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Scales calls for public records
Council Member Bob Scales has filed a public records request involving fellow council member Bill Knobloch’s personal email accounts and communications with some members of the Bainbridge Island community.
“My concern is that (Knobloch) is about to leave the council and he probably has hundreds of records and emails that he hasn’t turned over to the city,” Scales said. “Combined with the copying of that memo it gave me great concern, and I’m trying to get to the bottom of it … if he screws up, it’s the city that is going to be liable for that.”
Last week an anonymously authored memo was discovered at city hall. Scales said he finds the memo concerning and wants to get to the bottom of it. The record requests addresses the memo and seeks to discover if Knobloch had any involvement with it. The majority of the requests, however, focus on the lawsuit between the Ratepayers Alliance and the city. Scales is seeking any communications between Knobloch, outgoing council member Kim Brackett, and members of the Ratepayers Alliance, as well as any emails from his personal account that pertain to city business.
“Bob Scales is pounding the table because he hasn’t the law or the facts,” Knobloch said. “It’s all allegations … what he’s forgetting is that the community elections for council are over and the community has spoken. He no longer has a majority on council and that’s his problem.”
Scales stated in his records request that it is “well documented and widely known” that Knobloch has been communicating with plaintiffs in the Ratepayers Alliance lawsuit, and used his personal email account to do so. Scales cites his concern that if there’s any litigation in the future involving the transfer of the water utility, plaintiffs may want emails such as Knobloch’s and the city may need them to defend itself.
“It’s all allegation and quite frankly it’s beginning to look like harassment of colleagues on council and has no fact or merit,” Knobloch said. “I feel he is outside of his responsibility as a council member and he is basically trying to practice law as a prosecuting attorney.”
The public records request by Scales, who works as an attorney for the City of Seattle, is extensive and addresses emails dating between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 19, 2011. It covers a number of factors, including:
• All emails received in any of Knobloch’s personal email accounts that relate to city business, or any emails in his personal accounts that were sent to him pertaining to his role as a city council member;
• All emails sent from any of Knobloch’s personal email accounts that relate to city business or his role as a council member;
• Any document, memo, letter, or other writing that Knobloch possesses that is related to city business, issue or his role as a council member.
Scales clarified that the request is not for documents that were created by the city itself.
The records request continued to add further specifications that dig deeper into Knobloch’s personal emails, including communications with Brackett. Scales further asked for:
• Any document, memo, letter, email or other writing that contains any of terms or phrases “chuckhole,” “we have the votes,” “kitchen cabinet,” “lie,” “liar,” “major management shake-up,” “executive session,” or “you have four out of seven votes lined up”;
• All emails sent to the city and personal email accounts of Knobloch and/or Brackett from any plaintiff in the Ratepayer’s Alliance lawsuit — specifically pointing out Sally Adams and Dick Allen;
• All emails sent from Knobloch and/or Brackett to any of the plaintiffs in the Ratepayers Alliance lawsuit — again specifically pointing out any emails to Adams and Allen.
The first specification asks for terms and phrases that are all contained in what Scales has called the “Knobloch Memo.” Scales has said the memo is a “manifesto” of a group of conspiring council members. The other items address the lawsuit between the city and the Ratepayers Alliance.
“I don’t know if there’s a connection or not (between the memo and the ratepayers), maybe that’s what we’ll find out,” Scales said. “But certainly it’s all adding up and Bill (Knobloch) has to be held accountable for what he’s doing.”
Scales made further requests for two particular emails of Knobloch’s that were not sent to Scales initially, but he already had copies of. The first email had no sender listed on it, but was sent to Knobloch on Oct. 19 and stated “Of course it is Politicking! Who is advocating for those of us Ratepayers? Why can’t she advocate for us? I know who I am voting for.”
The second email of Knobloch’s that Scales requested is one that he did not already have, but he did have an email that indicates it exists.
Scales provided a copy of an email sent on Oct. 20 titled “Fwd: Way To Go!” that states Knobloch will be sending an email in the future about “last night and the Kangaroo Court.” Scales seeks whatever email was eventually sent.
The Oct. 20 email that Scales did have and speaks of the “kangaroo court” was sent to a number of community members including Brackett, incoming council members Steve Bonkowski, David Ward, and Sarah Blossom. It was also sent to Melanie Keenan who ran in the last city council election, Adams, and former council members Debbie Vancil and Debbie Vann – among other island community members.
“What concerns me the most is how Bob Scales is practicing a form of McCarthyism on this community,” Knobloch said. “Of what purpose? What is he trying to accomplish here?”
As council members, any communications regarding city business are considered public records, even if they are from a personal email account. The city’s governance manual requires that council members use their city email accounts for all city-related business and communications.
Scales brought forth the issue earlier this year, addressing Knobloch using his personal email account for city business. At the Oct. 19 city council meeting, Scales produced a large stack of papers with a number of Knobloch’s printed emails. He slammed them down on the dais and said that it violated the rules council are supposed to follow.
“If there were conversations in executive session that (Knobloch) leaked to the ratepayers, that’s breaking the law,” Scales said. “Everything we say in executive session is confidential and I don’t know if he has (leaked information), I just know he is emailing the ratepayers about water utility issues and that’s one of the reason why I did the public records request.”
City Clerk Roz Lassoff has asked that the email records be provided to the city by Dec. 30. Knobloch and Brackett will no longer be council members after Dec. 31.