From The Political Junkie: Crawford’s Secret Emails

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Tue, Apr 26, 2011, 3:39 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Sam Crawford is the current County Council president and seems to have a little trouble with transparency laws. As a public official, his emails are public record if they pertain to county business. This is a pretty simple matter, for most people. The County sets up an email address something@co.whatcom.gov and the public official uses the public email for the public's business and private email for private business.

Unfortunately, Sam Crawford feels the rules don't apply to him. He uses his private email AND his public email for county business. Sometimes, he forwards a copy to the records department. Sometimes.

Recently, Mr. Crawford was busted by the Bellingham Herald for not only sending out emails from his private account about county business but, in the same email, asking people to delete the evidence! Luckily, one of these people had a conscience and forwarded it to Jared Paben at the Herald, who reported about it. Here is the juicy part:

Then, at about 11:30 a.m., using his personal e-mail account, he forwarded that e-mail with new text to other people. But, at the end of the new text, he wrote, “If you forward this email, PLEASE remove the elements that indicate I sent it to you using my personal email, as well as this introductory commentary. Thank you!”

This is not Sam Crawford's first shady dealing. When Bob Kelly resigned from the Council in November of 2009, Sam Crawford, Ward Nelson, and Pete Kremen met behind closed doors to stonewall the nomination process and ensure that Ward Nelson was appointed to the additional term. This move was so ethically suspect that lawyers, the Attorney General's office, and an official ethics complaint were all involved in trying to straighten out what happened.

Then there was the matter of his quid-pro-quo arrangement with CAITIC, one of the large developers in town.  Sam Crawford received an email from a CAITIC representative that stated CAITIC had paid for Kathy Kershner and Bill Knutzen's election. When the public tried to get their hands on that email, oops, it had disappeared.

So, with all this background in place, I did a public records request on any emails to or from Sam Crawford's private email account in the last year or so from a handful of sources. The process here is that the public records officer logs into the county email system and searches for any emails that have passed to or from Sam Crawford's private email account, then sends them back to me.

HOWEVER, some of the people requested do not use the county email system, so the public records officer sends them a polite email asking if they could forward him any relevant emails.

Do you see the problem with this system? You would never see a police officer knock on a suspected drug dealer's door and say, "Excuse sir, but some people think you might be selling drugs. Could you please be ever so kind as to hand over any drugs you might have on the premises?" It doesn't work.

So I read through the pounds and pounds of emails.  Lots of fascinating stuff about the Lummi Ferry dispute (some of which had to be redacted for legal reasons,) most of it procedural, but by far the most interesting emails were between Sam Crawford and David Onkels. Dave Onkels (or Dave6 as he is sometimes known online) is the newest County Planning Commissioner. Most of their emails were just back and forth about county business ("I had this idea," "you should read this,") except that they were from Crawford's private email account.

One of the emails, here, even has Crawford saying "I didn't send this to you." Clearly Sam Crawford, with his years of experience as a public official, knows better. The email, for those curious, was about this.

Sam Crawford knows what he is doing is breaking state law. He's just thumbing his nose at the public. Because he can.

Todd Granger  //  Wed, Apr 27, 2011, 7:30 am

Do you see a problem with this system?

As if Sam’s breaking the law, isn’t the usual and accustomed method of local government operations.

In Whatcom County, You’d see the police officer kick down the door, tazer the suspect, lie on the stand, and then shown best, down in a real courthouse for false arrest, making everthing up as a lie, and then writing a check from Steve Oliver’s Office, for being the most incompetant public employees ever before seen, Vote Dave McEachran!

Crawfords got no secrets, and neither does Dave.

Dis you miss the Dave McEachran Show, shown best in those real Courthouses, for corrupt lawyers on display in Whatcom County for Decades!

+ Link


Daniel Warner  //  Tue, May 03, 2011, 11:32 am

Hi All,

From what I can see, nothing that Sam Crawford puts in inappropriate emails would be surprising to most of us if he had done it right.  Sam has a bit of a problem with appropriate procedure.  He has a greater problem with substance.

I check NorthwestCitizen periodically, and I like it.  Down at the bottom right is a list of websites that are “quiet, offline or dead.”  Included among them is Pro-Whatcom.  What happened to Pro-Whatcom was that after I couldn’t maintain the pace of president, nobody else would step up.  And it’s no wonder.

The basic premise of Pro-Whatcom was that growth is good, for a while, and we have long since passed the point where it is.  Not bigger, but better was what PW was about.

In fact, though, that’s impossible.  Under the GMA we have toi to “accommodate” whoever wants to move here and—mostly at our expense for the infrastructure—upzone from rural to urban to do so.  The long-running hassle with the County Comp Plan is who much urban to plan for. Sam Crawford and the conservatives (well, really what are they conserving?) want large amounts of land zoned for urban development; the liberals want less.

This morning I was listening to KUOW.  There was some comment about the apartment-building business (small apartments are all people can afford).  The developer was asked about prospects for the future.  You could hear him smile on the radio: “Fortunately,” he said, “the greater Seattle-area population is growing and growing.”  I think he said by 100,000 a year, but that seems too much.

Anyway, I guess the theory for people like Sam Crawford is that growth is good, and the more the better.  But it is impossible to have infinite growth, and already the quality of life in Whatcom County is reduced.  We are polluting our drinking water; our roads, ever more congested, get “improved” at great expense. 

Until we get over the idea that “growth is good” we will not make progress to sustainability.  And since growth is the essence of our current corporate-capitalistic system (neo-feudalism, I’m calling it), the prospects for the necessary change are dim.  It’ll happen eventually, of course, but not until things are a lot worse than they are now.  That’s my opinion, anyway.

Thanks to John Servais for his blog, one of the earliest to come to computerland.

Dan Warner


Larry Horowitz  //  Tue, May 03, 2011, 7:40 pm

Thanks for your comments, Dan.  I certainly agree that growth is good? for awhile.  In man?s battle with nature, it?s inconceivable man will ultimately win the war.  If man were to respect natural laws, he?d soon recognize that nothing in nature experiences infinite growth.  We grow to maturity, at which point we reach a steady state.  Perhaps those who lack this basic understanding have not reached maturity themselves.

If I may, I?d like to add a phrase to your premise.  Growth is good? for a few.


Doug Karlberg  //  Thu, May 05, 2011, 10:13 am

People keep talking about “growth” in the third person.

Are not all of us “growth” when we moved here?

Or are we just talking about “growth” that happened after,
we arrived?

Which way do I point my finger?

A general philosophical question.

Crawford, is an embarrassment.


Larry Horowitz  //  Thu, May 05, 2011, 6:43 pm

Good question, Doug.  Regarding my comment, I?m referring to ?net? population growth locally, which consists of total births less total deaths, plus total in-migration less total out-migration.

For example, when we moved to Bellingham, we purchased an existing home from a couple that was moving away.  Our joint moves had no net effect on total population. 

A country?s net population growth would be calculated in a similar way; however, global net population growth ignores in- and out-migration (at least until aliens are included in the census and earthlings are capable of leaving the planet).

Globally and locally, there are limits to population growth.  The obvious ones are clean water, clean air, soil fertility, fisheries, etc.  Additionally, there is only so much room (?sinks?) for our waste. 

In 2005, the authors of ?Limits to Growth? published a 30-year update.  You might be interested in reading it.


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