New Bainbridge park commissioner is no-show at most meetings

Now you see him, now you don’t.

That’s been the case since Michael Pollock joined the board of commissioners for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District as its newest member in January.

Pollock has missed more meetings than he has attended since the start of his term this year.

According to a review of the official minutes of commission meetings, Pollock has missed 11 of 21 park board meetings through November, including an intensive budget workshop as well as the meeting last month where commissioners approved the park district’s budgets for 2019.

His absences started his very first month as a park commissioner and have followed a predictable pattern; he attends the first meeting of the month, but always misses the second one, held every third Thursday.

Pollock said this week he has an ongoing commitment on the third Thursday of every month, and it can’t be changed.

He said that commitment was religious in nature, and declined to offer any other details.

“It’s a personal commitment,” he said.

Pollock was elected to a six-year term in November, unseating longtime incumbent Kirk Robinson for the Commissioner Position 5 on the board.

While he attended the first meeting in January, where he was sworn in, he missed the next meeting, one that included training on Washington state’s public access laws. (District records indicate he finished the required training online.)

At the next meeting in early February, he announced his conflict with the board’s meeting schedule. Pollock asked his fellow commissioners to change the second meeting date, but the board wasn’t willing.

“I didn’t realize there was so little flexibility,” Pollock said.

Pollock said he also suggested that the board meet just once a month. That idea also went nowhere.

“In my opinion, we could consolidate the meetings and we wouldn’t be missing much,” he said.

After skipping the late March meeting, and the late April meeting, records show, Pollock returned to the board for the first meeting in May and asked commissioners to consider moving the park board’s meeting from the district’s headquarters hub at Strawberry Hill Center to Bainbridge Island City Hall, and also asked that the meetings be taped and shown on television.

Commissioners objected to changing the longtime location for its meeting, and noted the disruption it would cause to staff to move everyone down to city hall for meetings, as well as the confusion it would cause the public, which often mistakes the park district as a part of municipal government. Others questioned the cost of filming meetings and said it wasn’t necessary.

Pollock said everything that he has brought up as a solution, or a partial solution, was “rejected almost out of hand” by his fellow board members.

“That’s how it is. It’s 4 to 1. That’s how democracy works,” he said.

When asked if the missed meetings had impacted the quality of his public service, Pollock said he was giving “110 percent.”

And when reminded that the board meetings give residents the unique chance of addressing the park board as a whole, in public, Pollock downplayed the public’s interest in the meetings.

“Honestly, the attendance at these meetings is pretty minimal,” he said. “It’s not like we’re getting a big stand-up crowd every night.”

“I don’t think attending the meetings, per se, is really as much as an issue as keeping the pace with the issues,” Pollock said, and added that he has spent a significant amount of time researching specific topics that have come before the board.

He also noted that he’s kept up by using social media, having one-on-one conversations with islanders, or small group sessions, and talking with park staff and his fellow commissioners.

Pollock is not a newcomer to serving as an elected official. He was a Bainbridge councilman from 1999 to 2003.

He said his outside commitment for the third Thursday of every month predates his joining the parks board. It didn’t come up during the campaign, he said, because he figured he could get the second meeting date changed.

Pollock said he expects to continue missing the second meeting of each month through the rest of his term.

“Any other day or another time on most days, I would be able to attend,” he said.