Bainbridge city officials have put the kibosh on the Design Review Board’s attempt to add a new member to its board without the mayor and city council’s approval.
Joseph Dunstan, chairman of the Design Review Board, told his fellow board members at their first meeting in October that he had interviewed candidates to fill what would be a temporary position on the board because of the departure of Board Member Peter Perry.
Perry, Dunstan said, had moved to California for six months due to a family health issue and wanted a leave of absence from the Design Review Board. Perry asked his fellow members if they supported finding a temporary replacement for six months, and Dunstan noted he had already interviewed two people who were interested in the post.
Perry, Dunstan added, hoped to step back into his position on the DRB upon his return to Bainbridge.
But while the city code does allow leaves of absences for members of its citizen advisory committees, with the mayor’s approval, those groups generally cannot choose and appoint their own members. City regulations require appointments to the DRB to be made by the mayor, with the confirmation of the city council.
At the council meeting last week, Councilman Ron Peltier said the city should change the municipal code to allow temporary appointments.
Mayor Kol Medina noted that he had already been asked by a member of the DRB to appoint the person who had been picked as a replacement for the board, but had received legal advice that said such a move would run afoul of the city’s adopted rules.
“Someone on the committee chose a replacement and suggested that I appoint that person to be the replacement,” Medina recalled.
“And when I asked the city attorney to look at it and give some advice on it, and spoke to the city manager and the deputy mayor about it, I was basically told … we don’t have a process in place that allows for the mayor or the council to just appoint someone to a temporary post like that.
“And certainly not appointing someone without some sort of public process for selecting who is going to be appointed,” Medina told his fellow councilmembers.
The mayor said he contacted the DRB member who made the request, and said he lacked the authority to make such an appointment.
City Manager Morgan Smith said a temporary appointment would be problematic — beyond the fact that the city code does not currently allow it.
“I’m less in favor of allowing a provision for a short-term appointment. When we bring people on our committees, especially a committee that is as technical and significant as the Design Review Board,” Smith said, “we want them to have a certain amount of training; we want them to be conversant in public records and OPMA [the Open Public Meetings Act].”
The city’s move to increase the size of citizen advisory committees to seven members, she added, was meant to overcome the problem created when a quorum can’t be reached for a public meeting to be held.
“One of the pieces of thinking behind moving to a standard committee size of seven was so that there would be a tolerance for vacancies,” Smith said.
“But if they find that they’re having an issue with that, I think the correct solution would be to pursue opening up the position and filling the vacancy,” she said. “Rather than adding someone on the short term, who comes in for a period of two, or three or four or five months, does the work of the committee, and then goes away again.
“I just don’t think that’s a constructive way to make sure we have committee members who are integrated into the work and understand their roles,” Smith said.
On the administrative side, Smith said, “It creates a burden for us.”
But she added that staff could take up the suggestion as a code revision if that was the council’s desire.
Smith also noted that the missing DRB member had already requested and received a leave of absence in the past.
Approving another leave would be Perry’s second.
“Sometimes it just is the case that it’s not a fit, to continue to serve,” Smith said.
The suggestion to change city rules to allow temporary appointments did not find much support on the council.
“My preference right now would be to fill the position on a permanent basis,” said Councilwoman Leslie Schneider.
The DRB was scheduled to meet this week but did not. City staff said Monday’s meeting was canceled because there were no agenda items to present to the board.
In an email to the Review Tuesday, Dunstan said the DRB has two choices: continue with six members until Perry returns or the board can vote to ask hime to resign his position.
“In this case, the city would advertise for applicants to apply for a full position,” Dunstan added. “I expect that at the next DRB meeting on Dec. 2 we will decide on which option is best and then make a recommendation to the city council.”