Community

Emmer opts not to turn over e-mails after VMICC vote

Former community council board member Hilary Emmer decided Monday night not to turn over 980 pages of e-mails to Tom Bangasser after a majority of those attending the council meeting — in a surprise straw poll — agreed she shouldn’t have to.

Bangasser, a current member of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council (VMICC) board, asked Emmer two months ago for all of her e-mail correspondence for the last several months of last year, when she served as the sole board member on the publicly elected board. Bangasser, a commercial real estate developer active in Island affairs, cited the state’s Public Records Act in making his request.

But Emmer, in an unusual move, asked those attending the VMICC’s monthly meeting to weigh in on the issue.

Standing before the 40 Islanders gathered at McMurray Middle School, she said she believed Bangasser’s request was a form of harassment that would continue even after she turned over the reams of e-mails from her last few months on the board. She also said she didn’t believe the state’s far-reaching public disclosure laws apply to the community council, even though King County’s prosecuting attorney offered up a legal opinion last year suggesting that they did.

“Our bylaws say that the board is to follow the will of the membership as expressed in general meetings. So what I am proposing here, as an ex-board member, is for a discussion on whether this body wants me to hand over these e-mails to Tom or not give Tom anything,” she said. “I, of course, am hoping you will say enough is enough and these e-mails should stay with me.”

In the debate that followed, several Islanders supported Emmer’s request, one of the first VMICC discussions of a dispute that has dogged the community council since its board resigned en masse last July, in part because of a public disclosure request by Bangasser.

Frank Jackson, a civic activist on Vashon, said Bangasser has already created “a lot of trouble” for the VMICC and called his request of Emmer “socially unconscionable.”

Others said they didn’t believe the public disclosure laws apply to the community council, a non-profit organization established several years ago to provide town-hall-style discussions about civic issues on Vashon.

Chris Beck, one of the board members who resigned last summer, said she had spent nine hours helping Emmer go through her e-mails in response to Bangasser’s request. “This was an onerous task,” she said.

But Bangasser, the only Islander to argue against Emmer’s request, said Emmer has no choice but to comply with the law. “Whether we like it or not, we have contracts with the county that require us to meet many laws,” he told the group.

In the straw poll that followed, 27 said Emmer should not turn over the documents, four said she should and nine abstained. Emmer, following the vote, returned her backpack stuffed with the 980 pages of e-mails to her car. She said she no longer intends to turn them over to Bangasser.

Bangasser, reached late Monday night, took issue with the actions at the VMICC meeting. “The vote doesn’t mean anything. It has no binding authority,” he said.

Emmer won a strong majority at Monday night’s meeting, he added, because “Hilary had her gang there.”

Bangasser said he will continue to seek the documents from Emmer, adding that those who supported Emmer’s request did her a disservice. “They put her out on a limb, and they’re cutting her off,” he said.

Failure to comply with the public disclosure laws can carry penalties of up to $100 a day. Asked what he plans to do next, Bangasser said, “That will probably be inappropriate for me to lay out. But I think Hilary’s on very, very weak ice on this one.”

Meanwhile, in related moves, two other Islanders put forward motions questioning Bangasser’s role on the council board.

Roger Fulton, noting that Bangasser challenged the validity of the election that put him and eight other Islanders onto a newly reconstituted VMICC board in December, said he believed Bangasser’s stance and strongly worded public statements “cast deep aspersions on the long, hard work” performed by the VMICC’s elections committee.

As a result, he said in his motion, all the board members should say whether they believe the election was fair and, if they don’t, how they “can serve in an elected body whose elections process they believe to be invalid.”

CC Stone, another Islander, put forward a motion seeking Bangasser’s removal from the board. Reading her motion aloud, she said Bangasser should be removed from the board because, among other things, he “is unwilling to put the interests of the community ahead of his own personal agenda.”

Bangasser, in response to Stone’s motion, said Monday night, “She’s got her perfect right to make any motion that she wants.”

Both motions are expected to come before the council for a vote at its March 21 meeting.

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