Council member accused of leaking confidential information

The city’s Board of Ethics is expected to address during its next regular meeting a claim that a City Council member leaked information late last month regarding settlement talks between the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance and the city.

Sally Adams, the RPA’s secretary, filed a request Monday for an advisory opinion with the ethics board claiming that Councilor Hilary Franz, who has been one of the four councilors involved in recent RPA talks, gave information to members of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce that was in a Chamber Email Newsletter on Oct. 28.

“We had no choice because the confidentiality of our settlement negotiations had been breached with a release that indicated the time by which we would have to respond to an offer made to us by the city,” Adams said.

Franz said that what she said to Larry Sears, a chamber board member, was not in violation of any rules.

“After the meeting (Oct. 28) where very little went on, I met with Larry on another issue and he said he had read Dick Allen’s letter in the paper and Sally’s press release that the city hadn’t responded to the RPA, and asked me about it.

“I said we had responded to them and that I believed our response will largely meet their demands. That’s all I said.”

The chamber newsletter read in part:

“It is our understanding that the city... has made a substantial offer to satisfy all six demands made by the Ratepayers Alliance. The offer addresses each and every demand. It is time to move forward on this issue – that if not resolved – will jeopardize the potential fixes planned for Winslow Way. If you agree with the statement, please respond with a return email:

“Dear Ratepayers Alliance: Please drop the appeal of the bond. Please accept the good faith offer presented by the city! Please allow our island businesses and property owners to move forward with the Winslow Way reconstruction project and to take advantage of the federal funds that will pay for the balance of this essential infrastructure.”

The email was attributed to the chamber’s board of directors.

When a Review reporter asked about the newsletter a couple hours after it was posted, Executive Director Kevin Dwyer declined to identify the source, saying only, “We got some confidential information.”

Adams’ complaint claims that the leak may have violated the city’s Code of Ethics Sec. 2c, which states: “Covered persons shall not disclose or use confidential or proprietary information obtained in executive session or otherwise in the course of their duties as a result of their position. No covered person shall disclose any such information except as required by law.”

Some members of the council have been at odds with each other after the RPA filed an appeal to a court decision that sided with city on some parts of the litigation.

On his blog, Councilor Barry Peters asked his readers to speak up against the lawsuit because of the possibility it will stop the city from receiving a loan needed to help fund the Winslow Way reconstruction project.

Former City Manager Mark Dombroski also filed an advisory opinion with the ethics board on Oct. 26 regarding Councilor Bill Knobloch’s failure to sign the annual “conflict of interest” disclaimer required by the city ethics program for elected officials. The complaint did not mention any “conflict of interest” details.

Knobloch denied that there was a conflict and said in a letter sent to the ethics board Monday that his failure to sign the waiver was an oversight and he apologized.

The Board of Ethics acknowledged receipt of the letter and, without making comment, said it would pass it on to the City Council.

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