Bainbridge Island City Councilman Ron Peltier has been hit with another ethics complaint.
The latest complaint about the councilman’s behavior is the fourth since September.
The most recent ethics complaint was filed Feb. 24 by Lisa Schulze, the wife of Doug Schulze, Bainbridge Island’s former city manager, who resigned last year to take a job as city manager in Banning, California.
Lisa Schulze claims Peltier contacted Banning City Councilman Don Peterson after her husband took over as Banning’s city manager, and that Peltier shared information with Peterson that has since been used to attack Doug Schulze on Facebook.
Lisa Schulze obtained emails sent by Peltier via his city councilman email account that were sent to Peterson, and Schulze said in her compliant those emails “confirm that Mr. Peltier has communicated with Mr. Don Peterson for the sole purpose of causing harm and embarrassment to Doug and me.”
“Simply engaging in this behavior lacks integrity, demonstrates incivility, and is disrespectful,” she added. “For an elected official to participate in and encourage this type of behavior reflects poorly on the entire organization and diminishes public trust and confidence in that individual’s judgment.”
Peltier accuses former city manager of ethics problems
According to emails from Peltier’s city account, obtained by Schulze through a public records request, Peltier sent Peterson two complaints on Jan. 20 that Peltier had filed against Schulze’s husband with the International City/County Management Association, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents professionals in local government management.
Those complaints were subsequently posted by the website The Banning Informer, a blog dedicated to Banning politics.
The blog accused Doug Schulze of a coverup and a potential breach of contract because the Informer said Schulze did not disclose Peltier’s complaints against him when he was under consideration for the job as Banning’s city manager.
“Everyone will agree that secrecy and coverup activity are not what the people of Banning have bargained for when they hired Doug Schulze,” said a Feb. 8 post on the blog’s website.
“When seeking employment, Schulze likely had an obligation to disclose any material facts about his persona which may be relevant to his employment. This certainly would include any ethics challenges before an international body, like the ICMA. After all, it would not benefit Banning to hire a [city manager] who may eventually be found to have acted unethically. Schulze failed to inform the Banning City council — and the public — about the pending charges against him. By doing so, he may have concealed a material fact relevant to his employment,” the blog post said.
The Informer characterized Schulze’s hiring as an “epic fail,” and suggested he be placed on administrative leave, reprimanded or fired.
In an email this week to the Review, Peltier said he was looking forward to a chance to respond to Lisa Schulze’s complaint.
“I’m looking forward to the Ethics Board’s discussion of the complaint by Lisa Schulze and an opportunity to respond to it,” Peltier said.
“Specifically, I’m looking forward to responding to her allegation that I disclosed confidential information regarding conversations that Doug Schulze had with Banning city officials about the possibility of bringing Bainbridge Island’s Police Chief Matthew Hamner to Banning. This happened while Doug was still under contract with the City of Bainbridge Island as our City Manager. It’s a clear violation of the ICMA code of ethics and makes a mockery of the trust that Bainbridge Islanders had in Doug Schulze,” Peltier said.
Peltier filed two ethics complaints against Doug Schulze, a longtime member of the ICMA, after Schulze resigned from his city manager position in early August.
In the first, dated Aug. 27, Peltier complained about comments Schulze had made in a Bremerton newspaper after he tendered his resignation about his time on Bainbridge.
That article in the Kitsap Sun — which labeled Schulze “a frustrated city manager” — proved highly controversial after Schulze referred to Peltier as a “bully” and said city council members should rely on the input of the city’s professional city staff when making decisions. (Peltier was also interviewed for the story, and said Schulze wasn’t a “good fit” for Bainbridge.)
Also in the compliant, Peltier said that Schulze had told the council in a June 15, 2018 email that he had accepted a job interview with another city. That announcement came about three weeks after the council approved a new contract with the city’s police chief, Peltier recounted, and another email followed on June 29 where Schulze told the council he was a finalist for the job in Banning.
Peltier says lack of new contract for Schulze was factor
Peltier also added that he thought a majority of the council were not in favor of negotiating a new employment contract with Schulze.
