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Council clashes over response to logo letter

A single, nonscheduled agenda item brought a pair of verbal flurries during the March 18 meeting of the Enumcalw City Council.

The sparring came near the end of the May 11 meeting, after Councilman Mike Ennis asked to read a portion of a letter drafted by Tim Ford of the state Attorney General’s Office. Ford, who specializes in open government issues for the department, had replied to a complaint originally lodged by Ennis aimed at Mayor John Wise. In his complaint, Ennis had suggested Wise had intentionally skirted the law by withholding artwork – a proposed city logo – that had been created by a paid consultant.

The bickering began when Wise asked that Ennis raise the issue in a different setting, but Ennis prevailed.

He read excerpts from Ford’s letter, including a phrase that “there is no indication that the city did not understand the request nor needed clarification.”

Ennis then complained that the Wise administration has demonstrated a “lackadaisical attitude” toward honoring public records requests, suggesting that the city could find itself in legal hot water.

Wise pointed out that Ford’s letter contained “no legal finding” against the city of Enumclaw or him personally.

In his letter, Ford pointed out that “I exercise no enforcement authority and avoid making legal conslusions” regarding whether the state’s Public Records Act or Open Public Meetings Act. It was the PRA Ennis had accused Wise of violating.

City Administrator Mark Bauer added that several city officials recently attended a session dealing with the Public Records Act. City Attorney Mike Reynolds added that “it’s sometimes difficult to tell if it’s a records request or not” and suggested that requests made by the public are most effective when submitted in written form. That helps establish a timeline for the city to reply, he explained.

State law does not require that requests be in writing, but Ford’s letter indicated that it’s a smart move for those wanting information.

Councilman Jeff Coats stirred the pot when he suggested Ennis was raising the issue for political purposes. Ennis is the campaign manager for fellow councilmember Liz Reynolds, who is running against Wise for mayor.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to bring these things up during council meetings,” Coats said, making a motion that the public forum “not be used strictly for campaign purposes.”

Councilman Jeff Beckwith countered that he’s comfortable with allowing each member to raise issues and Coats’ suggestion died.

Reynolds went next, noting that she took “great offense” at Coats’ remark.

“If you’re referring to me, you’re way off line,” she said.

Reynolds noted that any campaigning she might do occurs on her private time, not when she’s acting on behalf of the city.

Reach Kevin Hanson at khanson@courierherald.com or 360-802-8205.

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