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Thursday, February 20, 2014

So, what's in those public records, anyway? Here's one: Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson and the "levy leadership team"

From Laurie Rogers:

In my ongoing effort to be careful, accurate and thorough as I report on Spokane Public Schools, I have found it necessary several times since 2007 to ask for public records from the school district.
For this sincere effort on my part to be careful, thorough and accurate, I have repeatedly been implied to be, or accused of being, a hater, a whacko, a nut job, an antagonist, a loud critic, a conspiracy theorist, a gadfly, abusive, a person who "needles" public officials, and perhaps "less than fully hinged." In a Spokane paper, my efforts recently were placed under the heading "Friends and Enemies."
It isn't as if I enjoy reading records from Spokane Public Schools. They do not tend to improve my day or my mood. There is typically very little in records from the leadership that I can praise. They often contain grammatical errors, and their focus on money is near absolute. The needs of the children, particularly academic needs, are reflected almost nowhere. Reading the records through the years, it seems that many in leadership have viewed teachers, parents, children and voters as pawns in a chess game of "Get More For the Leadership" and "Do Whatever It Takes to Avoid Seeing and/or Telling the Stark Truth."
Many people have asked me to share the records. Below is an email string between Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson and what he calls the "levy leadership team." I'm providing this string without comment. No accusation or assumption about the records, or about those within the records, is being made or implied. The records speak for themselves.
I just think you might like to see them. And, you have a right to.
Following is a reproduction of the text of an email string I received from Spokane Public Schools; formatting issues prevent it from being an exact duplicate. 
Other records regarding the district's election activity can be found on this page. The PDC cited these in its Report of Investigation.

Some of the other records included in my submissions to the PDC can be found on this page. These and others were not cited; nevertheless, they're interesting to read.
Mark Anderson: Associate Superintendent of Spokane Public Schools
Nancy Stowell: (in 2011, Superintendent of Spokane Public Schools)
Linda McDermott: Chief Financial Officer, Spokane Public Schools
Deana Brower: (in 2011, a candidate for school board and a member of Citizens for Spokane Schools, which campaigns for district bonds and levies. Brower won in 2011 and is now a board director).
Mike Livingston, Staci Clary, and Scott Jones: (have been involved with Citizens for Spokane Schools)

(As with all email strings, the first message appears at the bottom, and the last message appears at the top.)
Date: Friday, August 19, 2011 8:38 PM 
Subject: Fwd: Draft Levy Information Presentation

See feedback below from some of our levy leadership team. 
From: "Scott Jones"
To: "Mike Livingston",, "Deana Brower", Sent: Friday, August 19, 2011 1:58:37 PM 
Subject: RE: Draft Levy information Presentation 


I agree with Mike. The materials are very good. I also agree that more details may need to be shared on the things SPS has done to tighten its belt over the past couple of years to balance the budget. It will be good info to have it the campaign decision is to be proactive with this information. 

See you all next Tuesday at 7:30. Kristin Davis is available and l asked her to join us so you can meet her. 

Have a great weekend. 

From: Mike Livingston [] 
Sent: Friday, August 19, 2011 12:01 PM 
To: '‘; Scott Jones; Deana Brower; 
Subject: RE: Draft Levy Information Presentation 

Thanks for forwarding the presentation. It is a very good overview of the levy process. As I reviewed the information I kept wondering how much has been cut from the budget over the past 2-3 years and where did the cuts occur? The purpose of asking these questions is to make sure Sally Fullmer or Duane Alton can’t say SPS is moving money “from one pocket to the other" thus not experiencing any real cuts in budget, staff, or overhead. 

Mike Livingston 
Kiemle & Hagood 
601 W. Main, Suite 400 
Spokane, WA 99201 
(509) 755-7559
From: [] 
Sent: Thursday, August 18, 2011 4:57 PM 
To: Scott Jones; Mike Livingston; Deana Brower; 
Subject: Draft Levy Information Presentation 

Hi Mike, Staci, Deana and Scott: 

FYl....attached is a PDF of a "draft" levy information presentation that l am putting together for Dr. Stowell and SEA President Jenny Rose to use in meeting with all employees this fall at individual school staff and department meetings for the purpose of helping staff understand what the levy provides and the need for our community renewing the levy next February. 

| thought you might want to sneek peak. 



Following is information regarding open government laws in Washington State, and a brief timeline of my efforts regarding records from Spokane Public Schools. I'm providing it to assist with understanding and appreciation of laws on open government, not to imply that records provided on this blog are examples of any violation of any law or procedure.
  • Records from Washington State government agencies are accessible to the people via the Public Records Act, a law that was passed in 1974 by the people and for the people. Many government agencies in Washington State have made concerted efforts over several years to undermine the Public Records Act.
  • A January 2011 records request of mine produced records regarding Spokane Public School's levies. A July 2011 request produced records on then-school board candidate Deana Brower.
  • In September 2011, some of the records led to a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission. The PDC was asked to investigate whether school district administrators violated RCW 42.17.130, which concerned Disclosure, Campaign Finances, and Lobbying, and which forbid the use of a public office or public agency facilities in elective campaigns.
  • The PDC's investigation of Spokane Public Schools is Case #12-145.
  • In February 2012, I filed a lawsuit to obtain records the district did not provide in response to the January 2011 request on the levies. From February 2012 through September 2013, in response to the lawsuit, the district provided eight more installments containing thousands of records.
  • RCW 42.30 is the Washington State Open Meetings Act, which ensures that government agencies operate in an open and transparent manner.
Some of the text of RCW 42.56:

"The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created. This chapter shall be liberally construed and its exemptions narrowly construed to promote this public policy and to assure that the public interest will be fully protected. In the event of conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any other act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern. . . .
 "Each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying all public records, unless the record falls within the specific exemptions of *subsection (6) of this section, this chapter, or other statute which exempts or prohibits disclosure of specific information or records. To the extent required to prevent an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy interests protected by this chapter, an agency shall delete identifying details in a manner consistent with this chapter when it makes available or publishes any public record; however, in each case, the justification for the deletion shall be explained fully in writing."

Some of the text of RCW 42.17.130:

"No elective official nor any employee of his office nor any person appointed to or employed by any public office or agency may use or authorize the use of any of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot proposition. Facilities of public office or agency include, but are not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines, and equipment, use of employees of the office or agency during working hours, vehicles, office space, publications of the office or agency, and clientele lists of persons served by the office or agency . . .."

Some of the text of RCW 42.30:

"The legislature finds and declares that all public commissions, boards, councils, committees, subcommittees, departments, divisions, offices, and all other public agencies of this state and subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of this chapter that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. . . . All meetings of the governing body of a public agency shall be open and public and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the governing body of a public agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. . . . No governing body of a public agency shall adopt any ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation, order, or directive, except in a meeting open to the public and then only at a meeting, the date of which is fixed by law or rule, or at a meeting of which notice has been given according to the provisions of this chapter. Any action taken at meetings failing to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be null and void."