The City of Bremerton refused this week to release city council applications for the District 4 vacancy created by Roy Runyon’s resignation.
Despite repeated requests by the Bremerton Patriot and the Central Kitsap Reporter to the mayor, the city council’s legislative assistant and council president, the documents were not turned over in time for publication. The deadline for application was Jan. 25 and as of Tuesday the applications had also not been shared with sitting city council members.
Five District 4 residents have applied to fill Runyon’s seat. They include Anita Lynn Albright, Jerald A. McDonald, Wendy Priest, Dino T. Davis and Michael Goodnow.
City Council Legislative Assistant Lori Smith said Tuesday that she wasn’t comfortable releasing the applications because city councilors had not yet seen them. She insisted on checking with City Attorney Roger Lubovich who had not weighed in on the matter by mid-morning on Wednesday. On Wednesday, Smith said she asked Lubovich to make sure the applications weren’t exempt from public disclosure for personnel reasons.
Tim Ford, an Assistant Attorney General for Government Accountability who is commonly referred to as the state’s Open Government Ombudsman, said that there is an Open Records Act exemption from disclosure when it comes to applications for employment.
“I’ve always viewed this exemption as optional, not mandatory,” Ford said. “The city could choose to waive it if they want to.”
Ford went on to say that cities “usually release because they want public feedback on who they should appoint.”
Mayor Patty Lent said last week, and again over the weekend, that the documents would be made available. In addition, City Council President Greg Wheeler said late Tuesday afternoon that the documents should, and would, be turned over.
The city council is set to interview the candidates, with a list of seven pre-determined questions drawn up by Wheeler and councilwoman Faye Flemister, at 5 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Norm Dicks Government Center.
“The special meeting is open to the public but there will be no opportunities for input,” according to a press release by the city.
The council is set to adjourn to a 20-minute executive session following the interviews and choose Runyon’s replacement.
Runyon announced his resignation Jan. 2 due to a pending move out of the city council district he has represented since 2008.