come up with a plan and a budget to accommodate it. If we need more reporting, then we also need to hire the staff to accomplish the task. How will we pay for it and what will it get us?

  29. Many good comments and questions from Joan, Ron B. and Diane T.

    During my four years on city council and for the two prior years as an interested citizen I had no problem getting understandable information from city staff. The regimes of Dan Clements and Kathleen Junglov provided timely information at all times. And they were responsive to any suggested changes. For example before the 2007/2008 budget, the figures in new budgets were compared to the budget for the current year. Only governments use such a mis-leading practice. At my request a change was made to make comparisons to the more realistic current year estimates. Regretfully, Mr. Hines has reverted to the prior practice.

    During my career I was responsible for creating appropriate results as opposed to solely critiquing results. For the last 15 years before my retirement I reviewed and approved the annual budgets of the 20 companies around the world that were part of my organization. That work experience has guided my approach to reviewing the city’s financial results. My interest was more in assuring that all of the numbers were reasonable, as opposed to auditing them – making certain that they totalled correctly and cross footed; that’s the job of city staff and the state auditors.

    If any citizen has a legitmate concern about the city’s financial reporting that city staff fails to address, then that concern should be communicated to the state auditors. If that doesn’t bring the desired result, I suggest those concerns should be presented to the auditors when their kick-off meeting(open to the public) for the 2010 is held, usually in April.

  30. Ron B.
    I cannot disagree with most of what you’ve stated, with the exception that I’m not aware of any discrepancy in the Ogden Murphy billings or the finding of $2M. The SAO exit meeting was held in July or August. I had also asked to be notified when it was being held, but that never happened.

  31. @Ron B.
    I just spoke to Mr. Hines, and he was extremely forthcoming about the SAO audits and management letters.
    You are assuming much about my qualifications (or lack thereof) about which you know nothing, and my feelings about Edmonds financial state. If there is a problem, then it needs to be fixed. All the issues I have seen seem to revolve around the need for more staff in the Finance Department, software upgrading issues and the like.
    It is the treatment of the “staff” by the Councilmembers which began this thread, and regardless of what the issues are, there is no excuse for treating “staff” poorly at anytime or for any reason. “Staff” works for us, not for the Council.

  32. 35. Ron B.

    I was referring to the $2M you said that was found by Dan Clements. And I was simply saying that I was not aware of a couple of the issues that you mentioned. I was not giving any opinion on the accuracy of what you said.

  33. Ron B. I have been following the conversation on the city finances. I would like to see you hold a public meeting and bring forth all your documinations and invite former and present finance directors and council members to attend. This would help those citizens like me who are not well versed in gov. accounting to understand where we have come from and where we are today. I f this is not possible maybe start a blog and put all your infomation on it or contact the newspapers to do an in depth article on this. Anything to help the public to understand the issue. I would not know where to start with a public records request. Since you already have the info and could share them with us and save the city time and money

  34. My sincere “Thank You” goes to the two Rons for bringing some clarity but also some very troubling facts to light. I agree with Don Hall about the necessity to have the meeting he mentioned. I watched city council meetings since moving here 8 years ago. I have never seen a city employee be so rude and so arrogant as Mr. Hines to our elected officials. Council members deserve civil, timely, truthful and correct answers from him and so do we citizens. He is paid to answer questions and do his work. Could his behavior be such because he is in over his head? The fact that his boss, our mayor, allows this type of rude behaviors to go on is very troublesome to me. Who is at the helm of the Edmonds boat? Mr. Hines seems to be at the moment. The city employees I have dealt with have always done a great job answering me, they have been cheerfully helpful and cordial to me even when I asked tough questions. They are very well paid and have benefits that are unheard of in these hard times. You don’t see an exodus of our employees! The public is unsettled to see the ” constant drama” unfolding at city council meetings, Mr. Hines’ disrespectfull behavior regardless of his abilities does not inspire confidence and reflects badly on the rest of the employees. From what I hear from many, the trust is gone. I have not seen any councilors be rude to Mr. Hines. It is their job on our behalf to ask questions and to know what is going on so they can make the right decisions for our city’s future. We did not see such behaviors from the previous CFOs who had to answer similar questions. it is high times that people in Edmonds know the truth about the city’s finances. It is our money. Can you imagine running your household or business the way this city is run!!!
    Thanks to the two Rons for shedding some troublesome lights and thank you Don H. and Theresa for keeping on desiring to educate and looking for positive solutions to the problem.

