What Does C-Tran Have to Hide?

by lewwaters

C-TranTransparency, a word we often hear thrown about during political campaigns or read in editorials claiming we should see more of it.

Bombastic former editorial page editor for the Lazy C, John Laird, whipping up support for a new County Charter claimed in a July 14, 2013 editorial, “Commissioners run roughshod over their dual dominion of executive and legislative powers, with far too little transparency and a glaring shortage of accountability.”

November 6, 2013 saw Lazy C Madore critic Erik Hidle actually credit County Commissioner Madore for instituting an “open checkbook” online so citizens could see where our tax dollars have gone and admitting, “It’s also not the only thing Madore has done to make Clark County more transparent.”

Even though fraud might not be present, an open and transparent government, in a free society is essential to it remaining as such. Even government agencies practicing transparency will see the public placing more trust in them due to their openness.

And agencies that diligently strive to hide things from public view, unless there is substantial need, lose credibility with the public and leave us feeling something fraudulent just might be going on.

Such efforts at cover-up brought about the resignation of then sitting President Richard Nixon back in August 1974 as the media left no stone unturned in the Watergate scandal.

The Lazy C, in their decades long hatred of 17th Legislative District State Senator Don Benton, give an appearance of attempting to recreate scandal in the County Commissions appointing Sen. Benton to head the county department of the environment earlier this year, praising a citizen for filing a lawsuit against the county for their alleged “stonewalling” on responding to his request.

The lawsuit was quickly withdrawn when that same citizen suddenly discovered they had in fact responded, claiming “The original email message was resident on a hard drive that failed and was later replaced.”

But what we see is that a high value is placed on transparency in government and agencies that rely heavily on our tax dollars.

Or so we are to think.

We have seen from our local governmental officials, the Lazy C, TriMet and C-Tran much stonewalling, diversion and outright opposition to citizens when it comes to transparency pertaining to the Columbia River Crossing light rail project for some time now.

After the very suspicious approval by the C-Tran Board of Directors to enter into contractual negotiations with Portland’s TriMet and subsequent signing of that 40-page contract the very next day, without the actual contract being presented to either the full Board of Directors or Public for actual review, eyebrows went up even higher than they were before.

Where the Lazy C was all supportive of a lawsuit over the county allegedly not responding quickly to a documents request, they have remained mum on 18th Legislative District State Senator Ann Rivers, an opponent to the CRC light rail, request for documents from C-Tran pertaining to that contract approval.

The silence in itself becomes suspicious since we know that the Lazy C is a strong supporter of the CRC light rail rip-off and that the C-Tran Board of Directors has determined some 340 or so documents will not be released to Sen. Rivers, claiming “attorney client privilege.”

Some on the Board have said that Sen. Rivers is receiving some 9,000 or so documents and that is more than plenty to satisfy transparency.

But transparency isn’t determined by the number of documents released, but what information is on documents released or withheld.

Personally, even though I support individuals in relations to an attorney and client remaining private, seeing the C-Tran Board of Director’s enter into Executive Session to discuss and ultimately reaffirm not releasing those 340 or so documents to Sen. Rivers comes across as very suspicious.

Clark County Commissioner David Madore wrote on his facebook page, “Unless there is a lawsuit or private negotiation in process, all government records are public. That includes those communications between staff, representatives and our attorneys. We have nothing to hide.”

Commissioner Madore supported releasing the documents in questions while the C-Tran Gang of Five, those that approved the TriMet contract without reviewing it, opposed releasing those documents and just as before, were the majority.

Madore asked the Boards Attorney, Tom Wolfendale as they went into Executive Session if there had been any kind of a threat of litigation identified to justify withholding those documents, wanting to know why the public records request was to be discussed in executive session, away from the public’s eye.

The response from the attorney was, “I will offer you the same explanation as near as I can that I offered last the time and that is that the request that was made by Senator Rivers was to ask this board and also she asked the governor, the attorney general and two state agencies to waive one of the fundamental privileges in our common law system, namely the attorney client privilege. As you know from our last executive session, without getting into the substance of it, my purpose in going into that was to advise the board what I thought the consequences were of that waiver. This is simply a follow-up on that same discussion after having provided the board the opportunity to see the kinds of documents that we were talking about.”

