Representatives of local group chide charter commission about DCD position

Editorial by Lois Krafsky-Perry
for Citizen Review Online

June 5, 2007 

Port Angeles, WA –Clallam County Home Rule Charter commissioners have been challenged on several occasions by The League of Women Voters (LWV) to revisit the charter position of an elected Director of Community Development (DCD), and bring the option to the voters to change the position back to an appointed one.

Approximately 15 citizens attended the June 4 meeting at the county courthouse, most of whom testified at this public hearing – and most representing the League of Women Voters. Thirteen of the 15 freeholders were in attendance, as well as Mark Nichols, Clallam County Prosecuting attorney.

Although the local League has 70 members in the county, according to member Vicci Rudin, they make some decisions by consensus, according to testimony at the meeting.  Consensus is a process by which a majority vote is not required.  Two Port Angeles members, Sonja Rotter and Rudin read a statement representing the League, which touted their stand on issues. When questioned by charter members, it was determined that their letter was submitted by consensus. The Home Rule Charter commission’s decisions are by vote, according to Roberts Rules of Order. 

The hot issue for this election term is the desire of some, including the LWV, towards the changing the elected position Department of Community Development (DCD) director back to an appointed one. Five years ago, the Commission heard from scores of citizens about the abuses of the DCD director and his department – and most wanted the position to be an elected one.  At that time, the commission voted to place the issue on the ballot, and 57 percent of the voters decided to make the DCD an elected position. Clallam County is the only county in the nation to have an elected DCD director. 

Rob Robertsen of Port Angeles was the first to hold the elected position of DCD director.
The second elected DCD director, John Miller, was also elected as a freeholder and serves as chair of the charter commission.

Although many have testified that the two elected directors have done an excellent job, some League representatives and a few others who have testified, imply that the voters have made a frivolous mistake. When questioned by charter members about their complaints about the elected position, arguments by some appear to be based on hypothetical ideas and fears.

Reasons given for an appointed position include: people should trust the county commissioners for decisions, by the DCD director and also leave it up to them and count on the three commissioners to make the right decision as to whether the DCD director stays or leaves the job.  Others say that there may not be many qualified people who would have expertise, who could run for the office, and be able to do the job correctly.

Although the past and present elected DCD has done their jobs well, some say there may be a problem in the future when someone would be elected who is not qualified. They say there might be problems later if the elected person is not qualified. The insinuation is that the electorate cannot make wise decisions in researching and voting for a DCD director.

The voters need to be smarter and know the real issues before they vote, according to some of the speakers.  Many do not believe a wise vote was cast in the last election.

Pat Willits of Port Angeles (also a League member), at an earlier meeting, spoke of the need to go outside the local area and “cast a broad net” nationwide to hire/appoint a person with the “expertise” to handle the job.

Although some have given glowing reports of the past elected DCD director and the current one, complaints by Willits, and also Rudin and Rotter, who read from a prepared letter, League members believe that there were problems in the past term with personnel changes, stormwater plans may be on hold, and problems in budgeting.  No examples were given for some of the accusations.

Patty Adler, an elected freeholder from Forks asked Rudin,  “Is there some language that something happened, to tell them (the voters) that they had voted wrong?” Rod Fleck, Forks City attorney, another elected charter member answered, “people did not vote wrong…”

Ed Chadd a former president of the League of Women Voters also testified.  Although he works for the county, he said he was speaking as an individual.  He said he had participated in past consensus discussions about the DCD director and admitted he is a member of the League. When speaking on one issue, Chadd turned towards Rudin, who was seated behind the podium and asked, “Am I allowed to speak about this?” He apologetically said, he did not remember how he made the “pledge”.

Chadd also stated that he did not think people pay much attention to the DCD election.
Terry Roth, elected freeholder from Port Angeles, who also had served on the last commission, said, “five years ago the complaints of the DCD director were that the system was then failing.”

Bob Martin, former DCD appointed director testified in Sequim in May and suggested that no changes be made for awhile, to give the new system a chance to work.
Many citizens have testified in favor of the DCD director position remaining as elected and think it is ridiculous to consider placing it on the ballot again.  They believe it would be a waste of time and resources and also take time and resources from other important issues, such as “no new taxes”.  Many have spoken on behalf of the voters’ decisions.
Some of the same people who have testified in favor of an appointed position have admitted on the record that they believe the past and present director have and are doing a great job and they have no complaints.  The reservations are based on, “what might happen.”

There are many decisions facing the freeholders and it is time with only a few more meetings to get serious and prioritize what goes on the ballot and let the voters decide.
There are many individual thinkers out there who know how to research issues and make their own determinations.



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