Bainbridge Island City Councilwoman Rasham Nassar has provided new details to her story on how her personal cell phone was destroyed, according to the attorney who has filed a public records lawsuit against the city of Bainbridge Island.
Nassar’s destroyed cell phone is at the heart of a lawsuit filed earlier this year in Kitsap County Superior Court.
In the lawsuit, two Bainbridge residents, David Dunn and Brian Wilkinson, claim the city of Bainbridge violated Washington’s Public Records Act when it failed to hand over public records that were created and maintained by Nassar and stored on her personal phone.
Nassar gave a deposition in the court case Oct. 21.
Nicholas Power, the Friday Harbor-based attorney who is representing the two Bainbridge men, said in a news release Sunday that Nassar’s account during her deposition of how her cell phone was destroyed had changed from earlier versions.
In court documents previously filed in the case, the city and Nassar said that her personal cell phone — which Nassar admitted to using for city business, despite the fact that the city had provided the councilwoman with a cell phone to use for official city business — was accidentally destroyed during a family trip to California, and that public records were permanently lost as there was no system in place to back-up the phone.
Power noted that Nassar had earlier “signed at least four sworn declarations attesting that her 18-month old son ‘soaked the phone in a can of olives.’”
But during her deposition, Nassar said that wasn’t the case.
Instead, Nassar told lawyers at her deposition that she had given her 18-month-old son a full can of olives while he was in the back seat of her car. In the newest version of that story, Nassar said her son then emptied the contents of the olive can into his child carseat cupholder, and then placed the phone into the cupholder.
Nassar did not immediately respond to an email Sunday from the Review requesting comment.
Power also noted that Nassar had trouble remembering many of the details of what happened with her personal phone and what types of public records she created and stored on it.
She responded “I don’t recall” no fewer than 110 times during her deposition, Power said.
The destruction of the cell phone came up repeatedly during Power’s questioning of Nassar:
Q. Sure. Just tell me what happened.
A. A can of California — I believe they were California black olives, was poured by my son into the cup holder of his car seat, which is where the iPhone ultimately sat.
Q. OK. And where were you traveling at the time?
A. At the time the phone was discovered —
A. — sitting in the contents of the olives?
A. I can’t say approximately where we were. We were traveling to Bend, Oregon, which is our midway point.
We typically stay with friends and split the travel, the car trip into two days to accommodate the children. We would likely have been near Bend, Oregon.
Q. OK. Were you driving the car?
Q. OK. Who was driving the car?
A. My husband.
Q. OK. And then you were in the passenger seat? You were also in the car?
A. I was also in the car, yes.
Also, Nassar noted that the phone was not really in a jar when it was destroyed by her son:
THE WITNESS: For one, you keep using the word jar. I want to make sure that we’re clear it was a can of olives. And what I said was when I awoke and discovered the phone, it was sitting in the cup holder of my son’s car seat and sitting in the contents of a can of black olives, with black olives swimming around the device. BY MR. POWER:
Q. OK. So on your declaration when it says: “my two-year-old son soaked the phone in a can of olives while my family was traveling,” what you’re telling me now is that the phone wasn’t necessarily in the can, that the phone was destroyed by the contents of the can of olives?
A. Yes. And that was my intention in wording it that way, but I realize that I could have provided and I will provide further clarification.
Q. Is there anything else about that declaration you’d like to clarify?
A. Yes. I will also clarify that I state that he was two. At the time he was about two in several weeks — sorry, he was just under two. He turned two on July 16th.
Q. OK. Anything else about that declaration that needs clarification? You can take some time if you want to look at them…
Q. How did your son get a can of olives in the back seat of a car?
A. Black olives were one of his favorite snacks.
Q. He’s a man with good taste. I love black olives.
A. We are Mediterranean by heritage, so maybe it’s in his DNA. But we stopped earlier at the gas station and purchased snack supplies for the children, and we purchased a can of black olives at that time.
Q. OK. Do you remember where you purchased those olives?
A. No, not at this time. I don’t recall the location.
Nassar also detailed her attempts to save the phone. Also from the deposition:
Q. Sure. What was the next thing?
A. I continued to air out the phone sporadically throughout the night; arriving in California at my mom’s house, I tried several other things.
You have to understand this was very difficult for me. My phone wouldn’t turn on and it was — I was very upset, and I had photos on that phone that were from my second son’s home birth. So it was really important to me to try what I could within my power and knowledge to try and salvage this phone.
When I got to California — my mother keeps Ziploc bags full of the silica gel packs. Put it in one of those for some period of time. I believe we tried rice. We may have tried salt. I don’t recall. One of my sisters suggested we try a hair dryer, but the phone was unresponsive to any of these attempts.