bbible 05/ 6/98


Take Back Your Government

by Shirley Basarab 

3118 S. W. 172nd

Seattle, WA 98166

Tired of being duped with governmental smoke and mirrors? Wonder how bureaucrats perpetuate their agendas/jobs/programs? Want to learn how to stop it? Read on to learn how the agencies avoid change. This is a step-by-step description of what will happen when you work for true reform.

The government's real goal is to use your tax dollars for more power and money. The only way "they" succeed is to keep factual information away from public scrutiny through sidetracking and stalling "you." ("They" is defined as any bureaucrat, public employee, government official or government contractor. "You" is defined as any questioning citizen, group, or an untarnished or newly elected official.) First a few notes.

Press releases praise staff accomplishments. Award winners are nominated through a reciprocal agreement by administrators' "friends." Memberships and lunches with multiple high-profile groups such as Rotary, Chambers, etc., are paid for by your taxes.

Public meetings often start with a parade kids or staff to receive awards for some recognition, or a report from a contractor, or consultant, or staff member. Most agenda items (especially pay-raises) are passed on a "consent agenda," which means they do not discuss them in public. Touchy items are left to the bitter end, after most have gone home.

Governmental legal/accounting requirements are rigid (albeit unenforced), so they must control the public's knowledge on how they spend public money. This is done by wearing down reformers' committing more (unpaid) time: to exhaust and frustrate you, OR to buy you off. Reform must start at the local level - water, sewer, libraries, fire districts, park boards, ports and school districts - before there is hope for state and national reform.

I am available to share with others how to circumvent these tactics, and to teach government budgeting procedures, how to access public information, and open-meeting regulations. Call or write for further information.

Bureaucratic methods include the following Steps, usually in the order described and advancing to the next Step only after a previous Step has failed.

Step #1 DENY KNOWLEDGE: When questioned on a subject about which they have not been warned (especially in public meetings), the usual response is: "This is news to me. I'll check it out," or "I don't think that's right, but I'll look into it." No response is ever given.

When this fails, they -

Step #2 IGNORE/DIVERT YOU: Your requests are ignored (stonewalled), sabotaging your ability to get information. Attempts are made to divert you from your quest to a safer area. This Step may include vague written responses. Most citizens quit at this impasse.

From this point forward, they constantly try to reroute you to previous Steps (as far back as possible) or use previous methods in conjunction with the one on which they are working. When this fails, they start -

Step #3 INTIMIDATION: If you continue to ask questions, they begin a process of intimidation. It starts with incomprehensible, long-winded jargon ("The finite revenue resource implementation must coincide with conclusively substantiated...") and/or authoritative quotes ("Experts/ Research/ According-to..." or "Procedures/RCWs/laws require that we cannot/ must..."), and/or arrogance.

This is especially done with financial matters. Since their accounting is so simple, their "budgetese" must scare off all but the most tenacious. It works on not only the public, but other administrators, employees, unions and board members as well.

(Another pamphlet explains how to decipher school districts' budgets.)

They may also send you a father-figure "shame on you" or "how could you" letter expressing their displeasure with what you have done and include an attempt to make you feel guilty for the time they must spend complying with your requests or your questioning of their expertise. When they can no longer ignore you, they -

Step #4 ADVISE YOU: When forced to, they write/talk to you, pretending interest in your concern(s). They act shocked (deny belief), and claim you are the only one who has ever brought it up.

Whenever possible they tell you it is not within their jurisdiction/authority to solve-that-problem/give-that-information. They recommend whom/what/where you should next ask (another department), and remind you to ALWAYS go through "legal/proper channels."

If you are a naive newcomer with power, they advise you that they are not the problem, they are truly on your side...your friend. Their superior (often the council or board or legislature) is the problem. They advise you how to influence those groups, but immediately begin step #5 (Rumors) behind your back and advance to Step #8 (Convert you).

You are invariably told the problem would be solved if they just had more money. An impassioned plea solicits your aid to help them get more revenue, which will surely "solve the problem."

When this fails, they advance to -

Step #5 RUMORS: Beginning in private, but advancing to public settings as necessary, a campaign to discredit you to their employees/board/ superiors/legislators/media begins.

