City officials busy placing blame for mess on others | In Our Opinion | Nov. 20

As the latest act of Bainbridge Island’s We vs. Them soap opera unfolds, the Review’s minor role in it needs to be addressed, at least, the part involving two recent filings for a “request for advisory opinion” by the city’s Board of Ethics. Let’s begin with Mark Dombroski vs. Bill Knobloch.

During his last week (ending Oct. 30) as city manager, Dombroski filed a request that said councilor Knobloch failed to complete his 2009 conflict of interest statement. While the request made no mention of specific conflicts of interest claims, a story that was printed late that week by the Kitsap Sun had Dombroski accusing Knobloch of consorting with the enemy; in this case, Sally Adams, one of two members of the group (Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance) with a lawsuit against the city that’s now under appeal. Knobloch denied it all.

If the Review had also interviewed Dombroski to get his parting shots, chances are we would have done a similar story. But we were unaware of the ethics filing and Dombroski was out the door before we could respond. And then, on the same day the board briefly discussed the filing against Knobloch (who appeared with a letter of apology), Adams filed a similar request involving Hilary Franz, who is one of four council members involved in settlement talks with the RPA.

The complaint claims Franz gave confidential information to a Chamber of Commerce board member that was subsequently used in a chamber email newsletter. It urged business/property owners to ask the RPA to agree to an apparent settlement offer. Franz said she answered a question asked by the board member but denies giving any insider information.

When the Review wrote a story about Adams’ filing and placed three paragraphs about the ethics board’s handling of the Knobloch situation at the bottom, many readers justifiably wondered why the Review’s coverage didn’t match that of the Sun. First, we simply got beat to the Dombroski-Knobloch story. And a week later, in our judgment the filing against Franz had much more news value than Knobloch apologizing for failing to sign a form.

The board later in the week sent an opinion to Dombroski that said Knobloch was “out of compliance” with the city’s ordinance requiring disclosure. It also said he violated Article 1 of the Ethics Code, which in part says elected officials “should strive to avoid situations that lead to impropriety or even the appearance of impropriety.”

The Board of Ethics is expected to address the claims against Franz when it meets at its next regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 14.

All of this underscores the divisiveness at the top of city government. Perhaps it’s time our leaders and some of their followers stop blaming each other and try to solve problems, not create them.

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