FELIKS BANEL

AG Bob Ferguson issues ultimatum over ‘illegal’ decision to move Seattle National Archives

Feb 26, 2020, 6:31 AM | Updated: 11:08 am

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has issued an ultimatum to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding “fatal flaw[s]” in a decision last month to shutter the National Archives in Seattle, move the materials to California, and sell the World War II-era warehouse and 10-acre property to the highest bidder.

AG Ferguson weighs legal action over Seattle National Archives closure

In the eight-page letter addressed to OMB Acting Director Russell Vought — as well as to staff and board members of the obscure federal agency known as the Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) — Ferguson writes, in plain language, that, “The decision is illegal and was made without consulting with local, state, or tribal officials.”

Ferguson cites the impact that closure of the facility will have on all users, but in particular, Native Americans.

“The decision of your agencies not to meet with or collaborate with local tribal officials as required by Executive Order 13175 and to wholly ignore the impact that removing tribal records from the region would have on tribes located in the Pacific Northwest is inexcusable and unacceptable,” he said.

The letter says that the OMB’s “decision also should be reconsidered and reversed because it suffers from numerous legal deficiencies,” and goes on to list multiple instances where actions taken by the PBRB – who carried out the work to identify so-called “under-utilized” federal properties – weren’t consistent with the 2016 federal legislation known as “FASTA,” that created the agency and a means for fast-track disposal of federal real estate.

Historians, archivists, genealogists and tribal officials in Washington (as well as Oregon, Idaho and Alaska) have complained since news of the planned closure broke in January that the PBRB implemented a flawed and secretive process, and didn’t consult with any stakeholders about the impact of the closure of the Seattle facility.

Reached late Tuesday, Attorney General Ferguson confirmed that what people in the four states served by the facility have been saying all along is accurate.

“We’ve had the chance to dig into some documentation, and what everybody feared is true,” Ferguson said by phone. “There was no process. [The PBRB] didn’t reach out to anyone in Washington state.”

Ferguson says this is “bad from a policy standpoint,” because officials should “want to hear from tribes … or individuals who are affected by your decisions.”

But the actions of the Public Buildings Reform Board go beyond mere policy, Ferguson says.

“It’s also problematic from a legal perspective,” Ferguson noted. “The law requires certain processes before the federal government acts [and] that’s a good thing. [Federal agencies] should have to get input. They should have to hear from entities and individuals and tribes that might be affected. They didn’t do that, and we think that is a fatal flaw in their decision from a legal perspective, and that’s why we think if we file a lawsuit, we’ll prevail.”

Attorney General Ferguson has given the White House Office of Management and Budget until close-of-business on Wednesday, March 18 to respond to his request.

Solutions emerging to Seattle National Archives debacle

“To be clear, after that three-week time period, we may well be filing a lawsuit if we don’t get a sufficient response,” Ferguson said. “In other words, my team is drafting a complaint as we speak. They are close to having that complaint finalized, and so I just feel it is important to give the federal government, these agencies, an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, you know what, yes, we want to resolve this outside the courtroom.’”

Ferguson says a lawsuit isn’t the only possible solution, and he invited the OMB and PBRB to meet with him in advance of the March 18 deadline.

“We’re open to a resolution short of a lawsuit, but my team is proceeding with the complaint, putting it together literally as we speak, and it’ll be ready to file after three weeks if we don’t get an appropriate response,” Ferguson said.

And what exactly is the “appropriate response” that Attorney General Bob Ferguson is looking for by March 18?

“The end result has to be that these key records stay here in Washington state,” Ferguson said. “I’m not going to accept any outcome that doesn’t involve that as the ultimate outcome.”

KIRO Radio reached out on Tuesday, once again, for updates on the process from officials at the DC offices of the Office of Management and Budget, Public Buildings Reform Board and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). OMB and PBRB have continued to ignore requests for comment; a NARA official promise some kind of response before the end of this week.

More from Feliks Banel

Feliks Banel

Zune...
Feliks Banel

All Over The Map: How – and why – did Microsoft ‘Name That Zune’?

We know now it couldn’t beat the iPod, but where and how did Microsoft get the name for its gone-but-not-forgotten Zune media player?
3 days ago
railroad...
Feliks Banel

Priceless archive keeps the history of Pacific Northwest trains running

A unique partnership devoted to Northwest railroad history means an incredible archive of photos and documents is being preserved and made accessible.
5 days ago
Roosevelt Highway...
Feliks Banel

All Over The Map: Ghosts of the Roosevelt Highway in Washington state

For most of the 1920s and well into the 1930s, part of the long-forgotten Roosevelt Highway traveled through the Evergreen State.
10 days ago
MJ McDermott...
Feliks Banel

Beloved kids’ show host turned meteorologist M.J. McDermott hangs up her barometer

When meteorologist M.J. McDermott retires this week from Channel 13, not many people will remember her early years hosting a kids' show.
12 days ago
Klickitat...
Feliks Banel

All Over The Map: How Kittitas, Klickitat and Lewis counties were named

All Over The Map’s county origins series took the summer off, but returns for this installment, featuring Kittitas, Klickitat, and Lewis counties.
17 days ago
Kraken Spokane Arena...
Feliks Banel

Mixed bag for mask mandate at inaugural Kraken preseason game in Spokane

While the Seattle Kraken prevailed in its inaugural preseason game, the state’s mask mandate for indoor spaces and large events did not fare so well.
21 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
AG Bob Ferguson issues ultimatum over ‘illegal’ decision to move Seattle National Archives