It starts with subtle put-downs ("He/She doesn't understand the dynamics that influence our decisions..." or "I suspect her/his real agenda is..."). This advances as needed to demeaning your knowledge/group/goal/information-source ("If he/she knows so much why isn't he/she..." or "If we listen to her/him we'd...(dire results.)")

Before long rumors grow in earnest, eventually leading to outright slander. They claim you (in this order):

* don't know the facts;

* use under-the-table, unethical tactics (which they actually use);

* jeopardize all the good work they have accomplished;

* take up an inordinate (costly) amount of staff time for unreasonable requests;

* leak distorted "half-truth" information to the community/press;

* have a subversive agenda.

* won't work to improve the system, but merely complain and destroy their good work.

They claim you (in this order):

* cannot be trusted (are not credible) since you misrepresented something or outright lied to them personally;

* caused some elusive problem, such as supporting (secretly) an opposing party/view;

* always complain about the negative but never provide (volunteer for) positive solutions;

* are unwilling to work within the system to make it better.

* are angry/against/out-to-destroy/paranoid/not-all-there.

* secretly lead (or are a member of) a nationally supported, subversive, extremist minority group of the far right/left.

The objective is to blame and discredit you. Name-calling begins here (big-mouth/horny/ pushy), but at first is only to insiders and reporters. In desperate situations, totally false rumors begin.

You probably will be unaware of this Step until you are labeled in the press, which cements the insiders' claims. In time, without your knowing it has happened, these rumors influence other insiders, who no longer hear what you say and now believe you are the enemy they must join together to subdue. By this time, they may decide they should -

Step #6 MEET WITH YOU: This may be at their request, especially if you have caused trouble through a higher-authority/media/public-meeting or are a new power figure. The meeting follows this process:

- You make an appointment through their secretary (preferably by yourself and at least a week away).

- You wait under his/her gaze after you arrive.

- You are greeted with smiles and warm, formal introductions.

- At least one large man in a power-suit and tie is present.

- They encroach into your "space" whenever possible.

- They escort you into their office (or conference room), sit at the head-of-the-table/behind- the-desk, lean forward, and ask what your concerns are.

- They ask what (how much) you know, show concern about what you say, ask how you feel, how the problem should be handled.

- They "reflect" what you say ("I understand you're saying...") and your actions.

- They take copious notes (which are later thrown out).

- They look at their watch, especially if the meeting was at your request.

- They cross their arms (male), wave their manicured hands (female), and rock back in their chair with deep sighs.

- They (patiently) explain requested information is for internal use only, and would be misinterpreted/misunderstood unless extensive personal explanations were included with its use. This would be time consuming (costly).

- They maintain they would love to, but cannot help/give-the-information because of its sensitive-nature/confidentiality/legal-ramifications/need-to-check-with-higher-authority/lack-of-availability/cost-of-time-to-put-it-together.

- You are assured they will look into it (Step #1) OR you need to take it to another department (Step #4); OR they offer misrepresentation of facts, but only verbally - seldom written.

- Challenges (later) to their verbal responses yield a claim that what-you-heard was not what-they-said (you are lying): that you misunderstood, and now you accuse them of lying. When this fails, they provide an -

Step #7 INFORMATION FLOOD: When information can not be denied, worthless documents (not what you requested) are offered, OR a flood of meaningless letters/reports/studies/facts/ conclusions are given.

Occasionally, requested information is hidden somewhere inside. They may charge up to $.10 per page to "reimburse them for their costs," although copies at Kinko's are $.03.

This Step is always used for committees, but without the fee. When this fails, they -

Step #8 ISOLATE/CONVERT YOU: The goal of this Step is to disburse your support/group, to get you to join their ranks (at as low a level as possible), and to find your area of interest (hot- buttons), which they can satisfy and make you go away or join them. This is by far their most powerful tool.

At this Step, they test your reaction before advancing. This process stops only when you show resistance, they neutralize you, or you join them.

* They ask about your concern (discover your hot-buttons).

