Complaint against 2 Pasco City Council members can't move forward until 2016

<p>Pasco City Hall</p>

Pasco City Hall

A Franklin County judge decides that a complaint filed against two Pasco City Council members for allegedly using their work emails to conduct personal business cannot move forward until 2016.

Franklin County resident Roger Lenk filed the complaint.

He says council members Rebecca Francik and Saul Martinez used their work emails to conduct personal business and used their personal emails to conduct city business.

City employees have already provided thousands of pages of documents to Lenk, and they have until 2016 to provide Lenk with the other emails he has requested in this case.

The judge says the case cannot move forward until that happens.

Below is a news release from the City of Pasco:

In a hearing on Wednesday morning, October 9, before Judge Sal Mendoza of Benton-Franklin Superior Court, the City of Pasco prevailed in its motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Roger Lenk regarding public records requests.

Lenk claimed that the City had failed to provide metadata regarding his earlier request for all documents, emails and records regarding Councilmembers Rebecca Francik and Saul Martinez, though the metadata request was made subsequent to the original request for the Councilmembers’ documents.  That request was followed by similar requests for three other councilmembers as well as for City Manager Gary Crutchfield, and Fire Chief Robert Gear.  As the metadata request came later and was placed on a production schedule for completion in February 2016, it was not ripe for a lawsuit, ruled Mendoza.  The original production schedule had been approved by Judge Bruce Spanner in a similar lawsuit last year.

In a second ruling, the Court ruled that the City had conducted an adequate search for public records though it acknowledged the failure to provide one email.  Patrick Galloway, attorney representing the City, argued that while the City had failed to provide a copy of the one email (a “thank you” from Councilmember Francik, from her Pasco School District computer, to the City Manager’s Executive Secretary, for informing Francik of a cancelled meeting), it had met the standards set by the Supreme Court for conducting a reasonable search.  The Court accepted the City’s argument and dismissed the claim with no penalty to the City.

City officials were pleased with the ruling.  “Lenk’s requests for ‘any and all documents’ with no specific subject or time period are burdensome and wasteful of the taxpayer’s money” said Stan Strebel, Deputy City Manager, who represented City staff at the hearing.  The City estimates that in responding to some 34 different records requests that Mr. Lenk has individually or jointly made since July 2011, it has spent some 900 hours of staff time, produced more than 120,000 pages worth of documents at a staff cost of nearly $50,000. Due to the City’s limited resources for responding to the numerous requests, as well as their volume and complexity, only eight of the requests have been substantially completed. “Costs for continuing to respond to the remainder of the requests will require thousands of more hours and tens of thousands of more tax dollars,” said Strebel.