Thursday, November 20, 2008

Violation of Open Public Meetings Act?

From Clark County: A controversy is stirring regarding the City's proposal to purchase a Building owned by "The Columbian."

According to the documents below - the City has conducted all of the discussions about purchasing the building behind closed doors.

From: Bob Koski
To: Ted H. Gathe
Cc: Tyler, Lloyd ; Tim Leavitt ; Royce Pollard ; Pollard, Royce ; Pat McDonnell ; Pat Jollata ; Larry Smith ; Jeanne Stewart ; Jeanne Harris ; Campbell, Pat
Sent: Monday, November 17, 2008 7:23 AM
Subject: Citizen Service Center (CSC) Replacement Project Briefing Memorandum

Dear Mr. Gathe;

On Thursday October 9, 2008, City Manager Pat McDonnell sent out a Memorandum entitled "Replacement of the Citizen's Service Center". That memorandum was prepared in response to the earlier announcement of the pending bankruptcy filing of the Columbian, and word that the building would be put up for sale.

In that Memorandum the City Manager said, in part, that the process could take "several months" and that any action would have to be authorized specifically by City Council.On Friday November 13, the City of Vancouver's Development Director Eric Holmes issued a different Memorandum (attached) to the City Manager, in which he made a number of stunning and very troubling statements.

1. "The city’s team recently gave updates on both acquisition and construction options at the Facilities Executive Sponsor Team (FEST). Many of the questions posed at that meeting, in other Council forums and by the media regarding the acquisition alternative cannot yet be answered because we have not completed any due diligence on the building."

2. "Meanwhile, the city team has engaged an “expert review panel” of business leaders with extensive finance, real estate and construction experience and skills to serve as a sounding board on this issue. They include: • Pat Schaefer, Riverview Bank• Paul Christensen, Realvest• Ron Frederickson, RSV Construction• David Horowitz, CPA• Scott Fraser, Industrial Broker, GVA Kidder Matthews• Wally Hornberger, Commercial Broker, Coldwell Banker"

3. "The city’s team met with these leaders in October to review the potential of acquisition of an existing building as an alternative to constructing our own CSC replacement facility. Each believed it was a prudent business move for the city to seriously explore acquisition as an alternative to construction. Moreover, these business leaders strenuously advised that the city retain an expert broker to represent us in any due diligence and negotiations to ensure a neutral, arms-length, third-party, expert process."

4. "As a result of this feedback, the city completed a procurement process in early November to hire a commercial broker. Of the four submitting firms, Eric Fuller & Associates ranked as the most qualified after review of written submittals and interviews. The business panel members, who provided input in the review and selection process, agreed. Our agreement with Eric Fuller & Associates provides for their fees, if any, to be paid by the seller, so result in no direct costs to the City. If no purchase is ever perfected, the City pays nothing to Eric Fuller & Associates."

Mr. Gathe, it is deeply troubling to me that the City's Development Director Eric Holmes was able to proceed as far as he has, just one month after the City Manager said it would take much longer than that just to gather all of the facts, and guaranteed that City Council would make any decisions about this purchase.

I have heard not one word from anyone on Council discussing this in Public, nor have any of them indicated to me that an Executive Session was convened already to consider this issue in private.

I am requesting that your office investigate this memorandum, and find out exactly how Eric Holmes was able to convene a panel of experts, receive their judgment that a purchase of the Columbian building was the best option for the City to pursue, all while the City Council has been focused on the 2009-2010 Budget, and all in a little over 1 month's time.

I believe this particular transaction is fraught with hazards, and I want to be certain that responsible, elected, and accountable people are properly supervising the City Manager's Office as well as the City's Development Department.

Was anyone on City Council consulted about the process Mr Homes describes in his memo, and if so who was it?

Did anyone on City Council approve these actions by Mr. Holmes? If so, who?

Was a proper Executive Session conducted to authorize Mr. Homes to proceed in this manner? If so, when was it conducted and who was in attendance?

In addition Mr. Gathe, it strikes me that if tT Columbian Publishing Company is indeed filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, then the Bankruptcy Court will have to determine what assets the company owns, what the value of those assets are, and how they shall be disposed of.

Am I wrong in presuming that the Bankruptcy Court will have a big say in the potential sale of anything owned by the Columbian?

Am I wrong to be concerned that the City's Development Director is apparently unaware of what role a bankruptcy court will play in all of this?

Finally, Mr. Holmes indicates in his memorandum that any fees associated with the Eric Fuller and Associates will be paid by "the seller". Considering that the seller, The Columbian, is filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, it strikes me that "the seller" will gladly pay for a lot of Eric Fuller and Associates' time, if that time leads to a prompt sale if the building to the City of Vancouver. At the very least we have the appearance of impropriety here since "the seller" has a vested interest in this transaction.

This does not look like transparent Government to me. There has been a great deal of activity on this subject that has taken place behind closed doors, out of Public view, and by employees of the City of Vancouver who do not have statutory authority to approve these kinds of actions on behalf of the City's voters.

If City Council is truly supposed to be involved in this process and approve everything that takes place on a decision of this magnitude, then I look to your office for the assurance that is in fact happening in accordance with Public Disclosure Commission rules and in accordance with the City Charter and the Revised Code of Washington.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to clearing this matter up promptly.

Robert J. Koski

Citizen Service Center (CSC) Replacement Project Briefing Memo (Click Me to read the original)

Chapter 42.30 RCW
Open public meetings act
Complete Chapter

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