* They socialize with you and "get to know the real you," by "discovering" you are smart/unique/talented/understanding;

* They ask who else is concerned (find a mole).

* They hint you really are a good-old-boy with gestures (only) of inclusion/protection/ insider-information.

* They offer you a position of perceived power (often as a volunteer) because of your "unique" abilities/talent. You receive a personal invitation from a big-wig to join/chair some public board/gathering/fund raiser.

* They form/join a group to fight/solve whatever pushes your hot buttons.

* They make you think you've won a great victory and applaud your work. They convince you that you have made "the" difference, and with your help they can continue making necessary changes.

* They rationalize for you that you can accomplish more from the inside.

* They offer financial incentives (strictly legal ones, such as ample coverage of your costs).

* They hint at possible jobs/unfilled-needs/contracts available that need YOUR services/ expertise/background.

* They bribe you by asking you to fill a need "because of YOUR special talents/services/ expertise/background."

* They convince you (because of the wonderful results you will obtain) that there is no conflict-of-interest in what you will do nor what they will do for you; that they need you, and that it's all for the community good (...the end justifies the means...).

* They make subtle put-downs of your (now former) group's views (Step #5).

* They solicit your support against other dissidents.

This Step #8 can begin as early as Step #4. If you agree or become quite friendly, you will probably end up one of them. If not, they deny your "understanding." Meanwhile, they flaunt their power and attempt to convert other members of your group.

Positive strokes are given to anyone who changes to their camp. Exclusion is the consequence if you fail to respond.

Whenever this fails, they -

Step #9 STUDY IT/MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS: Seemingly to satisfy YOUR specific complaints, they make speeches (in public) about your issue. They alter the topic to discuss "the real problem" (not-enough-money/another-bureaucracy), rather than acknowledge their lack of accountability, or their failure to enforce the law or use viable solutions.

Their speeches discuss, at length, additional (unrelated) problems they anticipate and what they already have to put-up with. They emphasize how "dedicated/necessary/hard-working their staff/programs" are and conclude that they need time to research the problem/solution, since they are so understaffed.

They say they will gather constituent/community input and their recommendations/ solutions are only six months to three years away.

"The process" is vital, time consuming and in-house.

When finalized/drafted, their report actually accomplishes/says nothing. It is mired in unreadable jargon (Step #3) and when deciphered, ignores the real problem (Step #1). Parts of the report sound good and, if implemented, might have some effect on a portion of the problem, but this never happens. However, where they do recommend "internal restructuring" which leaves them or their-cohorts in a better position for retirement/salary increases/advancement/ outside-contracts/their-agenda

After another delay, they may draft rules/recommendations/laws that are even possibly passed, but that's where it ends. Valid recommendations are never implemented and essentially nothing changes.

If the news media notices this, attempts are made to show an effort. Reporters usually print whatever the governing body gives them ( since it is easiest just to copy the press releases and the phone numbers for quotes are convenient, plus the media can't risk their state B & O tax exemption), so even the media attention seldom does any good.

This Step's stalling gives them time to regroup. It also makes you forget facts and loose interest (since they are working on the situation). By this time, they may be forced to -

Step #10 HIRE AN AUTHORITY: They hire an "expert" for an opinion. He/she is a current/former government employee/official, and a member of a club or organization with the hiring party. This contract is not put out for bid because it is for "services," not "goods." The "authority" draws his/her conclusion from selected (inner-group) interviews, hearing just one side, thus averting any possible adverse information/conclusions.

He/she determines that whatever the administrators had advocated is the best solution, especially since he/she will not be recommended or hired again if the advice is not what is wanted by the "employer."

Your views are thus proven wrong/uninformed/misguided and their's is right. This "authority," favoring their opinion, is quoted whenever the question arises again.

If the public has had no opportunity to read a study, it is used quoted as having "recommended" their agenda, especially for administrative-restructuring/raises/program expansion, even though the report never mentions those ideas.

If by chance a recommendation is adverse, it is "interpreted" to mean what they want anyway. When this fails, they -

Step #11 FORM A COMMITTEE: When caught, a large committee/group/ commission/board (the bigger the committee, the fewer the results) with a short, inflexible time-line is formed to study the problem and determine recommendations, which are controlled by staff.

