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Just when you thought it was over | EFR madness continues
Eastside Fire Fighters are building a case against former Sammamish Mayor Tom Odell and members of the Sammamish Technical Advisory Board (TAB) for what it says are potential violations of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). The advisory board was chaired by Kathy Huckabay, who is now Sammamish’s deputy mayor.
“We have copies of emails that indicate former Mayor Tom Odell, chair Kathy Huckabay and other members of the TAB violated OPMA,” said SaNni M-K Lemonidis, the attorney for Eastside Fire Fighters.
Jon Wiseman, president of Eastside Fire Fighters, said that back when discussions of EFR started, there was a lot of information that wasn’t disclosed to the public. They had their attorney look into the situation, and Wiseman said he found multiple emails between TAB members that he says violated the OPMA. Wiseman said that while they brought this information up a couple months ago, they decided to take a stance now due to a concern for the public.
“It really comes down to the public has a right to know who these people are and how they’re operating,” said Wiseman said. “It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the entire bunch.”
Eastside Fire Fighters’ Jan. 23 press release came the day after council member Odell and Huckabay both voted “no” to the EFR interlocal agreement at the Sammamish City Council meeting.
Wiseman said that Odell and Huckabay’s comments had nothing to do with their decision.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they voted no,” Wiseman said. “They had their minds made up before the public had the chance to comment.”
Wiseman said that they are doing their due diligence in investigating the matter fully, and have recently made a public records request for all of the emails discussing Sammamish’s fire service.
“The union is considering taking legal action...but it’s a lot more complicated then that,” he said.
Wiseman also said that this isn’t an attack against the City Council, but something that was started before.
“I don’t understand why they (Odell and Huckabay) voted no,” Wiseman said. “I wasn’t really expecting them to vote yes, but they’re the ones that did these things.”
While the consequences of violating the OPMA are unclear due to many gray areas, sources have said the penalty would be a $100 fine and “a slap on the wrist”.
The Washington State Office of the Attorney General website states, "There are several potential consequences for violating the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act. Most importantly, actions taken in meetings that violate the Act are null and void, including the passage of ordinances and resolutions. In addition, a member attending a meeting knowing it is being held improperly can be punished by a civil fine of $100. The party that prevails in an action for violation of the Act may recover reasonable expenses and attorneys' fees under certain circumstances."
Wiseman said outside their issues with certain members, Eastside Fire Fighters really appreciates the Sammamish council and values everything they’ve done. He said that he hopes they will continue to work positively with them in the future.
“I would hope that what comes out of this is that people understand that this was never about the fire fighters and their jobs, like some people are trying to make it out to be,” Wiseman said. “We said from the very beginning, this was about the community.”