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Angel disputes meeting account
South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel has disputed published accounts of a May 31 meeting between her fellow county commissioners that has received criticism because it was not advertised properly.
"The law requires a 24-hour notification," Angel said. "And it requires that all board members and the public be notified. This did not happen for this meeting."
The notification for the meeting was sent at 4:01 p.m. on May 30 -- 19 hours before the meeting -- under the heading "several adds to schedule" and was characterized as "11 a.m. Chris (Endresen) and Josh (Brown) in our office."
The notice was sent to the media, but neither local news outlet sent a representative.
The meeting proceeded as scheduled, with North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen and Central Commissioner Josh Brown alone together in Endresen's office. The door was closed and no minutes were taken.
On June 1, Kitsap Association of Realtors Government Affairs Director Mike Eliason sent a message questioning whether the meeting was a violation of the Public Meetings Act. This led to Endresen posting a notice to 614DivisionStreet.com, a local political Web site.
"Jan was right next door and she or anyone could have joined us," Endresen wrote. "The purpose was to give Josh the history on a number of north-end projects that are underway. We asked that the meeting be noticed, unfortunately the notice was late by a few hours and we didn't know that. I take the Open Public Meetings Act very seriously." Angel, who was absent from the office last week due to an eye operation, provided a different account.
She said she received no notification about the meeting. She confirmed that she was in the adjoining office and only started paying attention when she heard her name spoken.
She went outside of the office to see Brown and Endresen in the office behind closed doors.
"I thought of just walking in," she said, "but I wasn't sure if it was a legal meeting. If this was the case, I didn't want to be part of it. Also, when someone is meeting behind closed doors, you aren't inclined to just walk in on them."
Instead, Angel called Prosecuting Attorney Jacqueline Aufderheide for advice, leaving a voice mail requesting a copy of the public meeting law. Aufderheide did not respond immediately.
"If I had talked to her, I would have asked her to define if the meeting was illegal," Angel said. "But I didn't hear from her until the next day."
According to Brown, he met with Endresen for the purpose of receiving "brain dump" about North Kitsap issues.
Brown said the meeting had been "on the books" since May 2, and that the late announcement resulted from missed communication between the commissioners and the staff.
Endresen also said the meeting was in the works for some time, but was not scheduled until last week.
"Jan knew that we wanted to do this," she said.
Angel disagreed, saying, "I am surprised that there are no minutes to the meeting, especially considering how Chris has said she wants every meeting to be taped."
In a reaction to the possible open meeting violation, Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners (KAPO) Executive Director Vivian Henderson has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the minutes of the meeting. After the filing Henderson said, "I know the minutes don't exist. I just want to see how they respond to this in writing."
Endresen attributed the controversy to a staff oversight, saying that if there was any doubt about the meeting's legality, they would not have met.
"It was not a special meeting," Endresen said. "There were no decisions. If we were trying to hide something, we wouldn't have done it in an office with glass windows."