By now, most everyone is aware that the county sent a controversial promotional piece supporting the jail tax to voters, paid for with tax funds. I got curious when the county reported that it cost about $28,000 because the line item in the consultant’s contract budgeted around $86,000 (See Exhibit A - Scope of Services/Public Outreach). Furthermore, the mailer curiously featured three public officials and quite a bit of questionable information. So I asked the county for some details - all of which are public records:
From: Tip Johnson
Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2015 8:39 PM
Subject: Public Disclosure Request
I think this should be and hope it will be all digitally available without too much trouble on your part.
Time is of the essence.
I would like to receive or inspect all correspondence to or from McEachran, Elfo, Louws, their assigns and assistants and anyone at the DLR Group or other involved parties, regarding Additional Services as provided in Section 2.8 and Exhibit A of Whatcom County Contract N0.20140913, especially as it relates to Public Outreach and specifically regarding the production of design and content for the mailer shown at:
Further, I want to inspect evidence of any payments to DLR, consulting third parties, businesses or other agencies related to the production of design and content, and the printing and distribution of the referenced mailer.
Finally, I request to inspect documentation of the distribution list and all correspondence related to the list from any parties involved in developing the list.
Without much surprise, and consistent with the results of an earlier request, this response eventually arrived eight days later - three days after the supposed window for response:
From: PublicRecordsOfficer <PublicRecordsOfficer@co.whatcom.wa.us>
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2015 22:50:38 +0000
To: Tip Johnson
Subject: RE: Public Disclosure Request
Whatcom County received your request for public records on October 19, 2015. It was assigned tracking number 2015-195 and was forwarded to the department(s) where we reasonably expected any responsive records to be found.
We estimate that it may take until November 9, 2015 to make any records available to you however we will do so sooner if possible. If you do not receive any correspondence regarding this request by that date, please contact my office.
Mark Burnfield, CPRO
Public Records Officer
Now, I like the Public Records Officer, who has been very helpful in the past, but assembling a bunch of digital records requiring only a hard drive search and the making of a disk should’t really take all that much time. When the requested items are key to responding accurately to some fairly outlandish claims and unraveling some fairly outlandish behavior during an important election, it would seem they should command some priority. Not this time.
The administration knows time is on their side and appears bound and determined to keep a lid on this election as far as humanly possible. I suppose I should request records of any correspondence between the administration and the Public Records Officer, but I’m just guessing they wouldn't be available until after the election is over either. Just guessing.