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Civil Service Commission posts remain abandoned
The city Council voted to dismiss an Ethics Board complaint and a petition for removal of two Civil Service Commission members during Wednesday’s council meeting, finally putting to rest an ongoing controversy with the commission.
The dismissals came after resignations from David Hand and George McKinney this week that has left the city commission unmanned.
In light of the resignations, which included Robert Fernandez resigning on Oct. 10, Councilor Bob Scales made two motions during the council’s meeting.
The first was to dismiss the petition for removal of Hand and McKinney from the commission since both have now resigned; it passed unanimously.
Scales also presented a motion to dismiss a complaint to the Ethics Board against Hand and McKinney. Both the petition and the complaint to the ethics board were made by former CSC Secretary/Chief Examiner Kim Hendrickson.
Council members Bill Knobloch and Debbi Lester both voiced dissenting opinions over dismissing an Ethics Board complaint when they had not had an opportunity to view a decision on the matter made by the board on Monday.
“I have no dog in this fight, but I would ask that you respect our Ethics Board,” said Lester.
In contrast, others felt that since all commissioners have resigned, there are no further actions to be taken.
“They have had to endure a constant onslaught,” Scales said. “They are no longer our commissioners so what is the purpose to continue with this? ... It’s moot.”
Fixing the problems
Scales also submitted a draft ordinance to change the structure of the CSC. The draft includes three alterations to the commission, beginning with an increase to the number of members from three to five. The purpose, Scales said, would be to allow a minority number of commission members to meet without violating the state’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).
It would also eliminate the requirement of commission members to be residents of Bainbridge Island for three years.
The ordinance also would stagger the terms of the commissioners with two of them serving three-year terms and three serving four-year terms.
The ordinance would also specify the role of the Secretary/Chief Examiner of the CSC, stating that the position should be held by a city employee.
The city is now seeking to fill the empty committee, which by law it is required to have.
“I think we are all losers as a result of this process,” said council member Barry Peters. “I hope this will not prevent others from coming forward for service in the future.”
The resignation came in the wake of a lengthy dispute over the city’s ethics code and the OPMA.
Hand, the commission’s chair, resigned Tuesday – a day after McKinney announced his resignation. The final member of the commission, Robert Fernandez, resigned earlier this month on Oct. 10. He had cited that the decision to have the secretary/chief examiner role carried out by a city employee indicated the city was not interested in keeping the commission “a truly independent body per the Revised Code of Washington.”
Hand and McKinney had different reasons for resigning.
“Now I believe that I can no longer be of effective service to the city in an atmosphere so charged with allegations and acrimony, so poisoned with innuendo, half-truths, and falsehood,” Hand said in his resignation letter.
McKinney resigned from his position of 10 years on the commission on Oct. 17. He preferred to facilitate a smoother exit but the current atmosphere within the commission influenced his abrupt exit.
“Dave (Hand) and I have just had it so we resigned,” said McKinney. “It’s a very toxic situation – the whole adversarial thing that it has become.”
No ‘redo’ required
Hand and McKinney’s exit is the latest in a series of developments involving Hendrickson, who filed an ethics complaint with the city on Sept. 9 accusing Hand and McKinney of attending meetings with City Manager Brenda Bauer and City Attorney Jack Johnson without sufficient public notice — meetings which she asserts violate both OPMA and the city’s code of ethics.
“After much thought and serious consideration, I have decided that I have had enough. I have submitted a response to the Ethics Board, but that will be the end of my efforts to defend myself against the charges leveled against me by Ms. Hendrickson,” Hand said in his resignation letter.
Fernandez was not included in Hendrickson’s ethics complaint despite also attending the meetings in question.
Hendrickson submitted the petition on Sept. 12 to have Hand and McKinney recalled, charging the commissioners with malfeasance in office and dereliction of duty. The petition ultimately made its way to the state Attorney General’s Office, where Assistant Attorney General Tim Ford recommended that the city simply rewind and “redo” any meetings that were not open to the public.
With the council’s decision to dismiss Hendrickson’s complaint and petition, a redo or any further proceedings regarding the matter are unlikely.