SEATTLE — The mayor of Langley said he waived a $64 charge he sent to a local newspaper for a reporter’s questioning of the city attorney.

In a statement, Mayor Tim Callison said he also apologized during a phone call Tuesday with the editor of the South Whidbey Record.

“It was very productive and I stressed that I strongly believe in the freedom of the press and was not my intention to try to abridge that right. And, that I view the Record as a vital contributor to our efforts to improve the prosperity of Langley,” Langley wrote.

According to the South Whidbey Record, a reporter called the city attorney on February 9, asking for a copy of the attorney’s written recommendation for Langley to not declare sanctuary city status.

The city attorney, who works on a contract and bills the city by the hour, responded in an email, informing the reporter that he didn’t have any written material he was prepared to share publicly, the newspaper reported.

Callison sent the $64 attorney bill to Justin Barnett, the Record editor, a month later, after the newspaper published an editorial criticizing the mayor for his handling of the sanctuary city issue. Callison denied the editorial had anything to do with the bill and said he was required to collect money any time an outside entity bills the city.

Callison said on Tuesday that he and Barnett agreed on how they would handle similar press inquiries in the future.

“I asked that his reporters contact the City first as we generally can provide the needed information and if there is a circumstance that requires waiving of Attorney Client Privilege we are the ones that have to do it,” Callison said.

“I believe that Justin, the reporters and The Record do a good job in reporting fairly and responsibly. I look forward to a continuing professional relationship with them,” he said.

“We’re pleased that the mayor of Langley has changed his position on billing the newspaper to contact a city-paid employee with questions on issues of interest to the public, but there remains the underlying issue of why this occurred,” Keven Graves, executive editor and publish of The Record told his newspaper, Monday.

“I believe the bill was sent to penalize the newspaper for taking an editorial stand the mayor did not agree with,” Graves told his paper.

Read the full statement by Mayor Tim Callison:

I had a phone call from Justin Burnett the Editor of the South Whidbey Record today.
It was very productive and I stressed that I strongly believe in the freedom of the press and was not my intention to try to abridge that right. And, that I view the Record as a vital contributor to our efforts to improve the prosperity of Langley.

I informed him that I had an agreement from the City Attorney to waive the $64 charge for the call from the reporter. And, that we had agreed how we would handle similar press inquiries in the future. I asked that his reporters contact the City first as we generally can provide the needed information and if there is a circumstance that requires waiving of Attorney Client Privilege we are the ones that have to do it.

I apologized to him about the language I used in the email,I should have just said can you call me to discuss the charge from the Attorney. I believe that Justin, the reporters and The Record do a good job in reporting fairly and responsibly. I look forward to a continuing professional relationship with them.

Copyright 2017 KING