Gun Club Attorney Received Documents

Regina Taylor, attorney for Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, received topographical maps she requested from Kitsap County’s Geographic Information System the day after she made the request.

Taylor late last week said she believed her comments at a meeting of the county’s board of commissioners on Sept. 27 lit a fire under to county to comply with her request. But Neil Wachter of the prosecutor’s office, who is handing the county’s case against the gun club for alleged code violations and safety concerns, said information never was withheld from Taylor.

In her comments to the board Monday night, Taylor said she was told by a GIS analyst on Sept. 27 that she would have to go through the prosecutor’s office to get the maps. When I called Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge Tuesday morning for clarification, he said it appeared her request fell under “rules of discovery,” related to litigation. Any time one party in litigation requests information from the opposing party in the suit, the court requires a record of information traded, Hauge said.

Later in the week, Hauge stood by his initial analysis. Based on what I told him, the rules of discovery appeared to apply. But since Wachter is handling the case, Hauge had deferred to him to make the call.

Wachter said he told GIS to “respond to her (Taylor) as they would any other citizen of the county requesting a map.”

There was nothing subversive about how the county responded, he said. “To my knowledge, nothing she has requested has been delayed because of that temporary misunderstanding,” Wachter said.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact the GIS office serves all other county departments, as well as local cities … and the general public. Their job is to make maps, and the bulk of their body of work is available free online to anyone and everyone. Not even a public records request is required. GIS is independent of, yet inter-related to the prosecutor’s office and the department of community development, which is involved in the suit through its code enforcement staff.

Taylor had made an inquiry of GIS during the summer. According to Diane Mark, manger of GIS, Taylor, identifying herself as the the gun club’s attorney, called the office again on Sept. 27, saying she needed certain topographical maps in a hurry (in time for the meeting). The GIS analyst she spoke to contacted DCD to make sure they didn’t already have what she wanted (no point in duplicating efforts), said Mark. DCD, in turn, suggested GIS check with the prosecutor’s office to make sure Taylor’s order didn’t fall under the category of a public records request.

Mark said that also would have been her inclination. “In any situation where there’s any type of litigation, I make sure if any department in the county is involved.”

Wachter’s ruling was, no, not only was what Taylor was asking not subject to the rules of discovery, it did not require a formal public records request. But GIS staff was not so sure, Mark said. The reason was, Taylor asked for topographical maps for properties mentioned in the gun club suit. After some creative thinking, the GIS analyst suggested she simply make a map for Taylor showing land within a radius of the gun club that would encompass those addresses. That’s how Taylor made her request, which was accommodated Tuesday afternoon.

“My concern is that this is being misconstrued as withholding information,” said Mark. “In reality, we bent over backwards to meet her request on very, very short notice.”

Just to review the time frame, Taylor made her initial inquiry about topographical maps this summer. On Sept. 27 (last Monday) she called the GIS office urgently seeking the maps for the meeting that night. Sometime between her inquiry and Tuesday afternoon, GIS contacted DCD, then the prosecutor’s office. Wachter gave GIS the green light, and Taylor’s maps were produced by GIS staff.

So, was Hauge, as Taylor and others have suggested, overstepping his authority? Not in so many terms, according to legal experts from outside Kitsap County. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from interviewing attorneys it’s the meaning of the term equivocal. If I were interviewing doctors, the terminology might be “within normal limits.”

Could Taylor’s request fall under the category of rules of discovery? “It doesn’t sound out of line. It just sounds a little bureaucratic,” said Jan Ainsworth, who teaches criminal law at Seattle University School of Law.

In other words, an attorney would be within his or her rights, when informed of a request such as Taylor’s to say, “Time out, let’s make sure this doesn’t fall under the rules of discovery.”

Then there’s the issue of the interrelationship of county departments. “All of those departments are technically the prosecuting attorney’s clients. That’s why it becomes a little different if it’s litigation,” said Bob Siderius of the Washington Bar Association. “I can see why the prosecuting attorney would want to have records of request made for documents.”

That being said, Siderius added, a simple public records request would seem to suffice.

