Buetow resigns from Bainbridge UAC

Arlene Buetow has resigned from her position on the Bainbridge Island Utility Advisory Committee.

Buetow, who ran unsuccessfully for the Bainbridge Island City Council last November but fell in a landslide loss against Wayne Roth for the Central Ward, Position 5 seat, submitted a letter of resignation Monday, Jan. 13 to city officials.

In the letter, Buetow said her volunteer work on the committee had been marred by time-consuming and excessive demands for personal records.

Buetow previously served as chairwoman of the committee, which came under some criticism last year for its lack of record-keeping at its meetings and the insistence of some members that its meetings were not subject to the state Open Public Meetings Act. Members also considered doing away with public comment at their meetings so they would not have to abide by the Open Public Meetings Act.

Buetow has also been mentioned repeatedly as part of the recent court battle between two citizen activists and the city of Bainbridge Island over emails sent to council members's private email accounts.

Bainbridge residents Althea Paulson and Bob Fortner filed a lawsuit against the city in August that claimed three council members did not release public records that were sought from the council members' personal email accounts.

Paulson also requested emails to or from Buetow from Jan. 1, 2011 to June 28, 2013.

In her resignation letter, Buetow said she never received proper guidance from the city on complying with public records laws and raised concern that her constitutional rights of free speech were in danger if she continued on the committee.

"Since the UACʼs inception, neither I nor the other UAC citizen volunteers were informed that our purely advisory participation in this committee constituted operating as an 'agency' of the city. Nor were we provided the instruction, e-mail accounts or equipment necessary for legal records maintenance," Buetow wrote.

"Recently my civic participation has resulted in demands for my personal records, and historical communications with other citizens who have, as have I, exercised their constitutional right of free speech in discussions and comments on utility issues," she continued. "Given the fact that the necessary instruction and equipment was never provided to maintain such records, this effort has levied excessive, unprecedented and unanticipated demands on my time.

"Furthermore, I did not surrender my personal constitutional rights when I agreed to serve on the UAC," she wrote in the letter.

"That being said, having completed my response to the public records request and not wanting to further jeopardize my constitutional rights or dedicate my time to similar efforts in the future, I hereby resign from my position as a volunteer to the UAC, effective immediately.

"I remain interested in how our city government functions and manages public utilities, and will continue to voice my concerns," she concluded.

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