Yelm Public Safety Building & City Council Chambers
This Letter to the Editor was published in today’s editions of the Nisqually Valley News:
“Regional daily newspapers published a June investigation citing Yelm’s Municipal Court denying public access to court files, inconsistent with state rules governing openness. Omissions in informing the public of Executive Session details [closed-to-the-public] and following Action Item on Yelm Council’s May 8 Agenda forced an alert council member to vote “no” due to lack of public disclosure. I wrote the council on this, not satisfied with answers from Yelm’s Public Records Officer [Lori Mossman]. The city’s Seattle attorney finally yielded that the May 8th’s “revised agenda notice was not distributed beyond City Administration.”
I contacted Tim Ford in the state attorney generals office on this and he replied,
“Obviously it is in the public interest of transparency and accountability to provide as much detail as possible.”
“It is also in the citys interest to do so in order to avoid being accused of violating the OPMA [Open Public Meetings Act].”
While the city is required to only write Minutes of each meeting, they have also offered an audio or video recording for many years. However in 2012, council recordings have been corrupted an astonishing 5 out of 15 meetings (33%). Yelm’s Council Minutes are so brief that key details from the July 10 Public Hearing where many property owners commented about the 6-year Transportation Plan were lost. For the citizen’s sake, Yelm can certainly afford to have a back-up audio recording of each session in their sparking-new Public Safety Building, yes?
Why bother to even care, right?
Yelm officials pride themselves on the influx of military families and Olympia state workers fueling the growth here. These residents are dedicated public servants who daily strive for full disclosure in all aspects of their jobs. The City of Yelm is no longer the small town of ten years ago, rather is noted for doubling population growth in the last decade. Can we anticipate the culture of Yelm’s officials will also be full disclosure “in the public interest of transparency and accountability,” no longer requiring a newspaper investigation for city officials to do the right thing for their constituents?