PORT ANGELES — Mayor Patrick Downie said his remarks at two Port Angeles City Council meetings were to encourage civil discourse rather than an attempt to silence speakers, contrary to the allegations in a complaint filed against him.
Downie provided a written statement Thursday in response to an ethics complaint filed against him Tuesday by Marolee Smith, a Port Angeles resident and former candidate for City Council.
Smith, citing First Amendment court decisions, said Downie violated the city’s code of ethical conduct for elected and appointed officials for what she described as “chiding, lecturing and threatening” words and gestures toward the audience, many of whom spoke about opposition to water fluoridation, at the Jan. 5 and Jan. 19 City Council meetings.
Downie said in his written statement:
“I regret that across America, as well as here in Port Angeles, political discussion in any number of public settings has become so discordant.
“I’m saddened that there would be those, including Marolee, who would misinterpret my attempts to quiet the tone of certain voices during the council meetings referred to in the ethics complaint, with trying to silence their legitimate right to speak.
“I simply do not think it is wrong to believe that earnest but civil discourse should not remain the standard of conduct for any such conversation between two individuals.”
Smith’s complaint against Downie is the third filed against City Council members.
The first complaint, filed Feb. 4 by Smith, was against Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd, who chaired the Feb. 2 council meeting.
An ethics review panel consisting of Grant Meiner, Danetta Rutten and Frank Prince was selected Feb. 16 to investigate the complaint against Kidd and is expected to meet Tuesday.
The second complaint, filed Feb. 19 by Our Water, Our Choice!, an anti-fluoridation group, was against Kidd and Councilman Dan Gase, also based on the Feb. 2 meeting.
Ken Williams, Jerry Dean and William Yucha were selected Tuesday as a review panel to investigate that complaint.
Filing against attorney
Another complaint, filed by Port Angeles attorney Peter Perron of Port Angeles, was against City Attorney Bill Bloor.
City officials have said the code does not apply to city employees, only elected or appointed officials, 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 fluoride project, constructed by CH2M, was completed in May 2006 and the city 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.