The following is a letter from Scott Lange to Clallam County Public Records Administrator
Good morning again Trish.
After reviewing the materials you sent in the last installment of public records, I want to request additional records alluded to in the May 02, 2016 audio file of the Board of Clallam County Commissioner’s meeting.
At the end of the audio the voices on the recording were discussing code compliance. You may want to replay the last 20 minutes or so of the recording so you are clear on where I am going with this. To paraphrase, the commissioners were discussing code compliance as the #1 issue of importance to their constituents. At some point one of the participants states that the County was extremely close to enabling code compliance officers to issue citations. Following those comments, the participants clearly state that the ability to issue citations for code non-compliance was effectively nixed by Mark Nichols in PAO. The clear impression from listening to the recording is that the County would be actively engaged and empowered to effect code compliance were it not for instructions from the PAO NOT to do so.
I request all public records from any time period which will clarify the basis for Mr. Nichol’s and the PAO’s decision to preclude active code compliance by Clallam County. It is clear from the recording that Mr. Nichol’s input was the sole reason the County continues to forego active code compliance despite a clear recognition that code compliance is a pre-eminent concern of Clallam County citizens.
To help clarify, please note that the recording reflects a reality that code non-enforcement is a policy adopted by Clallam County. That means any records that exist are not deliberative in nature and instead relate to a policy in force and having already been adopted by Clallam County. I note this to preclude any of the standard games you and the PAO will attempt to play to evade disclosure. There is no privilege here. Hopefully, you can recognize that a citizen requesting to understand why code enforcement for active violators is not occurring when all other citizens are expected to comply with those standards is not an unreasonable request.
I recognize it would be more convenient, administratively, for the County to simply state in writing why Mr. Nichols has decided to forego code compliance despite numerous legislated ordinances creating and enabling County authority to enforce code violations. I understand the tired excuse that the County does not have the resources to perform such code enforcement. It has the resources to expand the PAO staff to take on what were previously municipal functions for Sequim and Port Angeles but does not have the resources to police its own legislative enactments in the areas the County has primary jurisdiction. The County has legislated code provisions declaring all code violations to constitute a public nuisance but then follows that legislation by allowing Mr. Nichol’s to impose policy that effectively permits public nuisances, a clear violation of State law. Explanations would be preferable to searching through another 22,000 records as you lamented in your last PRA response. However, I am quite sure you will remind me that the County need not create new records in response to a public record’s act request, so you are left with the administrative burden you will undoubtedly expect me to feel sorry about.
The County always has the option to disclose the reasons behind adopted policies. The public is entitled to understand these policies as they affect them directly and they are of specific demonstrated interest. Why most citizens are subject to the rules and others are not seems in fundamental conflict with American principles and values. We want to fully understand why Clallam County’s Prosecuting Attorney does not feel code enforcement by Clallam County is warranted.
I recently entered into a real estate contract to purchase a parcel in Clallam Bay. As part of my due diligence, I visited with members of the building and planning staff to understand the code requirements associated with my plans for the property. My concerns related directly to code requirements. I was advised by these capable individuals all of the code requirements I would be required to comply with. I play by the rules, and based on the official input received I elected to back out of the deal specifically because of what I felt were expensive code compliance costs. I note that someone less honorable can now purchase the property, make changes without proper consideration of the applicable codes, knowing full well that effective code enforcement will not occur. By “effective”, I mean that as any code non-compliance occurs, and in the unlikely event a notice of violation should be issued, that the Prosecuting Attorney will not prosecute the matter. This policy lets the crooks make money on properties honest people can’t afford to have.
My apologies for the length of this message. You seem to have difficulty understanding my requests at times and I wanted to provide as much background and clarity as possible for you to understand what records I am requesting. The policy I’ve described has been laid directly at the feet of Mark Nichols. I want to see all records that explain why this policy has been adopted by Clallam County.
If you have questions please ask them promptly and I will do my best to respond.