Fluoride Action Network

Ethics complaint against Port Angeles mayor withdrawn

Source: Peninsula Daily News | August 7th, 2016 | By Paul Gottlieb, Senior Staff Writer

PORT ANGELES — Fluoridation opponent Marolee Smith dropped her ethics complaint Friday against Mayor Patrick Downie just as an ethics board was preparing to hear her allegations.

The complaint was dropped three days after the City Council stopped fluoridation.

Of four ethics complaint emanating from the City Council’s Dec. 15 decision to continue fluoridation — a decision the council reversed, at least temporarily, on Tuesday — only one now remains.

The City Council will discuss Marie Wiggins’ state Open Public Meetings Act complaint at its next meeting Aug. 16.

The board composed of former Superior Court Judge Ken Williams, Danetta Rutten and Diana Tschimperle met Friday to discuss Smith’s allegations, but before they got started, she said she was dropping the complaint.

Ethics claim

She had claimed that Downie, who favors fluoridation, violated the ethics law by engaging in “name-calling” and giving “long-winded lectures” and “actually finger-wagged” at Jan. 5 and Jan. 19 City Council meetings, when he attempted to quiet down fluoridation opponents.

She said that Downie characterizing the audience as bullies and as discourteous, threatening, intimidating, angry and disrespectful constituted “name-calling.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Smith said in an interview after she dropped the complaint.

She also suggested pursuing it was no longer necessary.

Smith praised the City Council for last Tuesday approving Downie’s proposal to stop fluoridation immediately at least until Nov. 7, 2017, when city residents will vote on an advisory ballot on restarting the practice.

“Everyone kind of took a breather and stepped back,” Smith said.

“I think I’ve gotten my point across of why I filed it in the first place, and I think it worked.”

Downie said he came to the meeting Friday with a written statement to defend himself.

“I was surprised she did what she did,” he said.

Downie said he informed Smith through City Manager Dan McKeen that whatever decision he made on “moving the ball forward” on the fluoridation controversy that led to last Tuesday’s vote had nothing to do with her complaint.

“I discussed with her a couple of proposals,” he said.

“I mentioned that I’d like to get to an advisory vote.”

Downie said he has proposed an advisory vote on fluoridation to the council in the past that could not get majority approval and that he pressed for in order to heal deep divisions in the community.

“I did not want it to be seen or interpreted or understood that it had anything to do with her ethics complaint,” Downie said.

Smith also said she did not inform Downie she was dropping the complaint but had discussed the complaint with him.

“We had several meetings,” she said.

“I wanted him to understand why I filed it, and I think he does.”

Downie said Friday he would not have done anything differently at the Jan. 5 and Jan. 19 meetings.

“I did not think I did anything wrong,” Downie said.

“I was acting in my perspective the way I was taught as a child to treat people.”

Smith had alleged in the complaint that Downie had brought “discredit” on public officials and “disrepute” to the city, and impaired its “efficient and effective operation.”

“I believe that Mr. Downie understands the nature of my complaint and the reasons behind it,” Smith said in a statement she read at the outset of Friday’s hearing.

“Meanwhile, I have very little faith that the ethics complaint process can proceed unfettered with the incestuous nature of this town.

“It is a waste of everyone’s time and a huge disappointment.”

Smith said later the City Council should have looked into hiring an investigator to hear the complaint.

“This is a small town, and there are connections and connections and connections,” she said.

“Let a third party who isn’t connected to this town or everyone take a look at this.”

During Friday’s meeting, Downie was contrite as he read from his statement.

“I am truly sorry for anything I may have done, either in my words or actions, to have been seen to have contributed to the regrettable divide that has plagued our city,” he said.

He said he did not intend to lecture the public at Jan. 5 and Jan. 19 City Council meetings.

“I apologize if that is the way it came across,” Downie said.

Of the three other complaints, including Wiggins’, one was filed by Smith against Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd, and the other was filed by the anti-fluoridation group Our Water, Our Choice! against Kidd and Councilman Dan Gase.

All centered on council actions surrounding a Feb. 2 City Council meeting that Kidd chaired.

Kidd and Gase were exonerated by an ethics board in the Our Water, Our Choice! complaint, while another board recommended that the council verbally admonish Kidd for interrupting an anti-fluoridation speaker and abruptly adjourning the Feb. 2 meeting.

The city spent $20,000 for legal representation from the Issaquah municipal law firm Kenyon Disend to represent Kidd.

The City Council has said it will consider the recommendation to admonish Kidd once the other complaints have been resolved.

Wiggins’ complaint is against Councilmen Brad Collins, Lee Whetham and Michael Merideth and Councilwoman Sissi Bruch.

Wiggins alleges the four violated the Open Public Meetings Act by staying in council chambers to hear further public comments after Kidd adjourned the meeting.