Clallam’s director of community development ‘both relieved and pleased’ after state says she committed no crime
Sheila Roark Miller
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
Print This | Email This
Look for Santa's Toy and Food Fire Brigade tonight through Friday night in Sequim neighborhoods -- 12/9/13 -11:20 PM
Today's PDN Page 1 . . . and read faster, absorb more -- 12/9/13 -07:04 PM
PENINSULA HOME FUND — A 'hand-up' as a former social worker remakes his life -- 12/9/13 -07:01 PM
Breakfast special (with a free Peninsula Daily News) continues at 'The Bear' in Sequim -- 12/3/13 -06:20 PM
She had said she backdated the application because it was not processed in a timely manner and would have made the applicant subject to additional water-use rules.
State Assistant Attorney General Scott Marlow also reviewed two incidents for possible charges that involved Roark Miller’s decision not to seek enforcement on a land-use matter and a building inspection on property owned by her.
None warranted criminal charges, he decided.
Actions related to the backdating “were not taken with criminal malice or intent, but rather to correct an error made by the office that could have resulted in liability on behalf of Clallam County,” Marlow said in his four-page report, released Friday.
“I’ve been saying that all along,” said Roark Miller, Roark Miller, the nation’s only elected department of community development director, the same day.
“I’m both relieved and pleased.”
Marlow had reviewed up to seven possible charges that grew out of a Feb. 21 whistle-blower complaint.
They were injury to a public record, injury to and misappropriation of a record, offering a false instrument for filing or record and misappropriation and falsification of accounts by a public officer, all felonies; and official misconduct, false report and public officer making false certificates, a gross misdemeanor.
They were presented as options following an investigation by county’s human resources department law firm, Bullard Law of Portland, Ore., which issued a 57-page report that has not been made public.
In an interview, Marlow said that being an elected official gives Roark Miller broad discretionary power, as does the amendment to the county’s home-rule charter that makes the position an elected office, which she won in 2010.
The overall bill related to the investigation into Roark Miller was $76,209 as of Tuesday, including $67,109 to Bullard Law, the bulk of which was for an investigator, and $9,100 for legal representation for Roark Miller.
The county’s investigation into the Feb. 21 whistle-blower complaint that led to Bullard Law’s investigation will now be concluded, County Administrator Jim Jones said Friday.
“We had to wait for the criminality to be determined,” he said.
“Now, it becomes a personnel issue.”
Here are the three incidents Marlow reviewed:
■ In January, Miller had ordered her staff to backdate to December 2012 a permit for a $614,371 Agnew-area mushroom-growing business.
The error that led her to backdate the permit “was not discovered until Jan. 8, 2013, and thus the new . . . regulations and costs would apply to the application,” Marlow said.
The Dungeness water rule, which calls for water mitigation, came into effect Jan. 2.
The regulations would “substantially increase” building-permit costs and delay the issuance of permits because of new administrative requirements, Marlow said.
“Ms. Miller determined that the application was substantially complete when the building plans were submitted to the DCD in December of 2012, and thus the DCD could potentially be held liable for not promptly issuing the permit.”
■ Marlow determined Roark Miller was not criminally liable for her house-remodel project being inspected by an unauthorized inspector who was not on the clock.
“The fact that it was the contractor who called and requested that [the inspector] come out to do the inspection removes the matter from criminal consideration with regard to Ms. Miller,” Marlow said in the report.
■ Marlow reviewed an incident that involved an applicant for a freestanding deck in which Roark Miller decided not to proceed with land-use enforcement.
The person’s application indicated there was a suspected unpermitted dwelling unit on the applicant’s commercial property next to where the deck was to be built, Marlow said in his report, which did not identify the applicant.
A DCD employee gave the applicant information on how to bring the dwelling unit into compliance.
But Roark Miller told the applicant to resubmit an application solely for the deck without information indicating the existence of the dwelling unit.
Roark Miller directed her staff to process the newly submitted application as opposed to the original application.
Marlow said that as the elected DCD director, Roark Miller can set office policy, including the degree to which the office will focus on enforcement.
“Based upon the investigation conducted, it appears that Ms. Miller has decided that DCD should focus not on enforcement, but rather upon the processing of permit applications as they are received by the office,” Marlow wrote.
“This is a policy consideration that even when reduced to the specific instance cited does not arise to criminal conduct.”
In an interview, Marlow said Roark Miller, unlike an appointed official, has broad discretionary power as an elected official and is accountable to voters.
If Roark Miller were an appointed official, she would be accountable to the county commissioners.
“If she were appointed, she would not have that level of specific discretion provided for in the home-rule charter,” Marlow said.
“We want them to have that authority and discretion of elected office.
“That broadens what they can do.”
Roark Miller, a former county building inspector with 23 years at the DCD, said that under the International Building Code, she could have done what she did even as an appointed official.
“I not only have broad authority as an elected official, but I have broad authority under the building code to make those decisions, and that’s why the public elected me,” she said.
Marlow said he did not address “morale and management issues in the office” that were cited in Bullard Law’s investigation.
Roark Miller would not comment on those issues.
“I think it’s important that the next phase of the whistle-blower complaint be resolved before I make any comment on how my permit center is managed and any other issues they may have,” she said.
Among the whistle-blower allegations was the assertion that DCD employees “are being placed in awkward situations because our director has an active building permit and seems to be utilizing her power in order to get special privileges that are not granted to the public.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: August 24. 2013 5:47PM