What possible information could be in those documents between the C-Tran Board of Directors and their Seattle based attorney that Sen. Rivers should be denied seeing? What is it that County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Vancouver mayor Tim Leavitt, Vancouver City Council members Larry Smith and Bart Hansen, Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow and Attorney Tom Wolfendale would prefer to remain hidden away from the public’s eye?

Reviewing a legal discussion with my laymen’s eyes and mind, I am struck with, “At its most basic, the privilege ensures ‘that one who seeks advice or aid from a lawyer should be completely free of any fear that his secrets will be uncovered’.”

Does C-Tran have some fear of a secret we may discover? And if they did, why should a taxpayer funded government agency be granted “secrets” from the public?

The closing thoughts of the discussion linked above are also very revealing as it states, “While the attorney-client privilege is firmly established as a legal doctrine that protects confidential communications between lawyers and their clients, its application is not absolute. The circumstances of the communication, its content and even subsequent actions relating to the privileged communication must be carefully considered to preserve the integrity of the privilege.”

In my laymen’s view, that appears to be a warning of misuse of the privilege. Such misuse, especially by a taxpayer funded governmental agency like C-Tran only increases skepticism and distrust of that agency.

In a December 2009 editorial in the Lazy C by former editor Tom Koenninger, “Transparency in government vital,” it was concluded that “public agencies at all levels [should be] more transparent, and more open in the business of government, which is everybody’s business.” (paraphrased)

Except, I guess, when it comes to the C-Tran Board of Director’s dealings with forcing light rail on the community in spite of numerous votes defeating it?

8 Comments to “What Does C-Tran Have to Hide?”

  1. Expect this to wind up in court. And expect CTran to lose.

    Badly.

    Like

  2. Lew wrote: ” What is it that County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Vancouver mayor Tim Leavitt, Vancouver City Council members Larry Smith and Bart Hansen, Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow and Attorney Tom Wolfendale would prefer to remain hidden away from the public’s eye?”

    One possibility is that C-TRAN wants to bury the fact that the completed (“executed” in the words of Jeff Hamm) agreement was present at the Sept 26 board meeting, but never shown to the board. We know that because, at the next meeting, Wolfendale told Madore that it was present. Video verified this.

    Strangely, Wolfendale later tried to have the minutes changed to remove this statement. (Board packet for the Dec 10 Meeting bottom of page 30)

    Were they trying to hide the fact that there was a completed contract at the meeting that none of the board members knew about before they authorized Jeff to sign it?

    If this was the case, one might expect that there is a long trail. of attorney advice on how to do this without violating a lot of laws.

    Like

  3. I can’t help but wonder if they would show there was collusion amongst some of the board members and deliberately excluding those they knew would be against or questioning it?

    Like

  4. Lew: “I can’t help but wonder if they would show there was collusion amongst some of the board members and deliberately excluding those they knew would be against or questioning it?”

    In my opinion, highly likely!

    Like

  5. As I said Tuesday at the meeting, if you can’t have a discussion about the disclosure then what are you doing which requires you to hide your actions? Perhaps you should not be doing it at all. They are dirty period. My gut is almost always right and it thinks I need to puke at the whole idea.

    Like

  6. I guess this is what happens when we don’t read stuff. The PATRIOT act,Obamacare and now the C-tran contract. None of those read and look what we’re stuck with.

    Like

  7. C-Tran has become an unbridled entity with the only governance of that being the shadow government of IDD in Clark County. Public funds are being used for this non transparent form of governance of transportation which should be held accountable both to the taxpayer and their wishes of not wanting light rail and tolls for a bridge that serves only one area.

    The Clark County Democrats seems to believe that people who want to stay in their homes have a desire not to subscribe to their Tax and Spend habits. A better way to solve problems would be to engage people to come up with solutions that don’t cost a lot of money and still provide a service to those in need. Light rail is not one of them.

    Politicians should know why they are there and who they serve. If they don’t they need to leave. Immediately!

    Like

  8. Welcome to the New Uhmerikkah, peoples. Jacob…you’re spot on with your statement. Kudos to you for pointing out the obvious.

    KJ states “Expect this to wind up in court. And expect C-Tran to lose. Badly.” As far as I’m concerned, it’s the people of Clark county are the ones who lose every single day these behind-closed-door dealings are allowed to continue.

    Like

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