Clallam County Freeholders hear opinions of local citizens

By Lois Krafsky-Perry   Citizen Review   
March 20, 2007

 Sequim, WA -    Clallam County Home Rule Charter (HRC) commissioners hosted a public meeting, March 19, at Guy Cole Convention Center, in Sequim.
This was the second meeting designed to take public testimony about possible changes to the Charter. Attending citizen numbers equaled the number of twelve attending commissioners, as the sparse group gathered to offer input.

The chair, John Miller, mentioned the three absent members of the commission and asked Sue Forde to speak later about her personal website. Forde has developed a website for disseminating information about the actions and documents received for the benefit of the public.  The website address is

Miller also explained that a PA system would be set up for Nelson Cone, who would be showing a visual on Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).  Cone, a member of the Green Party (Club) by his own admission, has shared his views at some of the previous charter meetings.

After modifications to the agenda and approval of minutes, the commissioners shared information from their committee reports.

The committee topics are: Initiative/Referendum, IRV or Voting in Elections, Commissioners/County Administrator, Elected Officials, and General Provisions - Eminent Domain.

Miller explained after the March 5 meeting, he met with “the Chief Civil Deputy” Mark Nichols about the joining the committee on Eminent Domain.  Miller said because of the “Doctrine of Compatibility,” he needed to remove himself from the committee because, “I may have to rule on an appropriate situation.”

Letters were shared listing pros and cons on various subjects. The most discussed subject was election or appointment of the DCD. Some arguments for the elected and against the appointed position are:  It has been successful with the DCD as an elected position, local people, who know the county should be elected, the voters have overwhelmingly decided and it should stand as it is, the voters can make intelligent decisions and know how to select their candidates.
Some arguments for the appointed and against the elected position are: the local citizenry may not have the capabilities of making intelligent decision in voting, voters may not understand, anyone can run for office, some may not be qualified enough, the county commissioners should make the appointments, county commissioners should have more decision/power in the selection, and other counties or states are not electing their DCD.
Some are under the impression that the vote for elected DCD was for a trial period of time.

“I think the DCD should be elected, it is good answerability for them,” said Andy Nisbet, during public testimony.  He gave an overview of county history and also testified on other issues. Nisbet served as an elected Clallam County Port Commissioner and was also elected to Washington State House of Representatives.

Nisbet said the charter should be amended every five years.  Some are asking that it be done every ten years. “Ten years is too long to wait for changing, especially here in Clallam County,” he said.  He also asked the commission to consider five members for the county commissioners.   The Sequim resident addressed the Initiative/Referendum section and stated the importance of giving the voters power.  “They (voters) are the only ones who know what is best for the people.  Initiative/referendum should be part of the charter as simple as possible,” remarked Nisbet.

Haroldine Nisbet suggested that five districts would make the east and west ends of the county feel more represented.  She also recommended performance audits set up.  “It costs money to set up, but where it is used it saves a tremendous amount of money,” offered Nisbet.  She said Brian would come and give a presentation. Brian Sonntag is Washington State Auditor. “Give the DCD another five years.  It is working now and they have plenty of specialists working for them,” she said.

Fred Norton, chairman of Clallam County Republican Party, testified before the Freeholders and said Washington experienced the 2004 voter fraud. “King County changed and now we have similar for Clallam County---IRV scheme a one-way political party,” announced Norton.  He said it was an undemocratic system.

Board member Tom Shindler asked Norton if money was not an issue “what is less democratic”?  Norton answered, “one political party to achieve a lot….it’s a bad idea.”

Nelson Cone, was allowed fifteen minutes for his visual presentation on IRV.  He then answered questions from the commission. 

Freeholder, Terry Roth of Port Angeles asked Cone if he was a Green Party club member and Cone answered affirmatively. “Do you see this as a challenge of one man one vote,” asked Roth.    Cone said, “no….maybe my concept is wrong.”

Cone said if the it was done here, “the state would have to catch up to us.”  He said North Carolina tried it a couple of years ago and it was not a success.  “So we would need to go to the people,” suggested Cone.
Dave Cummins, commissioner from Sequim thanked Cone for the visual and told him it would be helpful to use actual numbers from Clallam County or our state as the actual count. “Lots of voting to get screwed up,” remarked Cummins.

 Marianne Grant of the League of Women Voters read a statement and reviewed the leagues interest in the HRC.

She asked that the DCD be an appointed position. When asked by Roth, “what are the requirements for county commissioners according to the league?”, Grant responded that “the county commissioners have advisors and then they make up their minds on how to vote on issues.”

Freeholder Rod Fleck, Forks city attorney, asked who the county commissioners reported to as two commissioners could not discuss.  When Grant apparently did not answer the question to his satisfaction, Fleck said, “then go back to the problems we had five years ago.”

Bob Lynette, a Sequim resident and consultant for wind energy, also spoke at length. Lynette has served on local planning commissions. He said he would like to see the DCD as an appointed position.  “An environmental or construction group could submit $20,000 and get a person elected…” he said. When freeholder Randy Simmons asked, “couldn’t you also hand county commissioners money?”  Lynette answered, “probably $30,000.”

Former DCD director Bob Martin testified and made a plea for the appointed position over the elected position.  Martin was not elected five years ago, when the voters exercised their will to make the position elected rather than appointed by the county commissioners.  “When I left we were to being compliant with the GMA.  Some may say that’s good.  Being in compliance determines what grant money all have access to,” determined Martin. He complained that the storm water programs “still don’t have an ordinance.”

Martin was questioned why Clallam County needs to be a charter county and offered his “objective view”.  “What has it accomplished?  Very few,” he answered. He said, “the
Initiative/Referendum, haven’t been used since I’ve been here.”

Fleck asked Martin who the DCD was accountable to five years ago. Fleck voiced concern on how to ensure level of accountability.  (Martin was the appointed DCD director at that time). “In eight years there was no doubt as to who I reported to or who gave me my marching orders,” remarked Martin.  “Your testimony has not changed in five years,” declared Fleck.

Bob Forde of Sequim, who is elected to Clallam County Conservation District, affirmed the need for the DCD position to remain an elected position.  When explaining one of the problems with an appointed DCD position he said, “We are a small county---an outsider does not know the history of the county.”

The next town meeting of the HRC for taking public testimony will be held April 2 in Forks.


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