County Pays $125K in Document Claim

At the end of the agenda at the county commissioners’ meeting of May 19 was a $125,000 settlement agreement between the county and Jeffery McKee.

If you did your homework before the meeting, however, you wouldn’t have seen the item. It wasn’t there. In fact, as of this past Friday, if you went to the county’s main Web site and clicked on “Commissioner Agendas” and went to the May 19 meeting, you’d still not find it.

The item was only on the agenda the county had available at the meeting.

Other elements of the story would suggest it was an oversight, but one part of the settlement agreement might make you wonder.

Through public document requests made by the Kitsap Sun, with the full cooperation of the county, we were able to find out that the county had asked for a confidentiality agreement from McKee. He could tell his financial adviser about the settlement, but the adviser would be subject to the same rules also, according to the agreement.

Perhaps the biggest irony in this is that it surrounds a botched public records request process. McKee asked for documents related to his jailing for meth possession. When the county answered, but not completely to the satisfaction of McKee, he made further requests. He employed the services of the state attorney general’s ombudsman and still didn’t get what he wanted.

So he sued. The county admits no fault in the settlement, but I would bet McKee has 125,000 reasons to call it a win.

Details of what prompted the suit were in court files in Pierce County. Kitsap Sun reporter Josh Farley read through those and it formed the basis of his story.

Something that isn’t spelled out in the story is that proof of McKee’s claim came because the county admitted it. In theory the county could have tried to hide the fact that a video he had requested had been available when he asked for it. There would likely have been little way for the plaintiffs to make the claim they made otherwise.

The confidentiality agreement strikes me as, shall we say, interesting, but the county is apparently within its rights to make that request. Stranger to me is the omission, then appearance, of the item on the May 19 agenda. On one hand you have a county going out of its way to disclose the truth. On the other hand, there’s a confidentiality agreement. Items get left off the agenda all the time, and one like this doesn’t really violate open meeting laws, from what I can tell.

Nonetheless, had someone relied solely on the online agenda, this might not have seen the light of a newspaper.

One thought on “County Pays $125K in Document Claim

  1. Good sleuthing!

    Did the county make the same sort of omission in order to push the dog park fiasco through the closed eyes of the tax payer?

    How did the dog park travesty get passed? Few voters alive would have voted for it.
    Sharon O’Hara

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