Opinion

Don’t blame the city on this | IN OUR OPINION

The city of Bainbridge Island was slammed with a lawsuit this week for failing to provide public records to two Bainbridge residents. The city deserved it.

No, not the employees at city hall who process the requests for public records and roust up wayward documents on behalf of the public and press.

The ones who deserved this lawsuit, and were appropriately named as defendants both personally and in their role as city officials, were the three council members who have been foot-dragging on supplying the city with emails about city business that they have received on their personal email accounts.

The trio — Councilman (and mayor) Steve Bonkowski, Councilman David Ward and Councilwoman Debbi Lester — have been repeatedly asked by city workers to supply the emails on their home computers that have been sought by not only citizen advocates for transparent and open government, but the press.

Instead, they have refused to hand over the records.

While some of them may feel emails sent to them on their personal email accounts about city issues and Bainbridge business are not “public records” under their view of the law, that’s a call they don’t get to make.

Instead, it’s one best left to the city’s lawyers. The city’s legal eagles should be the ones reviewing such emails and making an initial determination if the records are public as defined by the law.

From the emails already released by the city, from Councilwoman Sarah Blossom’s personal email account, we believe the disputed emails clearly are. And obviously, so do the two islanders who have brought suit against the city.

Responsibility for maintaining transparency in government and adhering to public access laws to records and meetings is a crucial responsibility of the city council.

And for these three council members, they can also take responsibility for the lawsuit now pending in Kitsap County Superior Court.

 

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