Public records released this week by the city of Bainbridge Island show the husband of Bainbridge Island City Councilwoman Rasham Nassar filed an ethics complaint against a city employee after the employee submitted an online code compliance complaint that alleged Nassar and her husband has a “tiny home” on their property that didn’t have permits.
The ethics complaint — which has not been taken up by the city’s Ethics Board — was followed by a visit by Nassar to the Bainbridge Island Police Department on Sept. 19, where the councilwoman alleged the city employee had trespassed on her property to get a photo that was added to the online complaint to the city.
Records released by the city show police investigated the claim made by Nassar and her husband, Trenton Riely-Gibbons, and the case was forwarded to the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney on Oct. 18.
Public records also indicate the county prosecutor has not taken action on the complaint.
Nassar and Riely-Gibbons did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday from the Review.
The code compliance complaint against Nassar and Riely-Gibbons was made June 25 by someone using the city’s SeeClickFix program.
In his ethics complaint to the city, Riely-Gibbons admitted a tiny home had been on the couple’s property, but had been removed in July 2018.
“Not only has the tiny home been removed from my property for over a year, it was found not to be in violation of city code by the former code compliance officer,” Riely-Gibbons wrote in his complaint.
Riely-Gibbons claimed that the person who took the photograph had been on the couple’s property.
Police later contacted the city employee who submitted the code complaint, and the worker told police that the photographer who took the picture did not step off the driveway of the couple’s property.
Nassar and her husband are the subject of ongoing permitting issues with the city, and the first-year councilwoman has been dogged since the start of the year with claims of unauthorized development on her family’s property, as well as ethics complaints. The controversy has since evolved into a public records lawsuit in Kitsap County Superior Court, which alleges the city and Nassar have withheld public records related to the couple’s permit troubles.
Riely-Gibbons, in his ethics complaint, said the city worker who posted the complaint was a permit specialist with the city’s planning department, and the employee was “aware of my family’s permit process and current status of compliance.”
The employee’s “position and authority as a staff member,” Riely-Gibbons claimed, was being used “to influence public opinion about an ongoing personal property matter by intentionally providing misinformation using the city’s own SeeClickFix tool.”
The SeeClickFix program on the city’s website can be used by people to lodge complaints that range from potholes to noise problems, as well as possible building code violations and other undesirable activities.
“I assume city officials and staff are aware of the aggressive and political nature of the code compliance complaints submitted against my personal property and published to social media and the press,” Riely-Gibbons said in his complaint, “which have been further exacerbated by the city’s Ethics Board opinions in 2018-06 and 2019-02 issued against my wife, a Bainbridge Island city councilmember.”
Riely-Gibbons added that he hoped the employee’s “bias against my family will not be allowed to impact any ongoing or future dealings my family may have with the city as we continue the city’s code compliance process to permit the repairs completed in 2015 to the historic well pumphouse/shed building.”
“For example, the city decided to unilaterally investigate another building on our property during their July 2018 investigation of the tiny home complaint, namely the well pumphouse/shed building which was not the subject of the initial complaint,” Riely-Gibbons added. “In my understanding of the code compliance process this is atypical of standard city practices.”
Riely-Gibbons also claimed the complaint submitted by the city worker “affirms bias in the city’s planning department toward my family, conceivably politically motivated and directed toward my wife, a duly elected member of the city council.”
Riely-Gibbons claimed the city worker’s actions violated Bainbridge’s ethics program, and also asked the employee be investigated for violating certain staff policies, though no specific policies were mentioned in the three-page complaint.
Public records released by the city show the ethics complaint followed emails that Riely-Gibbons sent to Aaron Pool, the city’s code compliance officer, City Manager Morgan Smith, and City Attorney Joe Levan earlier in June and early July.
Riely-Gibbons said the SeeClickFix complaint about the tiny home that included a photograph of the structure was made by someone who had criminally trespassed on their posted property. It was politically motivated, he claimed.
“To me, this is further testament to the obsessive and disturbed nature of this individual or individuals who continue to threaten and intimidate my wife, an elected official at the city of Bainbridge Island because of the way she has voted,” Riely-Gibbons wrote in a June 26 email to Pool that was copied to Smith and Levan.
At the time of that email, it was not known who had posted the SeeClickFix complaint about the tiny home.
In an email to city officials, Riely-Gibbons said there had been stalking and trespass issues on their property that dated back to December 2018.
“Due to the repeated and ongoing nature of these incidents of trespass, stalking, and harassment this recent submittal provides reason for me to believe that this individual or individuals continues to pose a real danger and threat to myself, my wife and my children,” Riely-Gibbons wrote.
Smith, in a July 8 email to Riely-Gibbons, said the city had determined an employee at city hall had lodged the SeeClickFix complaint. Smith added that officials had learned from the employee that the complaint was filed on the employee’s personal time, who lives near Riely-Gibbons and Nassar, and that the photo was taken by someone who did not trespass on the couple’s property. The employee declined to identify the photographer.
In a follow-up email on July 11, Smith told Riely-Gibbons the complaint about the tiny home trailer had been dismissed that week because the description in the complaint did not match any structures still on the property. The other SeeClickFix complaint mentioned by Riely-Gibbons, one that centered on his parents’ property, was also closed after no violation had been found.
Riely-Gibbons later emailed Smith and said the city worker had “demonstrated a clear hostility toward my family.”
In a response, Smith said it wasn’t appropriate for city officials to continue to ask an employee about outside-of-work activities.
“I hope you can understand that it is important for the city organization to respect the distinction between actions that city employees take in the context of their work, and the actions that they take in their personal lives as members of the community,” Smith wrote.
In a following July 15 email to the city manager, Riely-Gibbons said the tiny house complaint was harassment, and also wrote that the initial SeeClickFix complaint that was filed in January 2018 — which led city officials to investigate a charge of development without permits on the couple’s property — was harassment as well.
Riely-Gibbons filed the ethics complaint two days later.
The online complaint grew into a police investigation in September, after Nassar went to the police station to talk about the SeeClickFix complaint.
An officer told the councilwoman that the incident would be documented as a “suspicious incident” until authorities could determine whether a criminal trespass had occurred.
Police Chief Jeff Horn told the Review that Nassar’s complaint is no longer under investigation.
Complaints to the city’s Ethics Board in recent months have not been taken up by the board, as the city council has been considering changes to Bainbridge’s ethics program.