  35. Ron B,

    Numbers have always eluded me as I have little interest in them. So, it is difficult to join this conversation and offer substantive information regarding finances. As you referenced, I made a public records request for Ogden Murphy Wallace billings for 2009. I was aware that Steve Bernheim had asked Haakenson for the figures, but, to clarify, Steve did not ask me to request the records . I did it on my own because of my knowledge of actions taken by the city, at the advice of Scott Snyder, against an innocent citizen in my neighborhood.

    I find it disturbing that, although financial information is required to be available to any citizen at any time through a public records request, the former mayor was not forthcoming with the figures when asked by a COUNCIL member. Also, at that time our budget was not posted on the city’s website and council, led by Diane Buckshnis, was working hard to get this to happen.

    When I tallied the figures, I was shocked to see that the OMW billings were over 1 million dollars for 2009. I did some research and found that Shoreline, a city approximately 20% larger than Edmonds, has a staff, not contract, city attorney, for a cost of less than $300,000 a year, which includes the benefits.

    I presented my findings at a city council meeting. I received a call from Lorenzo Hines the next day, and met with him shortly thereafter. The information you stated above, that there were double entries, cancelled checks, to the tune of approximately a half million dollars was presented by Mr. Hines. He said that it was related to a glitch in the accounting software.

    It has never made sense to me that this could happen. My thoughts turn to the phrases “figures lie and liers figure”, “crunching the numbers” and “cooking the books”. In other words, trust is out the window. Especially for someone who doesn’t have a head for figures.

    Diane T,

    You have had positive interactions with Mr. Hines, as have I. In all of my interactions with him he has been friendly, respectful and forthcoming. I do not hold Mr. Hines responsible for the mess that he obviously inherited.

    There is more going on here than meets the eye. Staff isn’t all good and council all bad, or vice versa. I respect and value the work of all of our council members. Thus I was unhappy to observe that they did not get the respect that they deserved from our former mayor and as a result, in some cases, from his staff. An adversarial relationship was set up by the mayor’s office long ago.

    An example of this is the refusal of Haakenson to provide the OMW figures to Steve Bernheim, even though the figures could easily be obtained in a public records request. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? It does to me. By refusing Steve, the mayor increased the work load of staff responsible for responding to public records requests, and impeded the work of council. As Ron B. said, council are our watchdogs. And as Ron B. also said, the former administration was NOT transparent.

    It is unfortunate that this adversarial dynamic has now led to a lawsuit being filed against council members. Filing a lawsuit against council is akin to filing a lawsuit against the citizens of Edmonds, since council are our representatives.

    We have serious problems in our city. Diane Buckshnis has been pushing hard for transparency, which must occur in ALL departments, not just finance. Focusing on how staff treats council, and how council treats staff is not going to solve those problems. It is going to be necessary to dig into the root cause of the problems.

    It’s our money and the mayor and his staff are required to fully inform us of how it has been spent.

  36. Ron,

    Again thanks so much for bringing INFORMATION to this discussion. Your posts should be required reading for all of council and for the new mayor.

    I have emailed a link to your post to the above mentioned officials.

  37. In my experience, the State Auditors follow up on prior year citations each year when they do their audit. In recent years (I don’t know about the audit for 2009) the city has been receiving clean audits – no citations. I hope that the Administration will report to citizens on the status of each of the SAO Citations listed above by Ron B., so that the “cloud” of improper accounting can hopefully be removed and all that will remain is the need for clearer and more timely reporting by the finance department. The “cloud” will remain as long as the Administration ceases to issue this report.

  38. Thank you Mr Wambolt for the clarity of your presentation.
    @Ron B. Not clear what we agreed on. The citations you referenced are not dated, they are out of context, and the current relevance is not clear. As Mr. Wambolt noted the current audits do not have problems.

  39. ron b…great discussion am learning a lot..but in your last post u said u have very little faith in the SAO or their ability to truly audit our city’s books and internal controls…yet you have posted numerous SAO reports to bolster your claim that our prior mayor and city staff are pulling some shenanigans when it comes to our city’s finances..for me that undermines your arguement as you cannot have it both ways..

  40. Ron B. I forgot to thank you for posting the Sao citations. I remember the one on permits and mr bowman either in commitee meetings or at a council meeting explained how they were going to fix the problem. Again thanks for posting the info.

  41. Ron B.,
    I don’t believe you when you tell me it is a mess. You have not shown me anything that convinces me it is. Unsemantic enough?
    I also believe that it is irresponsible to use terms like “convening a grand jury” in a comment section. If you have the evidence, don’t present it here, present it to the authorities.
    Your citations are old, out of context, and clearly chosen to support your “theory”.

