PORT ANGELES — A third ethics complaint against members of the Port Angeles City Council was filed Tuesday night — this time against Mayor Patrick Downie.
Marolee Smith, a Port Angeles resident and former City Council candidate, filed the complaint against Downie during the council meeting’s second public comment session at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.
Downie, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting, said Wednesday he had not yet read the complaint and so couldn’t comment.
In the complaint, Smith said that at the council meetings
Jan. 5 and Jan. 19, Downie admonished a group of people who wanted to speak, mostly about water fluoridation.
Smith said Downie was “chiding, lecturing and threatening” toward the audience at the meeting.
The complaint does not ask for action to be taken against Downie. Smith said that should be left up to the panel that will review the complaint.
The complaint alleges in part that:
? ? Downie “subjected people at the meeting to inappropriate, long-winded lectures, chided the citizens and actually ‘finger wagged’ at them, as if he were scolding children.”
??He “admonished the citizens in the audience to NOT criticize individual council members, which was out-of-order.”
??He “characterized the audience as: bullies, not courteous, threatening, intimidating, angry, disrespectful.”
? ? The mayor’s “scolding, chiding, lecturing, and threatening (‘will cut off comment period if…’) and repeated insistence that people be ‘civil’ was out of line. Calling citizens intimidating, rancorous, angry, bullies, and insinuating that they were ‘a waste of time.’?”
Smith said Wednesday she had intended to submit the complaint at a meeting two weeks earlier but was low on the list of speakers and did not get to the lectern to speak.
She said she knew the complaint could be filed outside of a meeting but waited until Tuesday’s meeting.
“I wanted to make a point, and I think I made that point. It wasn’t just for the council; it was for the audience as well,” she said.
Council members did not receive a copy of the complaint until Wednesday afternoon.
Previous complaints have been filed against Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd, Councilman Dan Gase and City Attorney Bill Bloor.
The first, filed Feb. 4 by Smith, was only against Kidd. The second, filed Feb. 19 by Our Water, Our Choice!, an anti-fluoridation group, was against Kidd and Gase; and the third, filed by Port Angeles attorney Peter Perron of Port Angeles, was against Bloor.
All were filed as ethics complaints using a city code.
City officials have said the code does not apply to city employees, only elected or appointed officials, and so the complaint against Bloor has been referred to the city manager.
All of the complaints concern the conduct of council members and the city attorney in regard to protests of the council’s 4-3 decision to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply.
The first two complaints cite the Feb. 2 meeting.
The fluoride project, constructed by CH2M, was completed in May 2006. The city then began fluoridating the public water supply.
The $400,000 fluoridation project was funded by the Washington Dental Service Foundation, but only if the city agreed to continue fluoridating the water supply for a 10-year period ending May 18, 2016.
On Dec. 15, Kidd, Gase, Councilman Brad Collins and Downie voted to continue fluoridation of the city’s drinking water and on Jan. 19 reaffirmed that decision.
Some protested the council’s decision, citing the results of a non-binding water customer survey in which 43 percent of customers responded, with 56.64 percent opposing the continued fluoridation and 41.27 percent supporting the practice.
On Tuesday, the council, with Kidd and Gase recused to another room, selected a panel of three volunteers to investigate the second ethics complaint.
The council was given the choice of assigning the complaint to the same panel that was selected Feb. 16 — Grant Meiner, Danetta Rutten and Frank Prince — to investigate the earlier complaint against Kidd or select a new panel.
“I would welcome a set of three new eyes on this,” said Councilman Lee Whetham.
“If six sets of eyes come up with two different findings, there are things we can learn from this.”
Councilwoman Sissi Bruch said she could go “either way” on the decision.
Councilman Michael Merideth noted that the issues before the two were related.
The four members voted unanimously to appoint a new panel and selected Ken Williams, Jerry Dean and William Yucha to review the complaint against Kidd and Gase.
The first panel, with Meiner, Rutten and Prince, is scheduled to meet March 8.
Also during public comment sessions, members of the public complained about the policy limiting public comments to 15 minutes, which allot three minutes of speaking time per person.
Several of the speakers said the limits cut the number of people who can speak and denied them the right of free speech.
Downie said the 15-minute rule was long-standing, and in the past, time limits had been printed on the sign-in sheet for those who wanted to speak.
He did not know when or how the notice had been dropped from the form and said the rule had never been changed.
A staff member was assigned to track each speaker’s time.
On Tuesday, nine people were registered to speak, eight of whom spoke on subjects regarding the water fluoridation issue or related free speech issues.
One speaker, Patricia Graham, brought her own egg timer to make a point of her three-minute time period to keep “my rights as a citizen.”
Graham said she said she no longer uses city water to cook or drink and that instead of forcing city water users to drink water with fluoride, children should be taught good dental hygiene.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” she said.
A 10th person who did not arrive in time to register to speak was allowed to comment when the nine registered residents had each spoken.
Downie also asked the packed crowd to leave their signs in the overflow area, just outside the chamber, rather than bringing them into the chamber itself.
Whetham said he opposed Downie’s decisions on the management of public participation in the meeting.
“I think it is very important people have a chance to weigh in,” Whetham said.
“This is not a council decision. This is a mayoral decision. I do not support it,” he said.