The committee process is covered in detail on a following page.

When this fails, they discover-

Step #12 THEIR ENLIGHTENMENT: They suddenly awaken and announce that YOUR concerns are THEIR mission and goal. They hear your "tough love" message and will "do everything humanly possible" to solve the problem, most often in public statements. This is always executed by hiring an authority (Step #9) or forming a committee (Step 11).

This again stalls you and gives them time, their greatest allay.

Enlightenment can be their starting point if you have "won" earlier (see conclusion) OR if someone has retired (been forced out) or accepted another job in a different govern-mental agency (moved-on). By starting here, the next step is to force you back to at least Step #6, Meet With You.

When a knowledgeable, manipulative new administrator/legislator/board-member (who knows the situation) takes over, they also may already be enlightened. The only difference is that the new person does not announce his enlightenment to the public, but does so quietly, in a meeting with you (Step #5).

At this encounter, you are welcomed with open arms and your input is sought, confidentially. Since things will not change, the new person "mediates" between you and the other staff (or board members/legislators/etc.) who are "still unenlightened." He/she shares with you ("in confidence") reasons (excuses) for the lack of change, describing "the entrenched bureaucracy" that must "come around." He/she explains why things are the way they are and that "everything possible" is being done, "considering the mind-set/contracts/union/ revenue-limitations."

As soon as others have a "paradigm-shift/retire/renegotiate," things will change. Under his/her direction, change will "unquestionably" take place. He/she begs your patience with the "process" and shows admiration for your "knowledge" and appreciation of your "understanding" and "point of view."

When this fails (because you still demand results), the next method used (to stall hoping the community forgets) is -

Step #13 CLEAN HOUSE: If they find "confidential" information has been exposed (leaked), they transfer/intimidate/fire/demote any employee who is possibly the leak/a-friend-of-yours/ disloyal/difficult/a whistle blower. This is done through "necessary budget cuts" for "fiscal conservation," eliminating an administrative secretary or clerk who is out of favor.

This is called "restructuring," "downsizing" or "consolidating" the administration, which coincidentally also leaves them in a better/more-powerful/higher-paid position. Someone always replaces those removed with a favored "loyal/hard working" employee who has a "new" or "expanded" title/job-description with an accompanying pay-increase. This is also done on employees they just want to get rid of.

When this fails, they -

Step #14 HIRE AN ATTORNEY: Your tax dollars pay for staff attorneys (who are at their disposal), but when sued or reported to an oversight agency (the auditor/PDC/AG/judge), they hire expert attorneys (with your taxes) to defend themselves from you (which they claim is needed to defend their department/agency).

Because these oversight agencies are also part of the power structure/system, finding them guilty is almost impossible. In-depth research usually reveals that they have some personal or business relationship with most governing bodies.

However, if they are irrefutably guilty, the oversight agency invariably concludes punishment shall be:

1st - compromise (the prescribed punishment);

2nd - review (how the law can be better implemented in the future);

3rd - educate (the offending party on the law);

4th - research (the problem so it doesn't happen again).

When this fails, they offer a -

Step #15 SACRIFICIAL LAMB: When a scandal becomes too intense, cleaning house does not work. One insider is sacrificed (retired) because that person is obviously the stumbling block to honesty/integrity. Again, this is a secretary, clerk or lower whenever possible.

Occasionally, a big-wig leaves with a fat pension or takes a job elsewhere (moves on), but is never heavily fined or goes to jail.

Step #16 RECYCLE: Redundant though it may be, this Step of pushing you back to earlier Steps is constant.

Step #17 The End. YOU WIN!!!

Some ONE fails-an-election/looses-a-legal-ruling/retires/is-reprimanded or a law is passed. Through perseverance, you have won an election/ruling/program or enforcement of the laws.

You can now either continue to fight for further justices, quit, or join them "because new appointees need you to accomplish further successes," (which may be true or may be Step #8).

If by chance you end up as an insider through an election AND stay true to your convictions (honest), you will be continually tested (Step #8). You will never be trusted/ accepted as a "one of them" (unless you prove your loyalty to them) and reduced to the lowliest committees/decisions.

