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My Emails to Other Councilors

The City recently received an unusual FOIA/APRA document request from the Newport Daily News. The NDN requested all of my email correspondence to the other elected officials over the last year.  Only mine.

I don’t understand why my emails were singled out, and so I've been somewhat conflicted about how to respond. 

Elected official correspondence is exempt from disclosure under APRA.  It is specifically codified as exemption (m) of the twenty-five (25) exemptions.  This is black letter law.  But . . . procedurally, the only person who can assert the exemption is City Manager Jane Howington.  This would be unfortunate if I needed the exemption  – for a number of reasons: I opposed her recent raise request, and have been openly critical of some poor decisions with respect to the Newport Yacht Club lease and the Clarke School loan extension recommendations.  (By the way, if Jane is the gatekeeper of councilor emails, there won’t be many councilors who will oppose her next raise request!)

In any event, the Daily News granted an extension to the city for their request, so I won’t know her decision until January 10, 2013.  

I didn't have much faith that the City Manager would follow the APRA exemption, so I made my own request for emails between her and another councilor.  And in response, the City Manager confirmed my assessment of the situation.

Jane denied my APRA request for correspondence between herself and another councilor on the basis of the “elected official correspondence” exemption, but reserved the right to waive that very same exemption in the context of the Daily News request for correspondence between myself and other elected officials.  In other words, she was actually using the APRA “elected official correspondence” exemption for other councilors, just not for me.

This is typical of her passive-aggressive style. 

And it’s forced me to reflect, and to consider an appropriate response.

Over the last week, I've asked why the Daily News asked for only my emails.  In response, I’ve learned that the Daily News was told that my emails might contain threats of violence which might support the placement of police officers at council meetings.

I was absolutely shocked.  There certainly are no such emails from me. I have never made any threats by email or in any other fashion.  I wouldn’t make such threats; and it is remarkable to me that anyone could believe such whispered nonsense.

But it has changed how I am viewing the Daily News’ request.  They have a duty to follow up on these very serious allegations, and I respect that.  And so I am withdrawing my personal opposition.

I will not ask the City Manager to assert the “elected official correspondence" exemption.  If she feels that the request is appropriate and merits an APRA response, I will be glad to turn over all of my emails from both my “cityofnewport.com” and “gmail.com” accounts.  This is significant because the responsive emails are almost all in my gmail account – an account to which the City Manager has no access.

And if the City Manager asserts the exemption on her own, I will renew the open offers I’ve made to the Daily News to sit down and review all of my communications with my colleagues.  I think this is the only way to handle this situation. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Donna Sullivan January 03, 2014 at 08:28 PM
.can you say smoking gun??? Looks like the ndn is onto you.
Mike Farley January 03, 2014 at 09:00 PM
What do you mean, Donna?.
Mattie Burns January 03, 2014 at 11:52 PM
Possibly Donna is suggesting that "transparency" is a two-edged sword.
Mike Farley January 04, 2014 at 08:56 AM
Donna and Mattie: Thanks for the comments, but why are you being cryptic? Just say what you mean.
amusedinri January 04, 2014 at 09:52 AM
We all know that what we hear around our little city is accurate. Right? Did they say who they "heard" it from? Keep up the good work Mike. Give us as much information as you can on The Good , The Bad, and The Ugly of our city government. We only get better if we learn from our mistakes. If we just hide everything we don't learn anything.
Vero January 04, 2014 at 11:16 AM
Margaret MeadMargaret Mead > Quotes “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead And sometimes it only takes one - hang in there.
George Costanza January 04, 2014 at 11:22 AM
------"Over the last week, I've asked why the Daily News asked for only my emails. In response, I’ve learned that the Daily News was told that my emails might contain threats of violence which might support the placement of police officers at council meetings"--------- The subject is your emails to other councilors, so the only person who could have told this to the Daily News about this would be a fellow councilor. Why wouldn't the councilor just give a copy of the purported threatening email to the Daily News directly?
Bill the 1st January 04, 2014 at 02:25 PM
I haven't been a Newporter for a while now, but I'm certainly enjoying the soap opera drama. That said, I'd be inclined to post all my e-mails to and from every councilor and the City manager just to stick it to them all.
Eddie January 04, 2014 at 02:34 PM
Keep up the good work Mike. You have many supporters.
John Trosic January 04, 2014 at 05:10 PM
Mike, we are lucky to have you here!
Tom January 04, 2014 at 07:03 PM
Mike don't feel your the only one the council treated councilman Al Angel the same way in the 80's when he would bring up certain issues. For a while there they said he was insane.
Kevin Castner January 05, 2014 at 08:16 AM
Mike, I've read your last couple posts and do enjoying reading your thoughts. Sounds like you're up against some fierce competition. Usually this means you're doing something right. Keep up the good work. I'd love to one day be part of a council with members such as yourself.
Jack January 05, 2014 at 12:00 PM
The problem I have with all this is that even if you as a person are a total idiot you were elected to a position by the people of Newport and that alone deserves some respect, it deserves the same respect as all the other members of the City Council receive from the City Manager and when that does not happen then I believe the other members are mandated to speak out. How many other members are ignored for months when they ask for any information on any subject? What I read in all this is Ms Howington has 4 votes firmly in her pocket so she treats you and maybe some others as she wishes. Her hiring of a Police detail for council meetings should be deducted from her pay as she should have known the Chief was to be there for a report if she was uncomfortable. This was nothing more than a show at my expense and she should be made to pay for it. She can disrespect you as a person all she wants but the position you hold deserves and demands her respect and if she can't give it then she should resign. No where in her contract is she required to like anyone but the members of the elected Council must be respected they represent us, the taxpayers.

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