Peninsular Thinking A conversation about Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, Silverdale, Bainbridge Island, Kingston, Manchester, Seabeck, Southworth, Suquamish, Belfair, Keyport, Olalla, Bangor, Hansville, Indianola, Port Gamble, Allyn, Port Ludlow, Gig Harbor and every once in a while something about the good folks who don't have the good fortune to live here.
The Port Orchard City Council formalized its appointment of
Scott Diener on Tuesday with a unanimous vote. Diener, who fills
the vacant district 3 seat, was immediately sworn in. He took his
seat and served with the council for the remainder of the
Councilman John Clauson said of the selection process, “We had six
very good candidates; that’s the good news. The bad news is it made
the selection very, very difficult.”
Diener said the city was “entering a new chapter” of its
“I’m very honored to work here,” said Diener, a senior planner
with Kitsap County. “I have no preconceived notions about what’s
best. We as a group will write that new chapter. I look forward to
working with you all.”
The council interviewed candidates on Thursday and held two
(closed) executive sessions before
reaching a consensus Monday. All candidates were notified of
the decision before Tuesday’s meeting.
On Wednesday, I interviewed Fred Chang, administrator of the
Port Orchard Facebook group, about a face-to-face meet-and-greet of
group members on Saturday at the Port Orchard Public Market.
The same day, a flap within the group unrelated to the
meet-and-greet or the interview was stirring.
Bruce Beckman set off a lengthy thread by posting a comment in
the main group about a spin-off that Fred started in December
called Port Orchard Religious Rants and Raves group. Fred mentioned
the group during our interview, saying the idea was to give group
members a place to discuss religion. Early in the religious group’s
existence, Fred turned active administration over to another member
and didn’t pay much attention to the discussion thereafter, he
said. What Fred hadn’t noticed was the snarky tone — my description
— of the more recent posts, that some members objected to.
Bruce, in the main group post, wrote, “It’s unacceptable for
someone in public office to have a bigoted Facebook group with the
town’s name on it. Most people will agree that mocking someone for
their religious beliefs is just as bigoted as mocking someone for
skin color or sexual orientation.”
Bruce accused the group of censoring people of religious faith
and called on Fred to, “explain his position publicly on this issue
since he is a member of the Port Orchard City Council.”
Chang, in a separate post that showed a screen shot of Bruce’s
comments, said he disagreed with Bruce’s characterization of the
religious discussion group. Fred added that had he seen posts that
appeared to be mocking, he would have removed them.
Chang on Friday told me he had a private message conversation
with Kathryn Simpson, who was also unhappy with Fred about his
involvement with the group. On Thursday, Chang took the group down.
A separate group with the same name, administered by someone else,
appeared shortly afterward.
I’m pursuing the issue here not to settle whether the group was
mocking of people of faith but to address public records issues
that Bruce alluded to in his post. Should a city resident who is
also a city councilman maintain an active private profile on
Facebook? Does the use of the term “Port Orchard” in the title of a
group administered by someone who is a city councilman constitute a
First, let’s note that other Port Orchard City Council members
have Facebook pages. Like Chang’s account, the content is mostly
about sunsets, pets and the like, nothing racy, very little city
related. Cindy Lucarelli has made a couple of upbeat posts about
city cleanup day and the like.
According to Pat Mason, legal consultant for the Municipal
Resources Service Center, there is nothing that precludes elected
officials having personal social media accounts or private devices,
but as we learned from Hillary Clinton, issues arise when you
conduct public business on a private account. Mason says there’s
nothing that prohibits this, “Our concern would be, if they do, are
those records being retained?” Because, as in the case on
Bainbridge Island, people can make public records requests for
those documents, and if the city or county or water district drags
its feet in any way (as defined under public records laws) it runs
the risk of a lawsuit. Bainbridge ended up
settling a public records suit for $500,000 in late 2014.
In short, according to Mason, elected officials can conduct
public business on private accounts, but they had better be able to
quickly produce those records.
Chang occasionally will give information about the city on
Facebook, such as the date of a city council meeting. When he does,
he takes a screenshot and sends it to his city email to create a
record. Chang, as far as I can tell, stayed out of a recent heated
discussion about city zoning regulations and one business owner’s
display of a large American flag. He said he purposely avoids
posting in discussions where it might be construed that he was
making a position statement on behalf of the city.
So back to the Port Orchard Religious Rants and Raves group, was
it a good idea for Chang to start the group then turn
administration over to someone else? Maybe not. But was it city
business? No, said City Clerk Brandy Rinearson. At least not
because of the name. “We can’t regulate what people call their
Facebook groups,” Rinearson said. “I would say it’s not a public
record unless the content is about city business posted by and
elected official or (city) employee.”
And there’s another side to the coin. “He’s an elected official,
but he has a right to his free speech,” Rinearson said. “Where
there’s a grey line is if he makes a statement that has to do with
Mason concurs. “They don’t give up their free speech rights,” he
But the issue is far from cut and dried. The sheer volume of
material to be sifted through and the possibility of deleted posts
could raise questions about whether a search for public records has
The rules are being hashed out in the courts, as on Bainbridge
“To me this is an evolving area,” said Mason. “This is not a
settled area of the law in my mind.”
Some jurisdictions limit the use of private accounts for public
business. Port Orchard this year implemented software that allows
elected officials access to their city email on private devices.
And the city has a policy saying social media sites of city
departments are to be one-way only for giving out information not
for engaging in public debate. But there is nothing in the city
policy that speaks to elected officials’ private use of social
As it stands now there is some degree of conflict between
privacy rights of public officials and public records requests,
Should elected officials
have personal social media accounts?
