Info Slowmo

When they feel you just don’t need to know

When they feel you just don’t need to know

• Topics: Bellingham,

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
To: PublicRecordsOfficer
Subject: Public Disclosure Request

Hi Mark,
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.

Thanks, Mark.

Tip Johnson

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 <>
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.

About Tip Johnson

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 11, 2008

Tip Johnson is a longtime citizen interest advocate with a record of public achievement projects for good government and the environment. A lifelong student of government, Tip served two terms [...]

Comments by Readers

Abe Jacobson

Oct 26, 2015

Nice ferreting, Tip.

The fact that the item was mailed only to registered voters, and not to the resident population at large, speaks volumes about the agenda here.

An informational report is owed to all taxpayers and residents, while a mailing exclusively to registered voters can only be viewed as an attempt to sway their vote.

Abe Jacobson


Michael Chiavario

Oct 26, 2015

Tip, Is Mark a union employee? I didn’t get everything that I wanted from him either regarding shenanigans at Parks, although I got most of it. One of the things that I got indicated that all of the union protected employees interviewed by a contracted attorney on their views of the Parks Director had negative views. All of the non-union employees had positive views. Hmmm.


Tip Johnson

Oct 26, 2015

@Abe - I didn’t get one, but my neighbor did.
@Michael - Expect he is not exempt, but don’t know.  Have had very good service until now.


Barbara Perry

Oct 28, 2015

Actually, I am a registered voter as are the two other adults living at my residence and as were several other people I talked with and none of us got this flyer, so I don’t know where they got the list.  Maybe it was the list the Whatcom County Conservation District sent out to voters who asked for ballots, that seemed to eliminate the ones “they” considered “not right,” like Dan Pike, Tip Johnson, Editor Bill McCullum and who knows what others?

To comment, Log In or Register