From The Political Junkie: Crawford’s Secret EmailsPermalink +
Tue, Apr 26, 2011, 4:39 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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