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Navigating the Blog Landscape in Clyde Hill 

Over the past two years, more blogs have emerged covering news in Clyde Hill. Our blog, Clyde Hill Coalition, is run by private citizens. Others are operated by elected officials, including Clyde Hill City Councilmembers Dean Hachamovitch and Steve Sinwell.

Hachamovitch has drawn attention because of the blurred lines between his personal blog and official city communications. Councilmember Hachamovitch’s blog, despite disclaimers emphasizing its personal nature, has caused confusion among residents who mistakenly associate it with the official city stance. Named “Clyde Hill News,” vs the official City newsletter “Clyde Hill Views,” his blog often goes beyond personal expression and has reported misleading or false information. He even veers into the realm of targeted attacks on residents, volunteers of the planning commission, City staff, and fellow elected officials to advance political and personal agendas — including his declined gate permit.

Given the blurred lines between his role on the city council and his personal life, Hachamovitch’s blog now finds itself subject to the Public Records Act. This means Hachamovitch must meet lawful transparency standards and would potentially face penalties for willful destruction or alteration of records. The blog, hosted on an external server, remains under scrutiny considering these legal requirements. Even individuals who have subscribed to his newsletter may find their personal email addresses subject to public disclosure laws due to his blog discussing regular “city business.” The council rules and guidelines that Hachamovitch drafted and voted for state: “Councilmembers may not use personal email or social media accounts or personal text messaging for city business or to create public records.”

Hachamovitch has seemingly violated these guidelines he created and voted for by using social media to share his blog.  Residents are questioning Mayor Steve Friedman’s leadership not reining in such behavior that could put the city and taxpayers in legal jeopardy. 

Contrasting with Hachamovitch’s blog, Sinwell’s blog takes a different approach. It appears to center on offering helpful insights to residents on issues without targeting individuals. Sinwell has covered topics like taxes and the comprehensive plan, a guiding document for our city’s future. He has also made a point of avoiding social media engagement since being elected, in adherence to the council’s rules and guidelines.

Councilmembers are now reevaluating rules and guidelines. A suggested change could include a prohibition against external blogs by elected officials that discuss city business to ensure a uniform platform for city-related communications and not to confuse residents. A proposed solution could be for the city to create dedicated webpages for each councilmember on the official City of Clyde Hill website for them to submit discussion points under their names. This would ensure adherence to the Public Records Act and minimize the risk of legal consequences for the City and costs to taxpayers.

In any case, the blog controversy prompts questions related to the roles of elected city officials and how to balance public officials’ personal agendas, First Amendment rights, and responsibilities to the community. Certainly, achieving the delicate balance between free expression and legal obligations remains a pressing concern for both councilmembers and concerned residents.

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