The 'Knobloch memo'
By RICHARD D. OXLEY
Bainbridge Island Review Staff Writer
December 27, 2011 · Updated 1:14 PM
It has been called a "toxic memo" and it's been called nonsense, but the name that seems to be sticking is the "Knobloch memo."
The anonymous memo (see copy at the bottom of this article) is two pages of advice for incoming council members that was publicly circulated at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting. Since then it has been promoted by some council members as threatening, and considered by others to be inconsequential.
"I don't think Bill Knobloch would be photocopying (the memo) if he didn't have a good reason to," Scales said. "Where there's smoke there's fire and I think there is a lot of fire here."
Councilor Knobloch, whose term ends on Dec. 31, has been alleged by Scales to have either written the memo, or at least made copies of it for distribution. The memo has become a focal point of public discussion over the course of the city when the new council takes over in January, leaving the direction of a number of local issues up for further debate.
The document urges council to "use good public process," be open, transparent, and clear how any changes will benefit the community. It emphasizes that the "public recognizes those who demonstrate and share their care."
Other portions mention having a majority of four votes lined up, neutralizing council opposition and recommends practicing negotiations and voting with three council members.
The memo further says city staff , and those running city hall, have lied and will continue to lie to keep their jobs or maintain power. It says that the "public has been given a corrupted version of the city's financial viability."
"The memo implies that there will be a change in the administration…" said City Manager Brenda Bauer. "…it is obviously of concern if some council members believe we were not truthful, or that the incoming council is coming in with that understanding and with a particular approach of governing that is adversarial to staff."
In an open letter to incoming Council Members Sarah Blossom, Steve Bonkowski and David Ward, Council Member Barry Peters voiced his concern that the memo speaks to a majority of four on the council. He speculated that the memo calls for the three candidates, all endorsed by Knobloch, to align with Councilor Debbi Lester, creating a majority on the council, and called for all to disavow it.
"The City Council has worked very hard over the last two years to help our new form of government work well and stabilize our finances," Scales said. "However, all of that work could easily be undone and we could revert back to the old ways of doing business if a majority of the new council decides to follow the directives and ideology contained in the Knobloch memo."
On Monday, Dec. 12, Knobloch was using the copier at city hall, which uses an automatic feeder that takes sheets of paper to be copied and ejects them in a separate tray. A staff member entered the copy room as Knobloch left, and found the memo in the tray. While no one has said they actually witnessed Knobloch making copies of the specific memo, this has led to allegations that it came from him.
"I didn't author it, and I didn't copy it," Knobloch said. "This is purely a political campaign strategy and it's being led by Bob Scales. He cannot accept the fact that the new council ran a campaign of change and they were elected by the community."
Knobloch said he may know the community member who wrote it, but will not release the name because he doesn't want the person to be publicly embarrassed or drawn into a political drama.
According to Bauer, the employee gave her the memo with the information it was found on the copier shortly after Knobloch used it. Bauer retained the copy.
After hearing about the memo, Scales asked Bauer if she knew about it. Bauer gave Scales the memo, who then made several copies and placed them next to the agenda on the welcome table prior to the Dec. 14 council meeting.
Scales also approached the four new council members after the meeting, during which they were sworn in, giving each a copy of the document.
An inconsequential memo
Some of the newly elected council members had seen the document prior to the meeting.
"I don't understand why that thing wasn't put in the trash file of the email," Bonkowski said. "It shouldn't be raised up to be something that it isn't and I think that's what is happening."
Bonkowski doesn't recall this particular memo, but said that while campaigning he, and other candidates, saw a number of handouts from the public with similar content. He further stated that he does not believe city staff lies, but that doesn't mean he always agrees with them, or the actions of the previous council.
"All I can say is that many of the candidates ran on positions that are counter to the council that was in place before, a very specific one is the transfer of water to KPUD…I believe there are other council members who were elected, and they ran on support of transferring the water. That provides a contention between the new council members and the remaining council members. But there will always be differences of opinion."
Ward recalls seeing the memo prior to the meeting, but he threw it into a pile of miscellaneous handouts he had received from the public. It didn't have a name on it and I didn't pay any attention to it, he said.
"I think the (memo) needs to be kept in perspective," Ward said. "(Incoming council members) got a ton of information and advice from various people on how we should do things. Some of it's good and some of it's bad, and this is no different…I've never received any communication from (Knobloch) that didn't have his name on it."
Blossom didn't find the document shocking or concerning when Scales handed it to her.
"I don't know if they are making such a big deal out of it just to discredit some of the council members," Blossom said. "I don't know what their motivation is behind making it such a big deal."
Anne Blair hadn't seen the memo until the meeting, but said that it is counterproductive and had a disheartening feel to it..
A threatening manifesto
Scales said the memo should be taken very seriously and that it stems from a community faction that distrusts city government and desires to take control of the council. He said that he wants to make sure that new council members have not been indoctrinated by the memo.
"There appears to be three or four council members [of the new council] that are meeting together as a group to form a strategy and that memo seems to be their manifesto," Scales said. "(It's) a level of organization and conspiracy that I've never seen before…there is an organized behind-the-scenes group that has formed to control and manipulate the council."
Scales doesn't know if Knobloch personally wrote the memo, but said that it contained ideas that are consistent with what he has heard from outgoing councilors Knobloch and Kim Brackett. He plans to address it at the council's annual retreat in January. He said that he wants to discover who wrote it and find out if any current or new council members have been "trained on the techniques" in the memo and if they plan on using them.
"I shudder to think what they are going to plan to do," Scales said. "Who knows what damage they are going to do to the city if they are following this memo. It is so disturbing."
Contact Bainbridge Island Review Staff Writer Richard D. Oxley at email@example.com or (206) 842-6613.