All Politics is Local

Vancouver mayor worried about repeating county records blunder

Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle is concerned about “squishy language” included in a new email and social media policy governing the council.

McEnerny-Ogle wanted the policy to mandate that councilors keep their personal business separate from city business. This could mean asking councilors to carry two phones, as Councilor Ty Stober pointed out.

“I have two phones,” McEnerny-Ogle quipped. “I guess my concern is the ramifications if we don’t.”

One councilor, Councilor Bill Turlay, has had issues in the past ensuring he’s using the right email for city business. But Turlay wasn’t McEnerny-Ogle’s concern.

“I’m just thinking of what happened at the county level and how much the county had to pay out when a particular individual made the choice to do this and how much money they lost,” she said.

McEnerny-Ogle refers, of course, to David Madore. Madore served as a Clark County councilor until 2016.

The county had to pay $15,750 in penalties when a Superior Court judge ruled the county had failed to disclose Madore’s electronic communications  as subject to public record law. The county argued it had done “everything it reasonably could” to provide the records but the judge disagreed. The case also resulted in claims that Madore was concealing messages and deleting relevant texts. There had long been questions about Madore’s handling of public records.

Related to this claim was a whistleblower suit filed by Community Planning Director Oliver Orjiako and an investigation into claims made by Madore about Orjiako. The county had to pay more than $100,000 in attorney bills resulting from that investigation.

That history left McEnerny-Ogle worried about a lawsuit in Vancouver if a councilor behaves similarly in the future.

She asked that the policy make clear that which records to disclose is not at the pleasure of the councilor. The good news for McEnerny-Ogle is public records law already addresses the issue.

City Manager Eric Holmes said the City Attorney’s Office, or potentially a court, determines which records are disclosed.

“That prevents what happened at the county?” she asked.

With an affirmative answer in hand, McEnerny-Ogle said she feels much better.

Katy Sword

I cover the city of Vancouver and federal politics. Reach me at katy.sword@columbian.com.

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