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Ghost-written letters haunt supporters of the proposed charter

Two key leaders of a committee to advocate for a new Kitsap County charter resigned on Thursday, Jan. 17, over a controversy involving a letters to the editor campaign.

Matt Ryan of Brownsville and Jim Martin of South Kitsap stepped down from the pro-charter Citizens for Better Representation committee late Thursday night.

The flap began when when news spread of an e-mail Martin sent to charter supporters and, inadvertently, an editor at the Sun newspaper. The e-mail discussed pro-charter letters to the editor, to which recipients could sign their name and submit to Kitsap newspapers. The letters were written by Ryan.

“I feel so bad because I believe we have a wonderful charter and doing something like this to cast a shadow on it is really bad,” said Martin, former chair of the Citizens for Better Representation, Thursday evening.

Kitsap voters will rule on the proposed charter in a Feb. 5 all-mail election. Among other reforms, the charter would establish a five-member nonpartisan county council, a county executive and implement new rights of initiative and referendum.

Martin said Ryan’s letters contained an introductory section that explained recipients could edit them as they wished — if they even wanted to send a letter.

“To my knowledge, we never ever told a lie about the content of the charter,” Martin said. “But I don’t want anyone to get the idea I don’t take responsibility.”

Martin and Ryan both emphasized that they stepped down because they wanted the focus to be on the charter itself and its contents.

“At this critical juncture, to avoid focus being taken from the content of the charter,” Ryan wrote in a resignation letter sent to area newspapers Thursday night, “which so many have worked so hard to bring before the people, I hereby apologize and tender my resignation from the Committee for Better Representation and will no longer be associated with it in any manner whatsoever.

“Please consider the charter on its merits and not on my actions in support of it.”

Martin said he hopes the controversy doesn’t detract from the issues in the charter campaign.

“I don’t count,” he said. “The charter is what counts.”

Martin issued his own apology letter Thursday.

It read in part, “The end did not justify the means. ... The hard work of literally hundreds of people in the past two years should not be destroyed by my actions.”

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