Questions bring heated emotions for City Council

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

Tension among Bonney Lake City Council members boiled over at the June 3 workshop.

An exchange between council members Dan Decker and Jim Rackley, Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman, Mayor Neil Johnson and staff became heated.

Rackley started the fray with a question to Decker concerning a request for information from the staff about all contracts issued by the city since Jan. 1, 2006. Rackley said he thought Decker was abusing the staff.

“I would like you to tell the City Council what information you hoped to gain from this list that took 10 hours of staff time,” Rackley said.

Decker responded by stating he needed to know “how much (money) we have, how much money we are spending, how much money we get and etcetera.”

Decker then asked Rackley, “Are you abusing me right now?”

Rackley came back with, “I'd like to abuse you right now... I've spent a career reading numbers.”

Decker said, “I think he just threatened me.”

“I don't believe I did,” Rackley said.

Johnson added Rackley did not threaten Decker.

Rackley again stated, “These numbers tell you nothing.”

Decker said, “Then why did I get them? That's not what I asked for.”

Johnson said Decker did ask for the documents in a request to City Clerk Woody Edvalson.

In a memo dated May 15, Edvalson wrote to City Administrator Don Morrison:

“Council member Decker requests the following info:

All contracts since Jan. 1, 2006 - the contractor, title (subject of contract, and the final cost for those that are closed, award amount for those that are ongoing).

He would like it as soon as possible.”

During a phone interview Decker said, “I don't recall talking to Woody asking him to produce anything like that.”

During the meeting, Rackley said, “If this truly wasn't what you asked for then I apologize.”

But during a phone interview Sunday, Rackley said he thought Decker did request the information.

“Woody doesn't normally do things he is not requested to do,” Rackley said. “We have to be responsible enough to ask intelligent questions and not burden the staff.”

According to Decker he gave Edvalson a memo with 13 questions and requests that was directed at the city administrator. The memo is dated May 20 and the questions concern the city's loans, payments and information about employees in the accounting department.

Decker said Al Juarez, the city's chief financial officer, answered the question concerning the employees to his satisfaction.

Morrison sent a memo to Decker June 5 with a copy of the debt administration section of the budget and a portion of the 2006 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The memo also stated the city is current on all bond and loan payments.

Decker said he still needs answers to his questions, “If I'm going to make an intelligent decision. I'm on the CDC (Community Development Committee).

The councilman stated he is not trying to harm anyone in the city.

“I brought these (questions) to the City Council and they told me to shut up and sit down,” Decker said. “I'm not going to shut up and sit down. I know the people in my ward. I've been to their homes eight times. I don't conflict with the people. If I conflict with the City Council maybe they are trying to cover something up.”

Decker said he did not look at the budget to answer his questions because, “it is useless. Do they follow it? Until I get my answers I don't know.”

According to the May 30 memo from Morrison given to council members, the request for contracts took 9.5 hours of staff time at a cost of about $220. The memo went on to note, “If we were to ask staff to pull the project files of each individual agreement and reconcile it to the original contract award, the estimated time to do that additional research is in the 70-100 hour range.”

Swatman said it is appropriate for members to request information from staff if they are working on a specific issue.

“Every time the City Council asks staff to do things, they can't do their jobs for the public,” Swatman said. “He (Decker) thinks the staff is there to serve his purpose. He deserves answers, but he shouldn't demand staff do things for him.”

Decker said he will continue to seek answers to his questions.

“These are questions people want to know,” Decker said. “I believe reasonable people want to know answers to these questions. If not, they are not reasonable. Once I have these questions answered I have another batch of questions, depending on what the answers are.”

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