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Charter backers resign

Two leaders of a committee backing the proposed Kitsap County charter resigned this week, amid controversy over an organized letter-writing campaign.

Matt Ryan of Brownsville and committee chairman Jim Martin of South Kitsap – both among the 21 freeholders who drafted the charter – announced their resignation from the Citizens for Better Representation group Thursday.

The move came after a Bremerton newspaper questioned the authorship of pro-charter letters that were being sent to Kitsap-area papers.

In its editorial column Thursday, the newspaper disclosed an email message that Martin sent to charter supporters – and, inadvertently, to an editor at the newspaper. The email discussed pro-charter letters that recipients could sign and claim as their own for submission to newspapers.

The letters were in fact written by Ryan, which Martin later confirmed.

Thursday evening, Martin said that Ryan’s letters included an introductory section that said recipients could edit them as they wished.

“To my knowledge, we never ever told a lie about the content of the charter,” Martin said. “But I don’t want anyone to get the idea I don’t take responsibility.”

Martin said he hopes the controversy doesn’t detract from the issues in the charter campaign.

“I feel so bad, because I believe we have a wonderful charter,” he said, “and doing something like this to cast a shadow on it is really bad.”

Kitsap voters will decide on the proposed charter in a Feb. 5 all-mail election.

Among other changes, the charter would establish a five-member, non-partisan county council, create a county executive position and give Kitsap voters the right of initiative and referendum.

Elections for council members would be by district only.

Charter opponents say the change would effectively disenfranchise voters, who today vote for all three county commission positions but would vote for only one of five under the charter.

The Bainbridge Island City Council Wednesday will consider a formal resolution, introduced by Councilwoman Christine Nasser at the last meeting, opposing the charter.

Following the resignations, Kitsap Business Journal editor Lary Coppola announced that he will serve as “media relations coordinator” for the pro-charter group for the duration of the campaign.

Also, both Ryan and Martin issued apology letters.

In an email to Kitsap Newspaper Group editors and other publications, Ryan wrote:

“At this critical juncture, to avoid focus being taken from the content of the charter, which so many have worked so hard to bring before the people, I hereby apologize and tender my resignation from the Committee for Better Representation and will no longer be associated with it in any manner whatsoever.

“Please consider the charter on its merits and not on my actions in support of it.”

Wrote Martin: “The end did not justify the means. The hard work of literally hundreds of people in the past two years should not be destroyed by my actions.”

Staff Writer Douglas Crist contributed to this report.

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