Clallam treasurer claims county administrator lied about attorney general’s landfill loan opinion

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Treasurer Selinda Barkhuis said the county’s chief executive lied about a state attorney general’s opinion regarding the county’s ability to loan the city of Port Angeles $7.75 million for its landfill bluff-stabilization project.

Commissioners Monday took no action on a 36-page report that Barkhuis prepared in order to “correct” County Administrator Jim Jones’ Sept. 30 explanation of the attorney general’s opinion, in which Jones said the county could loan money to a junior taxing district.

“If Mr. Jones is willing to lie about an attorney general opinion on the record, what else is he willing to lie about?” Barkhuis asked in a Monday email.

The three commissioners on Sept. 30 denied the city’s request for money to help pay to move a cell of garbage at the city’s shuttered landfill that is on the verge of slipping into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Jones on Monday stood by his advice to commissioners that the county could loan the money.

“The transcript proves that I didn’t say what she said I did,” Jones said. “I stand by what I said.”

Jones declined further comment.

“That is a gross misinterpretation of the attorney general opinion, and I just want to correct the record,” Barkhuis told commissioners.

“The county commissioners do not have the discretion, the sole discretion, to loan funds . . . out of the county general fund, the road fund and the capital projects fund,” Barkhuis said.

After the meeting, Barkhuis questioned the need for Clallam County to have an administrator.

“I personally think we can do without it,” she said.

“It would save the county a lot of money.”

Commissioners on Monday also rejected Barkhuis’ request to reconsider a 5-percent pay cut that a charter-exempt, non-union-represented employee took in January.

The nonpartisan elected treasurer said her employee was directed to work “whatever hours it takes to get the job done” in an understaffed office while similar administrative personnel in the Sheriff’s Office did not take the same pay cut.

Commissioners Mike Chapman and Jim McEntire discussed both of Barkhuis’ agenda items as one.

“My view of both of them is that you’re asking us, essentially, to relitigate two issues that were addressed in the past,” said McEntire, Barkhuis’ board liaison.

“One, through the budget, had to do with charter-exempt, non-represented pay scales. And the second one is, of course, an issue that the commission demurred on, decided not to loan funds.”

“I’m not sure why we’re being asked to go back and plow old ground,” McEntire added.

“I’m just not willing to go back and re-litigate these two issues. They’re both closed and over with, in my view.”

Commissioner Mike Chapman agreed.

“I’ve said what I needed to say in the past,” said Chapman, who then told Barkhuis she’s welcome back any time.

Commissioner Mike Doherty participated in the start of the meeting by phone but left for another commitment prior to the discussion on employee pay and the attorney general’s opinion.

After the meeting, Barkhuis said she will take her concerns to the Charter Review Commission, a 15-member panel for which she is running in the November election.

Barkhuis is running unopposed for a second four-year term as treasurer.

“I will be bringing up my concerns with how county government functions at this time and the position of the county administrator,” Barkhuis said.

Jones declined to comment on the notion of the county eliminating the administrator’s job.

Barkhuis sent a mass email to Jones and 30 other county officials June 19 asking the county to record its annual elected official-department head budget meetings.

“Unless they are recorded, and I can hold you accountable for your statements, I see no point in attending them,” she wrote.

Barkhuis wrote in the email she wanted to discuss the rationale for her employee taking a 5 percent pay cut, the “gross lack of transparency” that accompanied the pay cut and why her employee hasn’t received a 2012 cost of living raise to which she is entitled.

Jones replied in a June 23 email that the county decided not to record the preliminary budget meetings when they were reinstituted eight years ago “so that everyone could freely speak their minds.”

“As for all the other issues you have brought up, these were decisions made and administrated at the direction of the BOCC (Board of County Commissioners), during the budget process and are more appropriately discussed privately with me, or with your commissioner liaison, Commissioner McEntire,” Jones wrote.

Barkhuis maintained that her concerns were “very relevant” after the work session.

“It calls into question the integrity of the county administrator,” Barkhuis said.

“I think that that’s a very relevant, ongoing issue.”

Barkhuis said she had hoped for more of a reaction from the board.

She wrote in a Monday email that employee morale at the courthouse is “subzero” because of pay cuts and offices being understaffed.

Barkhuis said she raised her concerns Monday because it took time to “cross my t’s and dot my i’s.”

“I said what I had to say,” Barkhuis said.

“In my opinion, it is not over and done with. It is not moot.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 30. 2014 6:42PM
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