Clallam County commissioners debate Department of Community Development issues

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners Mike Doherty and Mike Chapman sparred Monday over several issues related to the Department of Community Development, including a recent investigative report on employee complaints about its director.

The long-time colleagues debated in a spirited work session over whether the board had a “substantive discussion” after a 515-page report about DCD Director Sheila Roark Miller was made public in April.

The report by investigator and former FBI Agent Ken Bauman on the nation’s only elected community development director was prompted by a whistleblower allegation by a DCD employee in February 2013.

It grew into an exploration of a backdated building permit and office morale.

Assistant State Attorney General Scott Marlow declined to recommend the filing of any charges, and the report contained no formal recommendation to the board.

Commissioner Jim McEntire and Chapman voted May 5 not to consider the matter further.

Doherty voted no, calling for a board review of the “serious allegations” contained in the report.

“What was the result of the DCD report?” Doherty asked Chapman Monday.

“The word was ‘it’s concluded.’ How do you decide it was concluded without substantive discussion?”

Chapman said commissioners spent “multiple hours” on the subject in closed-door executive sessions.

“I don’t know what your game is here, but you’re not being fair when you say we did not have substantive discussion,” Chapman said, raising his voice.

“What you’re not saying is we talked about it in executive session and we can’t release what we talked about. Now damn it, you’ve got to be more fair about this.”

Chapman asked Doherty if he would waive the executive session privilege.

“Some portions, I definitely would,” Doherty said. “First of all, [the allegations] deal with the trust of people in their government. A lot of people think that [board vote] was a cover-up.”

The debate was triggered by a Wednesday letter from Roark Miller to the state Liquor Control Board protesting the placement of a marijuana growing operation near Klahhane Gymnastics on Acorn Lane in Port Angeles.

While he supported the letter, Doherty said the board has been deferring citizen inquiries about legalized recreational marijuana to the Department of Community Development, and DCD is “not answering those property owners.”

Chapman disputed the notion that the board has not taken a position on the pot law.

“I actually have weighed in, and I’ve talked to Director Miller, and I think she agrees. If you can regulate where a church goes in this county, you should be able, through zoning, to regulate where a marijuana grow op goes,” Chapman said.

Chapman has stated publicly that he opposes an outright moratorium on recreational marijuana.

“I’m in favor of looking at the zoning of where these go, just like we look at the zoning where a church can go, where any retail establishment can go.”

“There are appropriate places in this county that should be allowed for marijuana because that’s now the law of the land,” said Chapman, referring to voter-approved Initiative 502.

Roark Miller said she could not devote more resources to the marijuana issue because of staff cutbacks.

“It’s not only cutbacks, it’s a morale issue, too,” Doherty said.

“Good employees have left. It’s a whole other issue that I think should be looked into, but my colleagues don’t want to look into it.

“There’s a whole DCD report we paid a lot of money for, and it implies some mismanagement, to be honest, let alone some personal financial conflicts, and nobody wants to discuss that.”

Clallam County was billed $82,445 in costs related to the whistleblower complaint: $68,469 for the report and $13,976 in legal fees for Roark Miller’s legal counsel, Ken Bagwell of Silverdale.

Doherty, who announced in May that he would retire when his current term expires Dec. 31, took aim at Roark Miller’s handling of a stalled stormwater management plan.

Roark Miller will face Port Angeles architect Mary Ellen Winborn in her bid for a second four-year term.

“There are case law now developing that when you defer something like stormwater, the local government is liable for impacts of not implementing that policy,” Doherty said.

“I’m afraid now we will not qualify for stormwater grants because we’re not moving on the policy from the local level up, and then people get upset when the state or federal government comes in because local government didn’t take responsibility.”

Chapman said Doherty was “giving a great speech” for Roark Miller’s political opponent, but voters will decide whether they appreciate her work.

Doherty repeated a call for a “factual analysis” of the DCD report.

Chapman said the county hired a private investigator and referred the complaint to the state auditor, state Attorney General’s Office and county prosecuting attorney.

“To sit here and say the board did nothing is complete gross misrepresentation of what this board just did, including writing the check,” said Chapman, referring to the cost of the investigation.

Chapman said Roark Miller has been “completely exonerated” in all forums.

“We didn’t even have a discussion,” Doherty countered.

“Two board members said ‘This is done. We’re not talking about it anymore.’”

Said Chapman: “That’s completely wrong. We had multiple discussions, multiple executive sessions.”

McEntire agreed.

“We have talked about this ad nauseam, and I certainly would like to move on to the next agenda item,” McEntire said.

Doherty complained that his fellow commissioners had not read the full report before their May 5 vote. He added that the report should have been made public sooner.

“We owe to the employees and the residents of the county a substantive discussion of a $100,000 study that shows some indication of some problems,” Doherty said.

Doherty said he plans to schedule future work sessions about the DCD report, stormwater management, marijuana policy, the Dungeness water rule, climate change and other Community Development matters.

Chapman asked Doherty to stop making assumptions about his positions.

“State your position,” Chapman said.

“I’ll state mine. And the public will understand what the position is.

“But this ‘two commissioners refuse,’ would you quit saying that? You cannot document that two commissioners refuse.

“Two commissioners may disagree, may have different viewpoints,” Chapman added.

“Hell, the three of us often have different viewpoints on any one issue.

“But to say ‘two commissioners refused to take action, refused to do their job, refused to look into things,’ I’m calling you out on that.”

________

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

Last modified: July 28. 2014 7:22PM
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