Peltier said in his complaint that the Kitsap Sun newspaper article created a “considerable amount of tension on the city council, particularly between me and other council members. This has in turn resulted in the community taking sides.”
Peltier also blamed Schulze for the ensuing fallout, including an Aug. 14 council meeting where a citizen mentioned the article while criticizing Peltier during the public comment portion of the meeting — which prompted an extended outburst by Peltier where he called the citizen a liar seven times, and led to an ethics complaint against Peltier with Bainbridge’s Ethics Board. (At its meeting Feb. 26, the council concurred with that ethics complaint and council members repeatedly told Peltier his behavior was unacceptable.)
In the first ICMA complaint, Peltier also attacked Lisa Schulze over her Facebook posts on Bainbridge issues, and complained that he had been again called a bully on the social media platform.
Peltier said he didn’t “believe for a second” that Doug Schulze resigned over the reasons he had stated publicly, but that Schulze realized he would not be getting a new contract with the city of Bainbridge.
Schulze had recently started to embrace the “environmentalist leanings” of the council, Peltier said, and the councilman questioned why Schulze was working so hard “to show he was in tune” with the council when he was looking for another job. “It was very odd and seemed extremely unprofessional,” Peltier wrote.
In the complaint, Peltier also complained that the council had been subject to increased criticism, specifically over a “landmark tree ordinance” that Peltier supported but had included a $25,000 fine for anyone who illegally removes a landmark tree.
“One citizen commented to me shortly after it was approved, ‘You’ve just gone too far this time,’” Peltier wrote in the complaint.
In the second ethics complaint with the ICMA, dated Jan. 19, Peltier again pointed to the departure of the then-police Hamner, but said Doug Schulze was laying the groundwork to recruit the chief to a position in Banning while Schulze was still under contract with the city of Bainbridge Island.
Peltier voted twice against giving Hamner a new contract last year.
When asked why he filed the complaint over Hamner’s departure, given that he did not support the contracts proposed last year to retain the chief, Peltier told the Review: “I liked Chief Hamner and was sad to see him leave. I voted against the contract because it made him the highest paid police chief for a city our size in Western Washington, including Mercer Island, not because of any concerns I had about him as a police chief.”
Bainbridge’s Ethic Board has not yet scheduled a discussion of the latest complaint against Peltier.
‘Let me know how it looks’
In that complaint, Lisa Schulze said Peltier’s second submittal to the ICMA including information Peltier had obtained that came from a closed meeting of the Banning City Council, and the disclosure violated California law.
“Mr. Peltier would have no knowledge or proof of any conversation between the Banning City Council and Doug [Schulze] that occurred in closed session,” she wrote. “Communicating this information through an ethics complaint to ICMA lacked integrity and was dishonest.”
She said that information was confidential, and her complaint included emails between Peltier and Peterson, a Banning councilman.
One of those emails, dated Jan. 11, was sent by Peltier to Peterson. Peltier told Peterson he was going to file an ethics complaint against Doug Schulze for trying to “poach our police chief” while Schulze was still employed by Bainbridge.
Peltier also said he was going to copy Peterson on the message to the ICMA and sent Peterson his draft complaint, adding, “let me know how it looks.”
Peterson responded, “This is great. Don’t send it yet, and I will forward my Grand Jury complaint to you.”
Peltier responded later: “Thanks. Too bad we’re not on the same city council!”
Peltier later sent Peterson both complaints he had filed with the ICMA.
After Doug Schulze became the subject of Facebook criticism over the complaints, Peltier sent an email to a Bainbridge supporter with a link to the Facebook comments and added: “They don’t mess around in Banning, CA. D. Schulze doesn’t seem too popular there.”
The next day, Peltier emailed Peterson again over the outrage on social media and said, “God, hilarious. And Doug wanted to be involved in ‘positive community building.’”
The following day, Jan. 25, Peltier emailed Peterson with the message: “I think you should ask Doug how much ‘passion’ he’s feeling for his job about now.”
Peterson shot back: “LOL, we’re just getting started.”