by Sarah Lane and Julie Hall, September 24, 12:40 p.m.
After being blamed for losing the keys to her former office at the Police Department and after standing up to the City often enough that she will not likely be given the honorary keys to Bainbridge Island any time soon, Kim Hendrickson, the former secretary/chief examiner of the Bainbridge Island Civil Service Commission, now has a key that’s hers to keep: The Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG) presented her with its Key Award on September 19 at an open government forum in Tacoma. The award recognizes people or organizations who perform notable work for the cause of open government. WCOG, founded in 2002, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization.
Hendrickson, who served on the Commission from 2009 to 2011, was fired by a vote of 2 to 1 in a closed meeting. Hendrickson then challenged the legality of the closed meeting. The city’s ethics board investigated and found that the closed meeting violated the transparency requirements of the city ethics code. Hendrickson subsequently pursued a whistleblower complaint against the city. That was dismissed by the State Auditor’s office.
WCOG commended Hendrickson for testifying in Olympia in support of Senate Bill 5355 during the 2012 legislative session. The bill expands the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act to include notification of the public about special meetings. It passed unanimously this year after failing several times before.
WCOG included in its list of Hendrickson’s accomplishments the fact that last year she founded (with John Hays) Islanders for Collaborative Policing, which is a citizens’ group that seeks to influence the relationship between the Bainbridge Island Police Department and the Bainbridge Island community. About ICP Hendrickson told us, “I am extremely proud of the work Islanders for Collaborative Policing is doing, and I’ll continue to focus my efforts there. ‘Open governance’ is not something we usually associate with police departments, but I think we we should: We’ll be well on our way to a great department and better officer-community relations when the BIPD provides the public with clear objectives, shares data, and welcomes outside input and collaboration.”
About the award, Hendrickson said, “The Award is a great honor, mostly because I have so much respect for the Washington Coalition for Open Government and the important work they do.” She added, “It doesn’t mean nearly as much, though, as the positive changes that I’m seeing in our city government, partly as a result of the unpleasant things that led to this recognition: We have a civil service commission run in a thoughtful, professional way, a police department where the officers have signified their interest in building a better department, and a city council that has just hired what seems to be a highly competent city manager with a taste for information sharing and collaboration. There is real cause for optimism about our city government.”
Toby Nixon, the Coalition’s President, said, “We need more citizens like Kim Hendrickson who are willing to speak up and hold government officials accountable for their actions.”
Hendrickson’s 2011 firing happened after she raised concerns about, among other things, the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s hiring practices. Then-City-Manager Brenda Bauer cited numerous reasons for Hendrickson’s firing: the desire to have the position be under the direction of the city’s executive department, which would eliminate the need for paying additional salary to an independent contractor, concerns about the safety of police personnel files—Hendrickson took files to her home and stored them in her garage—and the fact that Hendrickson was running for City Council at the time, even though Hendrickson had earlier reassured the commission that she would resign if elected to the City Council.
The featured photo shows Toby Nixon and Kim Hendrickson at the award presentation. Photos courtesy of Kim Hendrickson and the Washington Coalition for Open Government.