Working for a school district doesn't require a lot of split-second decisions where countless lives hang in the balance. Sure, you might have to make a decision that could impact the educational goals of every school in the district, like paying $3,000,000.00 more for a piece of property than what it is actually worth, but generally no one dies or loses limbs. It isn't life and death stuff but it is important. One such important decision was whether to tell a homeowner that he can actually keep his driveway.
Several years ago, a homeowner next to Brier Terrace Middle School was granted perpetual rights to use a portion of the school's driveway to gain access to his home. It was signed by the superintendent at the time and did not have a termination date. The document was slipped into the District's property management files and hadn't been touched again - until recently.
When I found the letter, I immediately took it to my supervisor and asked what should be done with it. Afterall, the District was on the offensive and demanding that the homeowner blow a new driveway through his neighbor's rose garden, where the original access easement was identified but never developed. Upon seeing the document, my supervisor (who still works for the District) told me to "Bury it".
That doesn't seem fair. The homeowner bought his home with the understanding that access was granted through what looked like a public street. The only hiccup was that no one bothered to record the document and make the access official. Would a diligent public employee bury the document and continue to force the homeowner to install a new driveway through the neighbor's rose garden, or reveal the fact that the document exists and allow a superintendent's letter to grant the access promised so many years ago? For me, the choice is obvious and an easy one to make since I no longer work for the District. I choose to respect the wishes of a previous superintendent.
Dear Ms. Miller,
On behalf of my client, I hereby request an official copy of a one page document, prepared and signed by the superintendent at the time, granting perpetual use of Brier Terrace Middle's driveway for the purposes of a single family residential dwelling. The single page letter will be found in the second drawer of the property vault file facing the entrance to Brian Harding's cubicle. It will be among the Brier Terrace Middle files and may still be in a file with "Kuhn/BTM" or "Kuhn Easement" written on the tab.
If you need help finding the document, please let me know. I would be happy to assist.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
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Public records are not the weapons of public servants and cannot be used at their own will. They have no will of their own and exist to serve their master - the public.
This document was found in late April of 2007. My supervisor at that time still works for the Edmonds School District.
I was on vacation when your message arrived. Sorry for the delay.
The attached letter dated 12/14/04, the last record in the BTM Kuhn Easement file, indicates the District did not agree to an easement for the property purchased by your client. I’ve reviewed my notes from subsequent meetings with Bret Carlstad, and this position is consistent with conversations he and I had early in 2005 regarding the status of this issue.
The note on the lower right-hand corner of the letter is in your hand-writing, and indicates Mr. Singh and his realtor agreed to the concept of a revocable license to access the property, which was not to exceed 12 months from the 12/14/04 letter. I do not have a copy of any agreement executed to approve a revocable license as described in the letter.
I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have additional questions.
You are correct in stating that Mr. Singh agreed, in concept, to a revocable license lasting no longer than 12 months. However, this issue is in no way connected to the permission granted previously and in fact demonstrates the District's interest in denying the existence of the requested document.
I was requesting a document that my client knows exists. The fact that the District continues to withhold the document demonstrates the reason why my client entered into a temporary arrangement until such document could be found and provided. It has been found. Please provide it.
To clarify, the document was signed prior to Brian Benzel serving as superintendent. If you need help finding it, I would be more than happy to assist.
I received a packet of information that essentially contained photocopies of my request for a document that I saw with my own eyes while working for the District. Clearly, the District got rid of the letter granting continued use of BTM's driveway.
What happens if a photocopy appears? Will I be charged with theft? Would my charge of theft outweigh their willful destruction of public documents?
I will consult with legal.
I am still waiting for the District to provide a copy of the document that I know exists. I saw it with my own eyes and brought it to the attention of others, who promptly told me to "bury it".
Once other matters have been resolved, I will follow this one up with my full attention.
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