Ethics Board rejects complaint against councilwoman

The Bainbridge Island Ethics Board quickly rejected an ethics complaint against Councilwoman Debbi Lester Monday, saying it was too vague and lacked the basic requirements of an official complaint.

Tom Golon submitted an ethics complaint on March 12, and said Lester had a conflict of interest in voting on the update of the city's Shoreline Master Program because her husband's career would benefit. Lester is married to land-use attorney Ryan Vancil, and Golon claimed that Vancil had worked for the planning department in the past.

The Ethics Board meeting drew a crowd who came to defend the councilwoman against the allegations, and some said Lester was an honorable public servant who had done no wrong.

The Ethics Board did not pursue the complaint, mainly because it wasn't a complaint, officials said.

"We find that the complaint does not actually constitute a complaint," said Board Member Michael Yesley. "It alleges no violations of the ethics code, but makes more general comments without specifying what violations have occurred.

"[The complaint] is referring to the future rather than the past," Yesley added. "The Ethics Board is not authorized to review a complaint of potential action."

Golon did not attend the board's meeting, though Lester and Vancil were in attendance.

Vancil said the complaint was political and ill-aimed.

"Frankly, Mr. Golon is using this process to hurt people," Vancil said. "He is using it to publicly slander a business and an elected official."

"He is not interested in seeking the truth or the enforcement of the ethics code. He is manipulating your process in an effort to silence a political voice that he disagrees with," Vancil said.

Lester and Vancil also noted that Golon's complaint was based on a falsehood. Vancil said he has never worked with the city, or has ever been under contract with the city or its planning department.

"I have never worked for or have been employed by the city of Bainbridge Island Planning Department," Vancil said. "I have no direct or indirect employment related to the council's adoption of the Shoreline Master Program."

Vancil further said that his past relationship with the city and the planning department has been limited to representing people who were suing the city.

City Manager Doug Schulze was also present at the board's meeting for an unrelated matter, but confirmed Vancil's lack of work history with the city.

Schulze said he looked into the issue and found that Vancil has never worked for the planning department or the city.


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