It's OK, as long as they archive any discussion that could be
seen construed as public business. (47%, 61 Votes)
It's OK, as long as they never discuss public business on
personal accounts. (42%, 55 Votes)
No. Public officials with personal accounts present too much of
a risk to the jurisdiction. (11%, 14 Votes)
Townsend applied for the job and was added to the finalists list
by Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, according to a news release from
Townsend has been Port Orchard’s police chief since 1999. The
announcement of his application to Poulsbo comes less than a month
the chief publicly commented on recent tension between Port
Orchard’s Mayor Tim Matthes and the city council.
“There seems to be an adversarial relationship between the city
council and the mayor and department heads,” Townsend said. “All of
this is impacting staff’s ability to do their job. I wouldn’t be
surprised to see more staff departures in the future unless there
is progress to fix the problem.”
Matthes on Tuesday issued a press release on the news Townsend
is looking for a new position.
“Chief Alan Townsend is well respected in our community. I have
had a great working relationship these past twelve months with
him,” Matthes said. “I am very impressed with his professionalism
and dedication to our police department. I am not surprised that he
is on the short list of qualified candidates for Poulsbo Police
Chief. There is no doubt he will be hard for Port Orchard to
replace. The City of Port Orchard is interested to see what
decisions will be made by the City of Poulsbo and Chief
The city meanwhile is conducting a wide-ranging search to
replace Weaver. Associate Planner Tom Bonsell is serving as
acting development director in the interim.
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary …
No, this is not about a raven, but a parakeet who decided to
explore the other side of my condo.”
So begins a letter the Kitsap Sun recently received from bird
lover Ellen Bankus of Port Orchard. Bankus, who owns a number of
birds, went on to describe the mishap of one “no name” parakeet who
got out of his cage in the bedroom, made a beeline for the laundry
room and somehow got stuck on the floor behind the water heater.
The space behind the appliance was so confined, that even the tiny
bird could not find a way out.
Bankus called the Port Orchard Police Department. Kind officers
came out to her apartment and spent considerable time “exhausting
every know way to get him out to no avail,” Bankus wrote. “I
finally accepted the verdict that my parakeet was going to ‘rest in
peace’ behind the tank.”
If this were one of those old time serial movies, this is where
we’d fade to black, leaving Tweety tied to the railroad tracks.
But look, up in the sky. It’s a bird; it’s a plane. No, it’s
Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Olin to the rescue.
Bankus called Olin, remembering his militant advocacy for the
city’s Quaker parrots in 2005. This was before my time on the South
Kitsap beat, but apparently Olin’s involvement in city government
sprang from his interest in a group of parrots that had escaped
during transport to a local pet store in 2002 and taken up
residence in a cell phone tower near South Kitsap High School.
(The photo here is courtesy of
BrooklynParrots.com, a blog where Steve Baldwin chronicles the
life of urban parrots in New York City.)
The council in 2005 OK’d the extension of the tower, but on the
advice of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, required
that the tower owner remove the large nest of sticks and trap the
birds. The DFW said the birds could cause problems for native
wildlife and there were concerns about fire in the tower.
Olin began researching Quaker parrots and found the gregarious
birds have a penchant for inhabiting
man-man structures. “I know more about parrots than anyone
should know,” Olin said, in a recent phone interview. “They come
from the highlands of Argentina, which is a moderate climate, so
there’s no surprise they can survive here.”
Survive and thrive. Olin estimates at one time there were up to
30 parrots cavorting and entertaining residents in a wide vicinity
of the tower. He took it on himself to circulate a petition to save
the parrots and allow them to remain free, eventually gathering
“I am not a bird person. I am not a parrot person. I’m just
going, ‘It’s not right to do that,'” Olin said.
The DFW pressed its case, however, and
attempts to trap and remove the birds went forward in July 2005
… not without resistance from Olin. When sticks from the nest were
removed from the tower, they just happened to show up in the back
of Olin’s pickup truck, which he planned to park in the area in
hopes of providing the birds a new accommodation. None of the birds
were captured on the first day.
What wasn’t reported at the time, and what Olin divulged to me
is that on the evening of the first capture attempt, he went to the
local hardware store and got pounds of millet, which he distributed
on rooftops far and wide in the dark of night.
“The next day the trapper came back, there wasn’t a bird in
sight. They were all over town,” Olin said, with an audible smirk.
Don’t think a smirk can be audible? Trust me, Olin was pleased as
punch with himself.
Later, when Clearwire applied to put antennae up on another
tower, the council
ditched a proposed condition that any nesting birds be removed.
Olin was inspired by his civic success to run for city council in
2007. He served 2008 through 2011.
Now back to the parakeet in peril at Bankus’ apartment. Olin
sprang into action, making a net out of a mesh orange sack that he
fished into the wedge of space behind the water heater. But he was
unable to snare the frightened bird. Then Olin got the bright idea
to drain the water tank, which he accomplished with a water hose
directed off Bankus’ upstairs apartment. The tank empty, Olin was
able to move it an inch or so to the side, and “No Name” walked out
from behind it as if to say, “What the heck took you so long?”
Bankus now has christened the little, feathery fugitive after
his rescuer, “Fred Olin.”
Grable, a World War II Army veteran, was named Port Orchard Man
of the Year 2002. He was a lifetime member of the Masonic Lodge in
Port Orchard, lifetime member of the Port Orchard V.F.W. Post 2669
and a volunteer fire fighter for 26 ½ years in Port Orchard. His
interests included welding, volunteer work, walking their dogs, and
working on Fathoms o’ Fun floats.