Council splits on appointing former city councilwoman

It’s been said many times: “Take ’em or leave ’em.”

The attitude served as the theme of the Bainbridge Island City Council’s meeting Wednesday.

The latest appointments to the city’s planning commission not only sparked a council debate over the candidates themselves, but also, how to even vote on the matter.

The option of either voting on all three candidates as a pack, or individually, turned into a council standoff.

An interview panel composed of Councilman Steve Bonkowski and Councilwoman Sarah Blossom proposed three candidates to fill vacancies on the planning commission.

Islanders Debbie Vann, Maradel Gale and Scott Hicks were all up for consideration.

Only one made it off the dais with ease; the reappointment of current commission member Maradel Gale, by unanimous vote.

Councilman Bob Scales raised concerns over Vann, a former city council member from 2002 through 2006.

“Debbie Vann is a former council member and by-and-large, I’m concerned about a former council member going from a political body of the council to a citizen committee that reports to the council,” Scales said.

Scales further noted two previous candidates for the utility advisory committee who were deemed not favorable due to their recent time on the council and outspoken opinions on utility matters.

Both former councilmen Barry Peters and Bill Knobloch applied to sit on the utility advisory committee this year.

Vann was not approved for the commission seat by a split 3-3 vote.

Bonkowski, Blossom and Councilman David Ward for vote to appoint Vann; Scales, Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos and Councilwoman Anne Blair voted against.

Blair took issue with the third candidate, Hicks, who she noted has only lived on the island for three months.

While his experience was adequate, Blair said that his business of building marine structures involved making relationships with planning commissions and cities. She said she felt it posed a conflict of interest.

Hicks was approved to serve on the commission by a 4-2 vote.

But the discussion over individual candidates took a back seat to a more heated debate.

Scales proposed to vote on the candidates individually.

“I would support the other two (not Vann),” he said, further stating that voting on the three altogether would put council members in a position to vote against candidates they might otherwise approve, just to vote down candidates they didn’t want.

Blair and Hytopoulos agreed.

Bonkowski, Ward and Blossom opposed the idea and favored lumping all the candidates together for an up-or-down vote.

Scales’ proposal failed by a 3-3 vote, a move he said was questionable, implying that political strategy was being used.

“I think council members who voted to combine them together probably recognized that one person would not have the full support of all the council, which is gamesmanship,” Scales said.

Hytopoulos echoed Scales and said the motion denied council members from expressing themselves and was “contrary to good democracy.”

Despite the initial vote to approve all candidates in one motion, Scales ignored the decision and immediately attempted to vote on them individually anyway. He was deemed out of order.

In the end, the argument was moot as the council could not agree on the entire lineup of candidates. It was forced to consider each one individually.

The terms are for three years.

Five candidates threw their hats in the ring for this round of consideration. Other applicants included Steven C. Garwood, the finance director for the Suquamish Tribe; and M.C. Halvorsen, a real estate broker.

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