To survive, you must continue to garner objective support and input from truly honest citizens, not power-hungry ones. (Spouses are great for this.) You will need this support because insiders will ignore you (Step #2) and belittle you (Step #5).

Your only salvation is to continue exposing what you see.


When things are exposed to the public, a large, time-consuming committee/group/ commission/board is formed (or expanded, if one already exists) to study the problem and determine their chosen recommendations. The conclusions of this group are controlled by the following process. They:

* Indoctrinate you into an existing committee (if you are a newly elected official, you start at Step #5), OR choose a non-threatening member from your ranks, OR invite you as a minority, (often as chairman) guaranteeing you'll take ownership of the problem and endorse the group's conclusions.

* Require all "members" to present a solid front and disagree within the group, but once a decision is made (by an insider group), anyone who does not agree with it must remain silent outside the group, OR

* Require a minority report by anyone who does not agree with them. No time is allotted for this opinion, and no one will read it since it is just a minority's opinion anyway.

* Have at least one powerful insider (but usually a majority) as a member because "they understand the problems/current-workings/legal-ramifications" of the processes/procedures currently used.

* Include several insider "resource" people who voice their "expertise" before every critical vote.

* Control the agenda/minutes/rules/membership/information-source.

* Draft new goals/outcomes/mission statements, since the old ones obviously are obsolete.

The committee is brought back to as low a level as possible (preferably Step #2 but never higher than Step #5). In the committee you are "taught" it is important to:

a. Establish rules requiring consensus, whenever possible.

b. Have methods to replace members who quit with (their) preselected alternates.

c. Become a "team player" so the group is "successful" and show a "solid front to the public."

d. Adhere to confidentiality (secrecy) - especially with the media - until the group comes up with "conclusions."

e. Not breach the rights of public employees with questions about their accountability/wages/ abilities/contracts/tests/results/decisions.

f. Acknowledge "bad news sells papers." Therefore, any negative information published is inaccurate/misleading/incomplete and must be discounted/ignored/fought.

g. Stay within the "scope of your directive" and not question anything unless it is specifically mentioned in your charter, unless it is a trivial matter that takes a lot of time.

h. Be fiscally conservative. They insist you not spend public money to obtain information nor make any recommendation that could cost money because of "revenue short-falls" except to "pay enough to administrators to attract/keep good employees."

i. Use previous "reports" to answer questions. This relieves you of the need to delve into certain areas, and avoids their spending their "limited and valuable time" to provide you factual information. Only the parts of reports that further their agenda are used.

j. Spend time on time-consuming answers to unimportant issues.

k. "Forget" requests that ask for documents with facts.

l. Neglect to forward to committee members copies of letters/ information that ask profound questions or offer significant information. (Step #2)

m. Forward to you what they "feel is important" and supports their agenda.

n. Provide reams of meaningless paperwork (Step #7) through which you must plow (i.e. pages of budget codes to which they cannot charge specific items according to code, which they call their "financial statement"). They never refer to that information again except (in answer to your questions) with the words, "If you remember, we gave you that information in the..." This comment is repeated every time you raise a delicate issue.

o. Have things "come up" that require a surprise vote on information they gave you above.

p. Ask for consensus rather than "Yes" or "No" votes, and never use secret ballots, but vote aloud so dissenters must take a stand with each vote.

q. Form a sub-committee that meets alone when most members are unavailable. The sub- committee reports a recommendation to the full committee for the group to endorse. When you question their research/conclusion you are reminded you could have studied the problem further if you had just "spent more/some time on the sub-committee."

r. Compromise your recommendations so you can "sell it to the governing-body/public," that approves or rejects it, so you "won't have wasted your time."

s. Delay information/discussions, to "provide time" to present "accurate" (their interpretation) information.

t. Have their staff do the work for you. You discover the minutes do not reflect the facts as you remember them, can be interpreted to mean two different things, and often don't even make sense. The tape recorder malfunctions or the tapes misplaced from in-depth discussions.

u. Expand (control) the group adding more minorities/areas/viewpoints, which they will solicit for you.

v. Negotiate a compromise so your report "attends to all-aspects/the-severity-of the situation" or at least "get the public to see your results/how-hard-you-worked."

w. During this process, they guide your group to:

1st - review your mission/problem;

2nd - research the cause of the problem;

3rd - educate the governing-body/constituents;

4th - compromise so you can achieve consensus.