  42. Wow this is getting good. If the charges are true then we need to get to the bottom of them. If they are not true we need to get to the bottom of that as well. We have a very sad situation of charges and counter charges that tend to create a downward spiral. How do we collectively get to the bottom of this kind of issue and then get on with running our town?

  43. wow ron..I didnt mean to get your dander up..all I said was you used the SAO as proof for your point then ripped the SAO when it didn’t validate your point..now you are saying they were hand holded twenty year olds and back pre Clements they weren’t..and you keep quoting a second source who isn’t employed here anymore..I am not as versed on all this as you, all I am saying is when you float an arguement citing something in your favor, then disregard it when it is not in your favor hurts your arguement..also to get so upset over me bringing it up leads me to believe you have something to hide..

  44. Michael,

    Your suggestion that Ron B. has “something to hide” is absolutely absurd. The city may have something to hide and that is why the citizens are so fortunate to have Ron B to provide this information, that he has spent hours researching, in this online conversation.

    Please read my post #47 when I discuss my public records request for the Ogden Murphy Wallace billings for 2009. The following is an excerpt from the May 18, 2010 city council meeting:


    Councilmember Fraley-Monillas understood the frustration but was concerned with the ten day timeline without knowing the other priorities staff was working on.

    Councilmember Wilson expressed his support for the motion, agreeing it was a legitimate request and 30days was an adequate period of time. He was saddened that formal action by the Council was necessary to obtain this information. He anticipated the Council’s frustration would continue because the motion addressed only the symptom, not the cause.


    Mayor Haakenson asked if he was required to abide by the motion. Mr. Snyder answered no, advising RCW 35A.12.030 provides that the Mayor is charged with day-to-day administration of the City.


    Now, please look at the last paragraph of the text when Mayor Haakenson asked, of the city attorney whose billings were being requested, if he was required to abide by the motion.

    Now, please recall that I obtained the same records, that council president Bernheim was requesting, through a public records request.

    MIchael, does it look to you as if Haakenson may have had something to hide? Just curious about your thoughts on this, since you were so quick to accuse a fellow citizen of having something to hide.

  45. Diane T and Michael B,

    Since you are both such sticklers for the accuracy of what others are stating here, below is a link to the council minutes referenced above, so that you can confirm what I have stated:


    And for your additional convenience, the discussion quoted was Item 12, on pages 14, 15, and 16. My comments to council regarding my public records request are on page 5 of the minutes.

    I’m sure you will both thoroughly review the council minutes to be sure of the veracity of my statements, cause, you never know, I may have something to hide.

  46. Ms Bloom
    The billing records for any attorney, and the release thereof sorted by “payee” can violate attorney client privilege, expose work product and such. Was the ex-mayor trying to hide something? Was he trying to protect the client attorney privilege he and his office had with the City attorney? Why not just ask Gary rather than to assume he did not have good reason for his actions. Your document request was doubtless reviewed with sensitive items redacted. That takes time, and likely incurred some legal fees along the way.
    As a citizen you have the right to hide whatever you would like. I don’t think you are hiding anything. I also don’t believe the City is “hiding anything” either. By law everything they do is public record. If the state auditors thought for a minute there was any “cooking of the books” which is a crime (and an auditor can make their career on discovering) it would be in court in a heartbeat.
    The city is slow, makes mistakes, is sometimes obtuse and is frustrating but allegations of criminality are irresponsible. Such allegations erode a fragile trust between the pubic and our officials. That trust once damaged is difficult to restore.
    It is my fear that the allegations and suspicions are why we currently do not have a budget passed, a “workplace place complaint”, and a levy committee that has been meeting since April but hasn’t proposed a levy.

  47. Joan..strike my something to hide comment as it obviously took away from my point which is when making an arguement by citing a source as supporting that arguement (i.e. the SAOs), then disregarding that same source when it goes against your arguement by saying he doesn’t trust them now just clouds the arguement..I hear all your points, and I am very aware of some individuals really messing up the Reidy situation(I have know Ken for 30+ years) and they should be held accountable..and for all i know everything you folks are saying is valid..all I am trying to say is don’t cite sources for your arguements then disparage them when it doen’t suit you….

  48. Diane T (comment #63)

    All of the information I received on OMW billings was public record. Billings are written without privileged information included. No client attorney privilege was broken, so that is definitely NOT what Haakenson was trying to protect.

    Also, please recall that in any legal dealings involving the city, COUNCIL is the “client”, as they are our legislative body.

