Fluoride Action Network

Second ethics complaint filed against Port Angeles deputy mayor, councilman

Source: Peninsula Daily News | February 21st, 2016 | By Paul Gottlieb, Senior Staff Writer

PORT ANGELES — A second ethics complaint has been filed against Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd after she adjourned a contentious Feb. 2 City Council meeting.

The complaint from Our Water, Our Choice! also names Councilman Dan Gase.

Edna Willadsen, vice president of the anti-fluoridation group, filed the complaint Friday on behalf of the organization.

“When you stand up there, say the meeting is over and storm out, that’s not the way to close a professional public meeting,” Willadsen said later Friday.

March 1 choices

City Clerk Jennifer Veneklasen said Friday that council members will consider choosing a three-person Board of Ethics to consider the complaint at their regular meeting March 1.

The Feb. 2 meeting was dominated by citizens who spoke against fluoridation at two public comment sessions.

Both were marked by the audience interrupting Kidd, who presided over the meeting, and Kidd interrupting speakers.

Kidd ended the second public comment session — the last item on the agenda — during a comment by a citizen who was being critical of pro-fluoridation council members, including Kidd.

The six-part complaint alleges Kidd and Gase violated provisions under which public officials must “comply with rules and procedures of the city,” not bring “disrepute” to the city or engage in “abusive conduct,” must show “respect, courtesy and professionalism,” must not “demean, harass or intimidate another person” and must “conduct themselves in a civil and professional manner that will foster public respect and cooperation.”

“I have no comment because I haven’t seen it,” Kidd of the complaint Friday.

Our Choice! attorney Gerald Steel, who wrote the complaint, said Gase was included because Gase was the only council member who left City Hall after Kidd adjourned the meeting.

Steel also said Gase failed to stop Kidd from interfering with one of the first public comment speakers, Mark Johnson, and did not object to her adjourning the meeting.

Steel said Kidd’s reaction was based on the public commenters’ opposition to her own pro-fluoride position.

“We believe [Gase] was feeling that same position as Cherie, and that’s why he didn’t object to [Kidd’s] procedural errors.”

Gase’s reply

Gase, who was out of town Friday, “absolutely” denied the allegations in a telephone interview.

“Anyone has a right to file anything you want,” he said, adding he had not read the complaint.

“I did not walk out of the meeting. The meeting was over before I left the room.”

The accusation that he did not stop Kidd “doesn’t make any sense to me,” added Gase, who has voted for fluoridation.

“You almost have to prove a negative.”

The text of the complaint and a news release announcing it accompanies the online copy of this article

“It was just poor ethics, just bad,” Willadsen said Friday.

“In general, it was poorly done. We do not expect temper tantrums.”

Left the meeting

After Kidd and Gase left the council chambers, the meeting continued with Councilmen Lee Whetham and Michael Merideth and Councilwoman Sissi Bruch listening to comments until it was over.

Those remaining council members all wore “No Fluoride” red paper badges.

Councilman Brad Collins, who favors fluoridation, left the dais but stayed in the council chambers.

Mayor Patrick Downie, who favors fluoridation, was participating by phone because he was recovering from pneumonia.

His phone connection was cut.

Former City Council candidate and anti-fluoridation activist Marolee Smith filed a complaint solely against Kidd on Feb. 4, two days after the meeting.

Smith alleged in part that Kidd violated the ethics code by prohibiting political signs, limiting public comment, discrediting public officials, making verbal attacks and engaging “in harassment of each speaker in the public comment period,” according to her eight-part complaint.

Disputed validity

Kidd disputed the validity of each of Smith’s charges in a subsequent Peninsula Daily News interview.

At their meeting Tuesday, council members picked three representatives for the ethics committee from an eight-member pool to review Smith’s complaint.

“The ethics rules that the council has adopted are to basically protect the citizens from inappropriate behavior by the council,” Steel said.

“At the Feb. 2 meeting of the council, the citizens didn’t feel protected.”

A supermajority from up to five council members will choose three ethics board members by ranking them from a pool of nine standing applicants to review Willadsen’s complaint.

Veneklasen said Kidd and Gase will not take part in the selection.

Pool members

The pool consists of Grant Meiner, William Yucha, Kenneth Williams, Diana Tschimperle, Danetta Rutten, Frank J. Prince Jr., Roy Gotham, Edward Zoble and Jerry Dean.

Five council members chose Meiner, Rutten and Prince to review Smith’s complaint.

Selections are based on judicial experience and municipal experience; a third citizen at-large representative is also chosen.

The complaint filed Friday says “each complaint on file must be assigned its own separate board.”

Steel said the statement is an interpretation of the city code.

“Ultimately, it will be up to the City Council to decide,” Steel said.

“We read [the city code] to require a single panel for a single complaint.”

The highly charged council meetings grew out of the City Council’s 4-3 Dec. 15 decision to continue fluoridation through June 30, 2026, despite a November water-connection survey showing overwhelming opposition to the practice.