This week, a criminal complaint was filed against former Planning Commission Chair Charles Schaefer by Burien City Manager Adolfo Bailon over an audio recording Schaefer made of a conversation with him without his consent after a city council meeting.

In the state of Washington, both parties must consent to being recorded.

However, Schaefer – who was removed from the Planning Commission by the council on June 15, 2023 – claims that he is protected by the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, which allows for recordings in public spaces like council chambers, where this took place. Schaefer also cites Washington State’s Municipal Research Services Center (link below).

Schaefer has been posting and recording Burien City Council meetings online as “Burien Gov Watch” for a while now.

“For the past several months I have been posting live updates of city council meetings and other relevant information on Facebook and,” Schaefer told The B-Town Blog. “I have been recording the entirety of council meetings on my phone in case I miss anything, as there is often a delay before the city uploads the official meeting video.”

After the Sept. 18, 2023 council meeting ended, Schaefer approached city manager Bailon in the council chambers to ask him why, out of the 27 candidates who had applied for the planning commission, two (including himself) were left off the council’s voting matrix.

“The city manager expressed concerns with some (unspecified) statements I had previously made regarding him and refused to answer my question,” he said. “When I continued to engage, he threatened to have the police captain escort me out of the room, even though several other members of the public were present and no attempt was being made to clear the room at that time.”

Schaefer added:

“I find it deeply concerning that a public employee whose job is, in part, to engage with the public and foster good relationships with our community, feels that he can choose not to engage with a citizen who is presenting a perspective that he disagrees with, and other individuals have told me that the city manager has also refused to speak with them for similar, unspecified, transgressions. I also find it outrageous (and I believe a breach of his lawful authority) for him to threaten to have the police remove someone who is not causing any disruption from a city council meeting room (throughout the whole interaction, the city manager was free to walk away or stop talking to me).”

Regarding the criminal charge, Schaefer said he trusts the prosecutor to make the correct decision, but he encourages readers to educate themselves by reading guidance from Washington State’s Municipal Research Services Center, a nonprofit organization that cities like Burien often look to for legal guidance:

The MRSC says on that page:

“Therefore it should be expected that people have the right to record any level government business that occurs in areas held open to the public.”

Schaefer said that he will continue to attend and record council meetings and will “continue to hold both elected councilmembers and city staff accountable for their actions.”

Below is a transcript of the audio, which can be heard here:

SCHAEFER: “I just wanted to ask…so, on the chart…”

BAILON: “You’ve made some inferences about me that I don’t appreciate. So if you’re going to continue to have that type of dialogue, you can’t, and you and I are not, so…”

SCHAEFER: “I mean, I just want to ask you a question … you can decide what to do with it? Yeah?”

BAILON: “(I) feel like you’re not gonna change that, though, so I’m just not gonna have dialogue…”

SCHAEFER: “OK. OK. Well, I’m going to ask my question. You can you can not answer, but I just…I do not see my name on the chart. And so I would like to know…”

BAILON: “Well, I yeah, there are some other non staffing here…”

SCHAEFER: “OK. Well, there are some other votes to your choice. So you’re going to refuse to answer my questions. Like, OK, you’re gonna answer my question…?”


  • We have filed a Public Records request with the King County Sheriff’s Office for the criminal complaint, but have not yet received it (it usually takes five days or so for this process).
  • The City of Burien does not comment on ongoing investigations.
  • Charles Schaefer is not related to BTB Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer.

Founder/Publisher/Editor. Three-time National Emmy Award winning Writer (“Bill Nye the Science Guy”), Director, Producer, Journalist and more...

3 replies on “Burien City Manager Adolfo Bailon files criminal complaint against former Planning Commission Chair Charles Schaefer over audio recording”

  1. Curious. Im new to this, so I don’t know all the back story, but this sounds by this account (and the audio file) that the City Manager was approached outside of the meeting general and asked to engage in a discussion that he didn’t feel comfortable with. Understandable that he would be apprehensive. Not arguing about the technical issues of the recording, but if you seek constructive dialog, maybe a less confrontational approach would be more effective?

  2. I write to express my deep concern and disappointment regarding the recent actions of our City Manager, Adolfo Bailon. In a time when our community faces a pressing homeless crisis, it is essential that our city leadership actively engages with concerned citizens and volunteers striving to alleviate the situation. Unfortunately, Mr. Bailon’s conduct paints a starkly different picture.

    Citizen volunteers, driven by a genuine desire to address the homeless crisis, have been met with an uncooperative and dismissive attitude from our City Manager. This is not just a matter of managerial incompetence; it is a profound failure of leadership and a breach of trust.

    One particularly distressing incident was when a citizen took it upon themselves to record their interaction with Mr. Bailon. The recording exposed his utter disregard for citizen concerns and a troubling level of disdain. Now, instead of acknowledging his failures, Mr. Bailon has taken the drastic step of filing criminal charges against the citizen for recording the incident. Such actions only serve to further erode public trust in our city’s leadership.

    It is abundantly clear that Adolfo Bailon is ill-suited for his role as City Manager. If he is unwilling or unable to fulfill his duties, particularly in addressing a crisis as critical as homelessness, then it is time for the City Council to take decisive action. The citizens of our city deserve a leader who is willing to listen, collaborate, and work diligently to find solutions to our most pressing issues.

    I implore the City Council to seriously consider the wellbeing and future of our city. The homeless crisis is a challenge that requires active and compassionate leadership. Adolfo Bailon’s actions and attitude have proven detrimental to our community, and it is time to remove him from the city’s payroll in the best interests of Burien and its residents.


  3. As the Open Meetings Act material cited in this article shows, public officials should expect no privacy when discussing matters of public concern while in public spaces. The courts have repeatedly held that an expectation of privacy “does not apply to public conversations between citizens and police officers and other public officials.” This action by the City Manager strikes me as using the criminal justice system to silence and intimidate. This reflects poorly on this official and on the City.

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