Each Step above is "necessary to grasp-the-situation/be-successful/work-as-a-group," and is time consuming.

x. Your "consensus" committee report (only items which everyone agreed to) will conclude they should:

1st - educate/inform the governing-body/public of the laws/facts.

2nd - further review the problem or do additional research.

3rd - recommend laws/rules/programs/funding for items that further their agenda, which may/may-not pertain to your charter.

y. Recommendations never include:

+ enforcement of current laws/regulations.

+ standardized measurable outcomes.

+ accountability.

+ reductions in programs/funding/staff/hours, unless that money can be funneled into administration.

z. The recommendations from the committee will only be used by the governing body if they like the conclusion. If not, they will form another committee to study the problem "in more depth" or wait about a year and do what they wanted to do before.


So, at which Step you are you now?

The ONLY way you can be effective is to concentrate on exposure and, especially, enforcement of current laws.

Strict enforcement is a powerful educational tool for elected officials!!! Better yet, let's make it a felony with minimum incarceration to deceive the public trust!


To achieve positive results you must:


The following steps will aid you:

* Form a group for support and to establish a telephone tree.

* Learn the open public meeting and public information laws and demand they be followed.

* Review these Steps as needed and don't be sidetracked.

* Hand them a copy of the Steps' next page (Page 12) and ask them if you could please skip the next two or three Steps.

* Persevere when they try delaying tactics.

* Keep a written diary of what happens and all responses.

* Do everything in writing (including follow-up review letters to personal discussions). Require written responses.

* Keep no secrets: Expose everything to the public. Shine a light in their darkest closets.

* Report them to higher authorities such as their superiors, the Public Disclosure Commission, the Attorney General, legislators, and follow through.

* Do NOT "follow proper channels," if possible. Go where ever you can to get results.

* Demand enforcement of current laws.

* Whenever you are thwarted, go to a higher authority such as the state auditor, PDC, AG, or your legislator.







bbible 5/ 6/98


by Shirley Basarab

(206) 246-4664

Bureaucrats' Bible STEPS:

1. Deny Knowledge

2. Ignore/Divert You

3. Intimidation

4. Advise You

5. Rumors

6. Meet With You

7. Information Flood

8. Isolate/Convert You

9. Study It/Make Recommendations

10. Hire an Authority

11. Form a Committee

a. Meet With You (Step #6 & #3)

b. Advise You (Step #4 & #3)

c. Control Group With Control of:

Membership & Its Expansion (Step #8 & #3)

Agenda Issues & Time (Step #7, #4 & #2)

Insider "Experts" (Step #10, #9, #7, #4 & #3)

Staff Presentations (Step #9, #7, #4, #3, & #2)

Staff Reports (Step #9, #7, #4, #3, #2 & #1)

Staff Writes Recommendations (Step #2)

Staff Writes Minutes (Step #2 & #1)

Information Floods as Needed (Step #7, #4 & #3)

"Forget" Information as Needed (Step #2 & #1)

Subcommittees (Step #10, #8, #7, #4, & #2)

Surprise Votes (Step #8, #3, & #2)

d. Make Rules You "Buy:"

Consensus or "Compromise" (Step #8)

Require Signed Minority Reports (Step #8, #3 & #2)

Be "Team Player" to "Sell" Your Results (Step #8)

Secrecy for "Success" & Bad News Sells Papers (#8)

Employee Confidentiality (Step #8 & #2)

Stay Within Directive (Step #1)

Use None of the "Limited Resources" (Step #9 & #1)

Not Use Staff Time for Research (Step #8 & #2)

Time Limit (Step #2)

No Secret Ballots (Step #3)

12. Their Enlightenment

13. Clean House

14. Hire an Attorney

15. Sacrificial Lamb

16. Recycle