    Even Snyder’s reply to the mayor’s question about whether he had to comply, “the Mayor is charged with day-to-day administration of the City.”, says nothing about client attorney privilege.

    There are many questions I would like the public to be able to ask Mr. Haakenson, but he is no longer mayor.

  49. Ms. Bloom,
    Legalities aside, you got your information (which is available through a public records request and is not hidden).
    Decrying that the information is being hidden, and then saying you got the information through a public records request is rather contradictory.
    What did you find that was supposedly hidden?

  50. Diane T,

    It’s time you did your own research instead of just questioning, challenging, mis-interpreting, and attempting to discredit the research of others.

    I suggest you start by carefully re-reading all 66 posts in this conversation. Then, read the council minutes that I posted a link to. You can then decide what YOU would like to research to expand your knowledge of the issues.

    After doing your own research, you will be able to add INFORMATION to the discussion, and express INFORMED opinions.

    Thanks in advance. I look forward to the results of your research.

    Happy reading!

  51. Ms. Bloom,
    Doing my research, reading all your posts, and all doesn’t mean that I will agree with you. After doing all that, I don’t agree with you so I must be stupid. Thanks for letting me know.

  52. From time to time we hear about how other nearby cities, notably Lynnwood, have fewer citizens per employee than the City of Edmonds. We particularly hear that Edmonds has more citizens per police officer. I, for one, would like us to have more police officers to better control speeding, etc. , but we have what we can afford.

    Anyone who believes that Edmonds has been poorly managed needs to read the story about Lynnwood in today’s Everett Herald – “How years of overspending drove Lynnwood deep into the red”. There are many interesting revelations in this story. It turns out that they have a staff that they can’t afford. And they’ve had at least one serious problem with the State Auditor.

    There’s always room for improvement, but during the past several years the Mayor and the City Council of Edmonds did a responsible job of managing the city’s finances. The auditor is not “on our back” and while the financial reserves are not optimum, the city still has several millions of dollars in reserve funds. A good deal of this has been accomplished by maintaining an affordable staff level.

  53. Joan B. Back on post 61 you talked about getting the billing records for OMW bilings. When you reviewed those billings did you see the charges associated with the lawsuit that Council Member Petso filed against the City? Over the last two years these charges were in excess of $67,000. When Mayor Cooper had his budget lunch, I think you asked about legal costs and he said something like… “if the City would not get sued so much we would have lower legal bills.” Why did Council Member Petso sue the City? Were the issues in the lawsuit really that important to sue and cause the City that expense? Too bad we cannot settle our issues in a way that saves taxpayers money. That $67,000 could have been used for City services like Yost Pool or something more useful for all.

  54. The $67,000 was not the only cost to our city. The lawsuits have also caused a 27-home development to be stopped, at least for now, resulting in massive losses in revenue from property taxes, sales tax, and excise tax.

  55. So beyond the actual costs for the lawsuit the city lost the excise taxes and the lost of adding about $10m to the tax base which in turn lost us about $22,000 of tax revenue for each year of delay. Some pretty big loss in direct cost, one time excise taxes and ongoingproperty tax revenues. Add that all up and you have some real money.

  56. Darrol (post # 71),

    The billings I referenced in post #61 were dollar amounts only, with no delineation of the billable parties. I later reviewed all of the billings for 2009 and through August 2010. I saw documentation with costs related to Petso’s lawsuit, Donna Breske’s lawsuit, the Thuesen-Reidy issue (Michael Burdett’s post #64 references the “Reidy situation”), Meiers, as well as numerous other lawsuits in the OMW billings.

    My problem with your reference to ANY individual lawsuit, is that you do not know the facts of the cases that are referenced and you are making WILD assumptions about them, the related costs, and the responsible parties. I know the facts in the Reidy case, and that is why I made a public records request for the OMW billings. Improper action was taken against an innocent citizen, in order to support development. There is no question in my mind that this occurred. My opinion is based upon understanding the progression of the situation, and the details of the case, beginning six years ago. Please see http://www.edmondsforum.com for articles that I have written on this case. They are under the category of Wetlands.

    It would be unfair of me to suggest to Diane T (post # 67) that she do her own research in order to express INFORMED opinions, if I did not do the same to you, and to Ron Wambolt. PLEASE, PLEASE do actual research about the case that Lora Petso was involved in before spouting clearly uninformed opinions.

    The number of lawsuits that have occurred in the city of Edmonds is indicative of a systemic problem. When you blame the suer or the sue-ee, you simplify the issue to the point of absurdity.

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