Public meetings lawsuit
Meetings lawsuit is politically motivated
After reading the letters and articles in last week’s paper that were so critical of councilmembers Fimia, Way and Ransom, I feel the need to respond. It is my opinion that the lawsuit against them is baseless and nothing but a frivolous, politically motivated attack designed to influence the next election. I think that is actually those who brought this suit that are the ones who are costing the city large amounts of money and that they should withdraw this ugly, divisive legal action.
I would also like to point out that while councilmembers Fimia, Way and Ransom have been serving, an unprecedented series of positive developments have taken place under their leadership, such as:
• the Aurora Avenue Phase II “Hybrid Plan” has been agreed to
• the Parks Bond (with funding for south Woods and Kruckeberg Garden) passed by voters with a huge margin
• the Critical Areas Ordinance (protecting fragile places in Shoreline) has been strengthened
• a Citizens Advisory Committee for Housing was formed to examine ways to promote affordable housing and protect neighborhood character.
Let me conclude that councilmembers Fimia, Way and Ransom deserve our thanks and support, not politically driven lawsuits.
Council squandered public trust, money
Something stinks in Shoreline — and it isn’t because the tide’s out.
The reek comes from a pile of public cash — $139,000 and counting — that’s being wasted to defend four current and former members of the Shoreline City Council on charges they violated Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act.
In late 2005, just after city elections, the four decided to flex newly gained political muscle and cooked up a scheme to oust the city manager. In a series of e-mails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings — all now fully revealed in court records — the four crafted the plan and sprang it on the other three members of the city council.
When details of the scheme began trickling out, the outrage was predictable. When the four failed to fess up to their back-door machinations, some disgusted citizens — including two former council members — went to court.
The saga could have ended right there. The four could have admitted they violated the open meetings law, paid their $100 fines, and the plaintiffs would have walked away.
Unfortunately, the errant council members were loathe to admit they were wrong, and perhaps not coincidentally, weren’t paying their own legal tabs. After winning authorization from the city to fund their legal defense, they decided to dig in for a long and expensive fight, even if it’s the public’s money.
Tax money paid by the citizens of Shoreline — the very people who the Open Public Meetings Act is designed to protect in this case — is paying for the defense.
Public funds — and public trust — are precious commodities. These four have squandered both.
Two of the defendants in the lawsuit — Maggie Fimia and Bob Ransom — are seeking re-election to the Shoreline City Council and are on the Aug. 21 primary ballot. Let’s hope the voters hold them accountable.
Editor’s note: Bill Will is general manager of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and a board member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.
Thanks to Maggie Fimia for serving the public
This is an open letter to Maggie Fimia:
Thank you for your service these last several months on the Shoreline City Council.
I watched and heard the strident voices again this last week. I am sorry that those of you who are being sued can not speak out for fear it may compromise the lawsuit against you. What I find ironic is the blame that is being put on you for the cost of this legal action that they themselves put into effect. After each of these people spoke on Monday, you then, as you always do, thanked each one without any rancor in your voice. I would have choked each time if it had been me.
I started watching the televised council meetings several years ago. I could not understand the attitude of Mr. Burkett towards some of the council members, but the addition of our new city manager has been a breath of fresh air. Mr. Olander has been not only even-handed but solicitous and friendly, unlike his predecessor. Now, if I picked up on this by just watching the televised events, I can only imagine what was happening outside of the meeting on a daily basis.
The elections are around the corner and I’m sure that’s why we will be subjected to hearing more voices against you and the others in the coming weeks. (I’m blonde but not that dumb.)
Have a pleasant few weeks away from council and know that there are others out there like me who appreciate the good work you continue to do for us.
Diana L. Holeman
Web site needs to walk its talk
One of your recent letter writers referred to the wakeupshoreline.com Web site. I spent some time looking this site. It appears to be dedicated to bashing certain Shoreline City Council members for their lack of openness, honesty, and integrity. I noted that this Web site does not carry any sponsor identification. Perhaps, in the pursuit of openness, honesty and integrity the sponsor(s) of wakeupshoreline.com would reveal their identity.
Graduates of the Karl Rove school of politics
First, some citizens, who should know the Shoreline city’s rules, bring a lawsuit against four present and former city council members for how they did their job. Then the plaintiffs start a harassment campaign against the defendants for daring to accept the defense money the city is legally obligated to provide for their defense. Seems somebody has been taking lessons from Karl Rove.
Rose M. Laffoon
City moving in a new political direction
Two years ago the Shoreline City Council started in a new political direction. With new leadership in the city manager position and a different orientation on the council, there has been new harmony on some issues important to the citizens. The plan for Aurora was once both expensive and divisive. Now there is agreement on how to proceed. Shoreline’s first ever bond issue was brought to citizens and passed with a remarkable 70 percent yes vote. The result is new parks and improved parks. Other advances range from finding ways to promote affordable housing to protecting ecologically sensitive areas.
Unfortunately this positive direction and harmony has not been directed toward council members Fimia, Way and Ransom, who have been instrumental in bringing it about. They have been under continuous attack despite setting a new and positive course. Charges against them are not labeled as alleged, but spoken as if they were already well established and certain, despite not being proven. These charges are, in fact, unproven and denied. I like the way the city has moved recently and have to suspect that the outpouring of charges as we approach elections come from political opposition rather than any high-minded principle.
Vote for open, honest candidates
I was heartened to see so many Shoreline residents stand up to speak at the July 23 council meeting. In the brief three minutes allotted to them, each person spoke out honestly and passionately against the actions of Deputy Mayor Fimia and several council members who have been accused of violating the Open Public Meetings Act. Defense of their actions has already cost Shoreline taxpayers in excess of $140,000 (see www.wakeupshoreline.com, for details). While the speakers had only minutes to state their case, Maggie Fimia took the opportunity following public comment to speak at great length (at least 20 minutes). This was ironic considering she prefaced her speech by saying that she couldn’t “speak about the specifics” of the case. While she embellished her lengthy statement with falsehoods, the citizens who had already spoken were not permitted the opportunity to refute her remarks.
While Maggie Fimia has pledged to support an “open, honest and inclusive public process that respects the law, and honors the input and value of our citizens,” her actions over the course of the past 18 months grossly belie her words. Fortunately, Shoreline citizens have the opportunity to change the face of the council in the upcoming primary election on Aug. 21. There are two honest women who have entered the race in opposition to Fimia. Please be sure to vote in order to restore honesty, integrity and transparency to our local government. The July 23 meeting can be viewed at www.cityofshoreline.com.
Where’s the evidence against defendants?
Kevin Grossman’s self-serving letter to the editor last week wins the prize for the funniest and the dumbest letter yet published in the Enterprise this year. His lamentations about the high costs his lawsuit against several current and past council persons has caused Shoreline taxpayers is chutzpah at its best.
Let me see. Could this all be political dirty tricks? It is, after all, election time again. Didn’t Mr. Grossman lose his city councilman position to Maggie Fimia in the election four years ago? After more than a year of litigation, why hasn’t one scintilla of evidence been produced to support Mr. Grossman’s allegations against the defendants? After a failed recall attempt over the same issue, why is Mr. Grossman, et al, still pursuing this lawsuit after repeated attempts (we are told) to settle. So who is running up the costs for us taxpayers for what is more and more looking like a frivolous lawsuit to restore political power to the “dark side?” It sure isn’t the three women and the mayor on the city council.
Come on Mr. Grossman, can’t we all just get along?
Clark and Dorene Elster