In any case, be it under rules of discovery, or a public records request or a simple request for data, county officials have consistently supported Taylor’s right to the information she requested. Small detail: rules of discovery allow 30 days for a response. A public records request may be responded to within 5 days, at least to inform the requesting party how long it will take to accommodate the request. The actual document(s) could be weeks out.

But remember, folks, the deputy prosecutor who is handling the case said the information Taylor requested was simple public information, available without a request. And the fact is, she received the maps on Tuesday, pretty quick turn-around for a custom job for a member of the public, Mark said.

“We’ve not done anything to obstruct her from getting the information,” said Hauge. “We’re bending over backwards to accommodate her request.”

8 thoughts on “Gun Club Attorney Received Documents

  1. “Temporary misunderstanding”… unlikely. A county GIS analyst should not defer to the Prosecution office… under ANY circumstance, for any public record request. In order for this event to have taken place, the analyst had to have been given direction, so this is not a misunderstanding, rather intentional by design, they simply got caught in their own “game”. This is a Hauge behavior pattern.

    Hauge and Wachter feel (at least till they realized the error in their position) that they can intervene in public records requests. Although some may believe this is to be an over inflated issue, it still raises questions on the boundaries of Hauge and his office, and points to continued and sustained indifference to the public.

    “Bending over backwards to accommodate her request”!!!! You kidding me? Another ploy. So I guess a 2 minute phone call to the GIS department by Neil is what Hauge considers “bending over backwards”… I agree with the “backwards” part of that statement, albeit in a different context. What a power junkie.

  2. Mr. Wachter comes out of the gate with at best a “misstatement” when he claims records where not withheld from Ms. Taylor. According to Mr. Hauge, they were and should be under rules of discovery. These two can’t seem to get their stories straight here. And Mr. Watcher felt he had to give a directive on how to deal with Ms. Taylor? Is she not recognized as a member of the public unless given that blessing by Mr. Watcher? I find his behavior as odd and disturbing as that of Mr. Hauge. This was not a “temporary misunderstanding”, but concerted effort to hamstring the defense. Mr. Hauge was playing fast and loose with the rules and got caught, that is the bottom line. Marks statement that they bent over backwards and with very, very short notice is also a misstatement. He himself states Ms. Taylor made her first request in the Summer and the second on September 27th, that is not short notice and you didn’t bend over until you got caught out. Ms. Taylor’s request became a “custom” job on advise of the GIS tech, this was not a demand made by Ms. Taylor. Mr. Hauge and crew continue to misstate, misinform and misstep. Mr. Hauge seems to have forgotten he works for the people of Kitsap County and he does the people’s work, not his own.

  3. Well folks,
    it’s story rime with Mr. Hauge and Mr. Wachter! Please don’t look at what their left hand is doing, While we dazzle you with our right! Please, they can’t get the story straight about GIS records requests, how do these two run the Prosecutor’s office? Yet another case of strong arming and bullying.

  4. Oh dear Lord, the gun club has Regina Taylor representing them? They might as well close down now and save themselves the time and trouble.

  5. The slight of hand may become greater as the new year approaches. It’s a shame that elected officials have to play so many games with the people they represent. Oy.

  6. Well, it is not as if Mr. Hauge doesn’t have a l;ong and storied history of attempting to withold public records from the public. The County just paid out severla hundred thousand dollars due to his monkeybsuiness.
    Conincidental that the records become available the day after a complaint to the Commissioners? I think not. I think hauge got a quick call saying we cannot afford another couple hundred thousand dollars.
    Wise up Kitsap, vote him out. Governemnt is supposed to be transparent, Mr. hauge obfuscates at every opportunity.

  7. It seems odd that everything else about this case has been delayed. The club found out about the lawsuit when the Kitsap Sun called to ask for comment…it was almost 2 weeks before the club was served with the suit.

    Several different issues concerning litigation with KRRC only came to the attention of the KRRC executive board when a reporter called to ask for comment.

    It is unethical and devious to play with the future of others when you have county funds footing the bill…no one should have to find out about litigation against them because a reporter called them to ask for comment.

    Running unapposed for 16 years has made Mr. Hauge feel that he can do anything he wants with county money and the livelihoods of its citizens.

    It is time to restore integrity to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office.

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