Port of Coupeville questions records access
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
March 15, 2013 · Updated 3:39 PM
Former Port of Coupeville volunteer Rick Abraham defended himself this week against what he called “unfounded attacks.”
“My name, my family’s name is now associated with the words ‘without permission’ and ‘illegal’ and is now part of the Port of Coupeville’s permanent and historical record,” Abraham said during Wednesday’s port commission meeting.
Abraham’s comments stem from remarks made on the record in February by port commissioners Benye Weber and Marshal Bronson.
In early February, Abraham entered the Port of Coupeville’s office, which was locked and closed to the public at the time. He entered the port office through a door connected to a neighboring business.
Abraham admitted he obtained access to records about the Coupeville Wharf contained on the port’s computer.
“I was absolutely that appalled that you downloaded information without anyone being there,” Weber told Abraham Wednesday.
Weber said she wanted to confront Abraham during the February meeting, but he had left early.
“It was unethical,” Weber said. “I still think it was unethical.”
Bronson pointed out that the public isn’t allowed to enter county offices when they’re not open for business.
Port of Coupeville Executive Director Jim Patton said the incident might have been a carryover from Abraham’s work on a volunteer committee that spent months studying the operations of Greenbank Farm and came up with recommendations about how the publicly owned farm should be managed.
The lease with the current organization, the Greenbank Farm Management Group, expires in 2014. Port commissioners are looking at alternatives for managing the farm.
Patton said he gave the committee members generous license to access port records during their work developing recommendations.
Patton said he didn’t notify port commissioners about the access to information he provided members of the volunteer group.
“I will take responsibility for the breakdown in communications,” Patton said.
The volunteer committee completed its report at the end of the year. It was presented during a public meeting held in early January.
Bronson said he spotted Abraham inside the port office, apparently accessing records, in early February.
Abraham admitted that he wasn’t acting as a member of that committee when he was inside the office on that occasion.
In the coming weeks, Patton said he will research a new ordinance that establishes limits on when and how records can be accessed.
Patton said such a resolution is a concern.
“I hate the idea of anything that sounds like limiting public access,” Patton explained.
As for Abraham, he said he wasn’t ruling out the possibility of litigation, but said he wants to wait and see how the commissioners respond to the situation.
“We’ll see,” Abraham said after leaving the meeting.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.