Port Angeles City Council outlaws profanity from its members

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd’s suggestion prompted by Councilman Lee Whetham’s words.

Lee Whetham

PORT ANGELES — City Councilman Lee Whetham’s two “hell yes” proclamations Aug. 2 prompted Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd to successfully suggest banning profanity by council members, Kidd said Wednesday.

The prohibition was contained in 17 pages of new council rules of procedure — some of which apply only to the council and some of which also apply to the public — that the council approved Tuesday 6-1, with Whetham voting no.

Only council members are specifically prohibited from using profanity.

The rules forbid the public and council members from disrupting the proceedings of the council or refusing to obey the orders of the presiding officer or the rules of protocol.

Such disruption could include “irrelevant or repetitious speech,” booing, people speaking after their allotted time is up, “other speech or behavior that disrupts the orderly conduct of the council meetings” and displaying signs.

Any person disrupting a meeting “shall be asked to cease such disruption,” according to the rules.

The prior rules were revised following vigorous City Council discussions and public comment sessions in 2015 and this year that focused on community water fluoridation.

Whetham’s comments cited by Kidd occurred Aug. 2, when the council discontinued fluoridation temporarily on a 4-3 vote at least until a Nov. 7, 2017, advisory election.

That partially reversed a 4-3 Dec. 15 decision to continue fluoridation for 10 years after Mayor Patrick Downie switched sides.

Whetham was on the winning side Aug. 2 and the losing side Dec. 15.

The roles were reversed for Kidd, a fluoridation proponent.

Whetham did not return repeated calls for comment Wednesday.

“Will we have a list of profane words?” Whetham asked Kidd at Tuesday’s meeting.

Kidd responded that she did not want people to “use profanity, period.”

She said, “That’s my contribution.”

During a break in Tuesday’s meeting, City Attorney Bill Bloor said he did not know the definition of profanity as it will relate to the new rules of procedure.

“I’ll have to do some checking on that,” he said.

Whetham said during the meeting that he was concerned about giving additional power to the chair and imposing the sign prohibition.

He suggested that the City Council slow down and worried about potential litigation.

“When the ACLU gets involved, someone gets taken to court,” Whetham warned.

Kidd said Wednesday she made the suggestion after Whetham used “hell yes” Aug. 2 and that members of the public had complained about it.

As for what Kidd meant by profanity, “I didn’t need a definition,” she said Wednesday.

“It’s obvious; it’s self-explanatory.

“Profanity is using swear words.

“It’s inappropriate to curse at council meetings.”

Downie said after the meeting that profanity would be “anything ranging from taking the Lord’s name in vain to ‘damn’ or ‘hell.’ ”

Black’s Law Dictionary defines profanity as “irreverence towards sacred things; particularly, an irreverent or blasphemous use of the name of God; punishable by statute in some jurisdictions.”

If council members break the no-profanity rule or other rules of procedure, they can be called out of order by the chair or, by majority vote of the council, be given an oral admonition or a written reprimand, or be censured, expelled from the meeting or removed from council committee memberships or chair positions.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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