What Really Happened with my Records Request and the Envelope I Received at City Hall

Published on 10 March 2024 at 15:16

Bruce Bailey has posted a fictitious story on his mayoral Facebook page regarding records I requested. Here is what actually happened.


On February 29, 2024, I requested the following from Bruce Bailey:


Any and all letters and emails you have sent to any board members, commissioners and executive directors of any board, commission, authority or committee regarding matters involving a board, commission, authority or committee from February 20-February 29, 2024. 


I had received an anonymous tip that Bailey was attempting to remove members of boards and to disband the Urban Redevelopment Authority. I requested documents that would support or refute the tip I received. Open Records law states records are to be provided within three business days. If they can’t be provided, within three days an estimated date they will be provided must be made to the requestor. To be fully compliant, the records would have been provided to me by end of business day on March 5th.  I had heard there was a hearing to be on Friday March 8, but could not publish anything until I had evidence of this. I did not receive the records before March 8 so could not make the hearing public. As I walked into city hall for the hearing on Friday, city administrator, Jerry deBin told me the records were ready and I could pick them up. He told me the clerk, Debbie Bazemore had them.


I went to Bazemore’s desk and she handed me a very thin, manilla envelope. I was a bit surprised as I had been told the time it would take 2.75 hours at the clerk’s rate of $28.14/hour so would cost me $77. I had thought it would only be a few letters and emails but, maybe Bailey had sent out many emails and letters to board members, I had no idea. I asked if I could pay with credit card as I didn’t have cash. I was told I could so Bazemore went with me to the service counter telling the customer service employee I needed to pay with credit card. While we were waiting, I asked Bazemore if it really took her almost three hours to compile what was in such a thin envelope. She simply said, “that was the estimate.” I told her I understood it was the estimate but asked if she kept track of the actual time it took her to pull together the documents. Bazemore said “sometimes it can, depending on what’s requested.” I didn’t say anymore at that time. I had not looked inside the envelope yet. deBin came over and Bazemore told him the customer service employee was having trouble finding the proper code to put the transaction under. Jerry then told me to just take the envelope and come back later to pay. I said I would check back after the hearing.


Bazemore and deBin walked away. I looked in the envelope and pulled out approximately 6 pages of what looked like copies of emails. There were no letters in the folder. I went to talk to Bazemore because at this point, I knew for sure there was a hearing and letters had been sent. I told Bazemore the letters were not in the envelope. She then told me she did not compile the documents, Bailey did. She said she didn’t know about the letters and that was up to Bailey. It was interesting because Bazemore, Bailey, deBin and city attorney Adam Nelson's names are on the letter. I thanked her and told her I would just email the mayor and let him know the letters hadn’t been provided. I took the envelope with me to the hearing. I didn’t review the documents at all while in the hearing. I did pull them out and show them to a few people and asked “do you think this would take almost three hours to pull together?” When the hearing was over, I took the envelope back to Bazemore in her office and said to just keep the envelope until the request was complete and again said I would contact Bailey again about the letters. I thanked her again for her time.


There are a few concerns to address. First, Bruce Bailey is spreading lies on his mayoral Facebook page which means in his official capacity as mayor or Washington, he is stating I didn’t have money to pay for the records and that I took the records home without paying for them. This is completely false. Bazemore knows it’s false and the security cameras in city hall will show it is false. In his post, Bailey goes on to publicly chastise the executive director of the housing authority, Zena Zahran for not complying with his open records requests. The attorney representing the housing authority made clear in the hearing that the housing authority is an autonomous entity, which may be a factor in the records not being provided. I will reach out to Zahran on this.  Bailey did not comply with Booker, Jones or my records requests and is required to by law. 


Another concern is that Bruce Bailey requested utility records going “as far back as possible” for every single candidate running in the election in November 2023 and code violations for Ken Parris and was given a time estimate of 5 hours and a total cost of $97.24. See copies of his request and estimates provided to him by Jerry deBin below this article. I am quite sure these documents would have taken much longer to obtain and were far more voluminous than what I requested. 


You can see a copy of Bailey’s request in September 2023 as well as the email from deBin providing the cost estimate and my estimated costs below.


Michelle Chaffee

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