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Opponent in city lawsuit offers Bainbridge council advice on city manager candidate

One of the key players in an ongoing lawsuit against the city of Bainbridge Island is apparently offering private advice to city council members on the city's best choice for its new interim manager.

Sally Adams, secretary of the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance, sent an email to council members' home email accounts earlier this week and offered a strong endorsement for Michael Caldwell, the candidate for the interim manager job interviewed by the council last week.

The Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance continues to pursue a nearly three-year-old lawsuit against the city, now mostly centered on the city's calculation of surface and stormwater management fees, in Kitsap County Superior Court. Three of the candidates supported by the Ratepayers Alliance — Councilman David Ward, Councilman Steve Bonkowski and Councilwoman Sarah Blossom — were elected to the council last November.

Adams sent all seven council members an email Tuesday expounding on Caldwell's virtues.

She began by noting his relaxed manner and sense of humor.

"Caldwell is a pro - someone who has been through this many times, and comfortably: Therefore, no doubt, he would be up to speed in 1-2 weeks, as he stated," Adams said.

Other points in his favor, she wrote, was that he had family connections in Washington and had a professional attitude about the relationship between city staff and the council.

"He noted that of course council members can talk with staff, as can citizens, but he must be kept in the loop. That's comfortable for all, and still appropriate.

"Then, perhaps his last couple responses were the strongest and most persuasive. He couldn't have been clearer about his professional approach to Council, to potential crises or to the community.

"Mr. Caldwell made it clear that merely serving as a caretaker city manager would not be healthy for any city - maintaining the 'status quo' is not a 'healthy operation.' He followed this statement up immediately with the comment that he doesn't, however, 'wing it.' Rather, he'll always consult council if something needs to happen. Thus, he’ll run the city, but council will always be in the driver’s seat," Adams wrote.

City council members have previously said, however, that they were not seeking an interim manager who would act as a "change agent."

Adams said Caldwell was "an excellent candidate for the interim position."

"Mr. Caldwell would walk cautiously into this position, but with his eyes wide open, ready to resolve challenges, with Council's input and assist, if need be.

"It would mean much to this community, including staff and council to have a true professional in charge, to guide us through the coming two to three months, which will, no doubt, bring their own unexpected challenges," Adams concluded.

Adams was not in council chambers during Caldwell's interview before the council last week, and acknowledged that she watched the meeting online.

Adams declined to answer the question of how much value city officials should place on advice given to them by their foes in an ongoing litigation situation. In an email, she told the Review she had no comment at this time.

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