Complaint filed against two Pasco council members

Tri-City HeraldSeptember 17, 2013 

Roger Lenk, a resident of the “doughnut hole” in west Pasco, has filed a complaint against two Pasco City Council members with the state, claiming they improperly used their government email accounts.

In his 252-page submission to state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Auditor Troy Kelley, Lenk claims Councilman Saul Martinez, a former Pasco School District board member, used his city and school district email for personal business and voted on items involving land he had connections to.

He also said Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik sent nonwork-related emails. Lenk filed a lawsuit against the city in February, one of several he has filed because of his public records requests.

The lawsuit said the city refused to disclose or improperly exempted emails Martinez and Francik sent or received from private or work email other than the email accounts assigned to them by the city.

Lenk told the Herald on Tuesday that the city didn’t want the information in the emails to get out.

“It’s interesting that they screamed like banshees that they didn’t want to give up these emails and this proves why,” he said.

Lenk, a former city official in Richland and two California cities, has long fought the city’s efforts to annex the doughnut hole, an area with about 4,000 residents, before a city of Pasco annexation moved 1,400 residents into the city earlier this year.

One of the ballot measures the group Lenk started, Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation, helped put on the Nov. 5 ballot would do away with the city’s current council-manager government, replacing it with a strong mayor system.

Another proposition would eliminate two recent annexations the city made in the doughnut hole area, which is surrounded by the city.

City Manager Gary Crutchfield told council members in an email Tuesday that Lenk has had the information he based the complaint on for six to eight months, but waited until shortly before ballots go out on two propositions Lenk helped organize to file the complaint, even though he knows the Attorney General’s Office will not have time to make a decision any time soon.

Crutchfield called the complaint part of a deliberate effort to smear him and certain council members.

“He manages to link disparate facts in an effort to create a picture of controversy in city hall; he should be a screenwriter in Hollywood!” Crutchfield wrote.

Lenk’s letter to Ferguson and Kelley said Pasco maintains no checks and balances over council members. People who could oversee their actions, like the city manager and police chief, serve as subordinates to the council. That requires the state officials to intervene.

“At a certain point, you need an outside agency to come in and do an investigation,” he told the Herald.

Martinez received emails about video rentals, a mortgage refinance quote and tuition at Whitworth University, the complaint states.

He also used his school district email account to apply for the city council position vacated when former Mayor Joyce Olson moved out of town in 2010. He later was appointed to the position.

Lenk’s complaint also alleges that Martinez, who is running unopposed this year as he did in 2011, voted on numerous agenda items involving the Heritage Industrial Center, a planned 400-acre development in east Pasco.

Lenk said Martinez’s family has ties to the development.

Martinez told the Herald that his company, Desert Plateau Transport Inc., owns land near the King City truck stop off Highway 395 north of Interstate 182, but he never has cast an improper vote.

“I don’t believe that any decisions I have made were to benefit me in any circumstances,” he said. “I would definitely recuse myself if I felt there was anything I was personally involved with.”

Martinez added that his emails never cost the city any money, unlike Lenk’s document requests.

“The truth will prevail and what he is doing is not only costing the taxpayers of Pasco a lot of money, but it’s a poor excuse of a human being trying to get attention from the public,” Martinez said.

Francik, who works as a librarian at Rowena Chess Elementary School in Pasco, used her work and school district email accounts to help herself in pursuing jobs, according to documents Lenk sent the attorney general.

Francik asked Crutchfield from her city email account for help writing a cover letter for a job she was applying for with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in a 2010 series of messages, according the complaint.

Another series of emails in 2011 shows Francik discussing a job opening for the director of the Neill Public Library in Pullman, also using city email, according to the complaint.

“I am still very interested in moving to Pullman should the opportunity arise so please do keep my application on file,” Francik wrote to a library official after being told the search for a new director was being put on hold.

Francik told the Herald that she had to use the city email because she couldn’t access her personal account from school, and she has to work until 5:30 or 6 p.m. She said she considered the job in Pullman because her family is from that area.

Lenk has sent public records requests asking for all of Francik’s home computer files, as well as any journals that she subscribes to, she said.

“He would like to come tromp through the house and look at anything he felt like,” Francik said.

Lenk said he filed public records requests for the emails of the four council members who voted in favor of annexing part of the doughnut hole in June 2012.

He said he has yet to receive the files from Mayor Matt Watkins and that “nothing substantive” came from emails involving Councilman Mike Garrison.

Franklin County Clerk Mike Killian said an Oct. 11 hearing is set on the lawsuit Lenk filed involving Martinez and Francik.

Janelle Guthrie, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Tuesday that the office received Lenk’s complaint and will respond to him.

w Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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