Fluoride Action Network

Port Angeles ethics board holds first meeting, permits complaint to be amended

Source: Peninsula Daily News | March 9th, 2016 | By Paul Gottlieb, Senior Staff Writer

PORT ANGELES — The city’s first ethics board met for the first time Tuesday and, after about two hours of discussion about how to address Marolee Smith’s concerns, decided to allow her to amend her complaint against Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd.

Ethics board members Grant Meiner, Danetta Rutten and Frank Prince Jr., the chairman, unanimously decided Smith can pare down the complaint and resubmit it.

A tentative date of March 24 has been set for the ethics board to review it.

The decision to allow Smith to amend the complaint was made after discussion about only the first point in the eight-point complaint.

“The three of us could have said, ‘No, we don’t want an amended complaint,’” Prince, a high school basketball referee, acknowledged after the meeting.

He added: “We did not make much progress after two hours.”

Prince “really wanted to plow ahead with the one that was in front of us,” he said.

“What tipped it,” Prince said, was Smith asserting that by amending the complaint, she could “winnow it down to make [our] task easier.”

Smith, a former City Council candidate, alleged that while chairing a Feb. 2, Kidd was abusive, conducted verbal attacks and failed to foster public respect and cooperation.

It centers on Kidd’s words and actions toward opponents of fluoridating the city water supply.

Smith, also a fluoridation foe, offered to “boil down” her complaint during the board’s discussion with City Attorney Bill Bloor over the degree to which Kidd was responsible for a prohibition against signs in the council chambers during the meeting.

The prohibition was communicated by a posted sign and vigorously opposed by several who attended the meeting.

“I do know that a few of my points are a little muddy,” Smith said.

Bloor had said that for the board to find Kidd in violation of the code as it relates to signage, the members would need to determine Kidd ordered that the prohibition sign be posted and that doing so violated the ethics code.

It follows the dictum as stated by Meiner, a retired Clallam County Superior Court judge, that the board must determine whether the facts in the complaint are true and, if they are, that what occurred was a violation of city code.

Bloor said there was nothing in the city code “that says anything” about signs in council chambers.

“The question is, does that violate Paragraph J of the [ethics] code?” Bloor said.

City Clerk Jennifer Veneklasen said City Manager Dan McKeen had told her to post the signs and that she had discussed the issue with Kidd.

Kidd, Councilman Dan Gase and Mayor Patrick Downie — both of whom also have had complaints filed against them by fluoridation foes — all attended the approximately 2½-hour meeting Tuesday.

Kidd, who has denied violating the ethics code, said in a later interview that she would not comment on the sign issue while the ethics board considers the complaint.

“I cannot give direction to staff,” she said.

In her complaint Smith said she based it on Section 2.78.50, Paragraph J of the Port Angeles Municipal Code.

Smith said signs had never been prohibited and that outlawing them was intended to “intimidate and harass” specific citizens.

Early on in the meeting, Smith said the city code is “open to interpretation.”

After the meeting progressed further, she told ethics board members that since filing the complaint, she had read several years of council minutes and read the city code “backward and forward.”

“I was not in full understanding of what the code was,” she said.

In a later interview, Smith said she also may change that portion of the complaint that objects to Kidd ending the first public comment period at the Feb. 2 meeting at 6:30 p.m.

“I’m just going to streamline it,” Smith said, adding that there will be “no more than five” parts to the complaint instead of the eight reviewed at Tuesday’s meeting.

One assertion that won’t change, according to Smith: Her assertion that Kidd “did not conduct herself toward the public in a civil or professional manner, and did not foster public respect and cooperation.”

A second ethics complaint surrounding the Feb. 2 meeting was filed Feb. 19 against Kidd and Gase, both fluoridation proponents, by the anti-fluoridation group Our Water, Our Choice!

Ethics board members Ken Williams, Jerry Dean and William Yucha will meet March 15 to review it.

A complaint was filed Feb. 24 by attorney Peter Perron of Port Angeles against Bloor.

City officials have said that as a city employee, Bloor falls under the purview of the city manager’s office, not under the ethics code that applies to City Council members.

Perron asserted Bloor failed to object to a Dec. 15 City Council motion that continues fluoridation until June 2026 and failed to object to Kidd chairing the contentious Feb. 2 meeting.

Another ethics complaint was filed against Downie by Smith on March 1.

It centers on Downie’s conduct and language toward fluoridation opponents Jan. 5, when the council reaffirmed its decision to continue fluoridation, and on Jan. 19, when there was prolonged criticism of council members by fluoridation opponents.

City Council members will consider naming an ethics board to review the complaint against Downie at the council’s March 15 meeting.

Dale Wilson, publisher of the free weekly newspaper Port O Call, questioned at Tuesday’s meeting whether Bloor, as the target of a complaint, should advise the ethics board.

He also questioned whether Bloor as city attorney should be an adviser regarding a complaint against Kidd.

“I’m seeing a little ethical dilemma here,” Wilson said.

Bloor said he represents the city as a “corporate entity,” not Kidd or individual council members.

Board members said they would stick with the city attorney.

Veneklasen said Tuesday that City Manager Dan McKeen is still determining who will handle the complaint against Bloor.