PORT ANGELES — A former City Council candidate has filed an eight-part ethics complaint against Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd over her conduct while presiding at a City Council meeting Tuesday night.
Marolee Smith, who unsuccessfully ran for a position in November now occupied by Michael Merideth, filed the action Thursday under a section of the city code that was passed in 2012 — while Kidd was mayor.
It’s the first ethics complaint filed under the new rules.
Smith asks that Kidd be removed as deputy mayor, a position the council named her to in January.
Some 50 to 60 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, with many signing up to speak — mostly about city water fluoridation — during public comment periods.
The complaint will be decided by a three-person citizens’ ethics board named by the City Council — not including Kidd, City Attorney Bill Bloor said Friday.
The pool of citizens whose names are currently filed with the city for participation on a board of ethics consists of Grant Meiner, William Yucha, Kenneth Williams, Diana Tschimperle, Danetta Rutten, Frank J. Prince Jr., Roy Gotham, Edward Zoble and Jerry Dean, said Kari Martinez-Bailey, administrative assistant with the city manager’s office, said Friday.
The City Council will discuss the complaint at the council’s next regular meeting Feb. 16.
“I feel there is no validity at all in any of the charges,” Kidd said Friday.
Smith alleges Kidd violated the city Code of Ethical Conduct by prohibiting political signs, limiting public comment, acting in a way that discredited public officials and engaging “in harassment of each speaker in the public comment period” during a meeting that drew some 50 to 60 people.
She also alleges Kidd “was rude to several of the City Council members,” was abusive and verbally attacked the character or motives of the public, and “demeaned, harassed and intimidated another person.”
The eighth part of the complaint was as follows:
“And, perhaps the most egregious, as a public official Ms. Kidd did NOT conduct herself toward the public in a civil or professional manner, and did NOT foster public respect and cooperation.”
Smith said in an interview Friday that Kidd’s actions were divisive at a time that the city needs to come together.
“She did exactly the wrong thing,” Smith said.
Kidd, standing in for Mayor Patrick Downie, who was ill, abruptly adjourned Tuesday’s meeting after interrupting a speaker over what she said were insulting comments toward City Council members.
The speaker had compared four council members who had voted to continue fluoridation — Downie, Kidd, Dan Gase and Brad Collins — to “The Four Horsemen.”
Abuse, personal insults
“I believe the City Council should not sit there and be abused with personal insults,” she said Friday.
Kidd also stopped speakers from commenting at Tuesday’s meeting at an earlier public comment session after saying they had exceeded their allotted three minutes and also interrupted them to say they were approaching their time limit.
“I would say, ‘Sir, please summarize your thoughts,’?” she said Friday.
“I was trying to give them time to summarize.”
A review of a video taken of the meeting by Clallam Public Eye, which is available on YouTube, showed that Kidd stopped several speakers in mid-sentence before their time was up.
Kidd said she timed the speakers the best she could by using a wall clock in the chambers and wrote their start times down.
“I did not have a timer,” she said.
“I made every effort to be fair and not cut them off prematurely.”
The audience repeatedly yelled out their disapproval of her gavel-punctuated entreaties to calm down and clapped following comments opposed to fluoridation.
A public comment session at the beginning of the Jan. 5 meeting lasted about two hours, and one at the Jan. 19 meeting about three hours. Both were dominated by speakers on fluoridation.
Kidd limited public comment Tuesday from shortly after 6 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., then opened it up for further comment at the end of the meeting before abruptly adjourning the session.
After announcing the meeting was adjourned, she stood up and said the meeting might continue if the participants maintained civility.
Then she stood for a few minutes to listen to another speaker before leaving the chambers.
Most of the speakers stayed to make further comments for about a half-hour with anti-fluoridation council members Lee Whetham, Sissi Bruch and Merideth standing behind the dais and Collins in the audience.
“The way she cut it off was so confusing,” Smith said Friday. “It seemed like a hissy fit. Her gavel-banging was ridiculous.
“She was looking for someone to get outraged at. The people of Port Angeles do not deserve to be abused like that.
“Cherie is a publicly elected council member, and you have to have a really tough skin.
“I don’t think being heavy-handed with a gavel and being shrill and speaking over people is a way you show respect, and you don’t get respect that way.”
Lauded for her actions
But Kidd said that following Tuesday’s meeting, she has received an “overwhelming” response from residents who lauded her for her actions and said they were sorry that so many citizens were so contentious.
“I was very humbled by the outpouring of caring and support,” she said.
Kidd said Smith’s complaint was politically motivated by her anti-fluoride point of view.
But Smith said the complaint “had nothing to do with fluoride.”
“It’s really about how our representative democracy is supposed to work, and it’s really about how City Council members seem to not get to be responsible to the people,” she said, pointing to a November survey of city water customers that showed support for stopping fluoridation by those who responded.
City Attorney Bill Bloor confirmed Friday that the City Council had posted a sign prohibition for a city-sponsored Oct. 22 educational forum on fluoridation.