Ethics complaints filed against Bainbridge Councilman Peltier, Councilwoman Nassar

Two ethics complaints have been filed against Bainbridge Island Councilman Ron Peltier, and a third has been filed against his colleague on the council, Councilwoman Rasham Nassar.

The complaints against Peltier follow a council meeting in late August where a resident accused the first-term councilman of being a bully and raised concerns about his behavior and comments he allegedly has made to community members in public settings and on social media.

Peltier declined to comment at length on the complaints, which have been forwarded to the city’s Ethics Board.

In the most recent complaint, filed on Sept. 12, Chip McDermott said Peltier wanted the speed limit lowered on Lovell Avenue Northwest because the councilman had a home there.

The request came during a meeting between the Slow on Grow Committee, of which McDermott is a member, and Peltier and Nassar at city hall.

In his complaint, McDermott recalled how Grow Avenue residents had long pressed the city to lower the speed limit on Grow from 25 to 20 mph from High School Road to Winslow Way West.

The meeting with Nassar — which followed multiple earlier meetings with city officials, a petition drive supported by more than 100 Grow residents, and the committee’s creation of a three-step plan to reduce speed and traffic on Grow — was held soon after she was elected to the council, McDermott said.

Peltier was brought in to the meeting by Nassar, McDermott said, “to assist her, the new council person, in navigating the process.”

During the meeting, McDermott recounted the work of the Slow on Grow Committee over the previous months, which included meetings with city officials and others on the council.

McDermott said that he and another committee member pressed Nassar and Peltier on lowering the speed limit along the entire length of Grow to 20 mph.

“Ron’s basic position was this: I can help you, but I want 20 mph on Lovell, too,” McDermott said in his complaint.

McDermott said he was upset that Lovell Avenue NW had been casually thrown in to the Slow on Grow proposal, and pressed Peltier to explain why he wanted that neighboring street included.

McDermott claimed Peltier tried to ignore the question, but eventually offered, “because if you drop Upper Grow — in particular — to 20 mph, all Upper Grow traffic will then move over to Lovell.”

In the complaint, McDermott said he thought the explanation sounded “implausible, if not a bit ridiculous,” and asked if Peltier had any data or evidence to back up his rationale.

“Pressed again, finally, Ron said, ‘I have a home on Lovell.’

“I got a pit in my stomach,” McDermott added. “Small-town, old-boy politics at its worst.”

“The kicker came next,” McDermott continued. “When I pressed him further asking how he could do this (to us — ostensibly for the Grow Avenue residents) he said, to the effect: ‘Hey, I’m a councilman,’ with an uncomfortable smile.”

The earlier ethics complaint against Peltier dates to Sept. 4.

David Johnson, a Bainbridge resident, said Peltier “derided emails and documents I sent to the council; commanded me to do further research for him; and (writing as a council member) threatened not to take my position ‘seriously’ unless I did that research.”

“Mr. Peltier thus engaged in bullying behavior — by using his council authority to compel a constituent to do what he demanded,” Johnson said in his complaint.

The emails were sent to the council in March 2017 as it was considering a proposal for a public takeover of Puget Sound Energy’s power system on Bainbridge.

Johnson said he had been asked by Peltier earlier to pass along information to the council on PSE.

Later, when Johnson did, he said Peltier “lashed out with intemperate and abusive language.”

Johnson included emails from Peltier as exhibits in his ethics complaint, including one where Peltier told Johnson it was “disingenuous for you to suggest you are a neutral source of objective information” and said the emails and other information Johnson shared “seem intent upon denigrating the Island Power campaign and supporting PSE.”

Johnson said other citizens had also called out Peltier for his behavior.

“The voters will review Mr. Peltier’s behavior at next year’s election. They’ll decide whether he should serve another term on the council,” Johnson said in his complaint. “Until then, he needs to understand that it’s unacceptable for a council member to abuse and bully people. We deserve better than that.”

Contacted last week, Peltier said he was awaiting the Ethic’s Board review of Johnson’s complaint.

“I don’t really see any point in commenting,” Peltier said in an email Friday.

“The Ethics Board has the complaint and the email that is allegedly offensive and allegedly in violation of the city’s ethics program. I’m just waiting to see if the ethics board finds any merit in the complaint,” Peltier said.

“I’m confident the Ethics Board will do their job in considering the merits of the complaint,” he added.

The Ethics Board will also review a third complaint, made against Councilwoman Nassar by Frank Gremse, the former chairman of the Environmental Technical Advisory Committee.

In the Sept. 5 complaint, Gremse said he was unfairly removed as committee chairman after he raised concerns about a candidate who had applied to serve on the committee.

Gremse said Nassar, who is the council liaison to the committee, asked for his removal. Gremse said he did not object to the vote that removed him from the ETAC, but claimed that the process used to dismiss him was unethical and “violated the principles of truthfulness, beneficence and justice.”

Gremse said he was not told of the impending council vote to remove him, and said that Nassar did not talk to him about anything he did that was objectionable, despite her contending she did.

He also said he was not given the chance to respond to the allegations that were passed along to the council.

Nassar did not respond to a request for comment on the complaint from the Review.

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