Attorney general declines to file perjury charge against Port Angeles deputy mayor

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd ()

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd ()

PORT ANGELES — The state Attorney General’s Office has declined to file a perjury or false-swearing charge against Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd over testimony she gave at a March 29 ethics board hearing, saying Kidd was giving her opinion and could not be prosecuted.

Kidd was defending herself at the March 29 hearing against an April 8 ethics complaint filed by Port Angeles businessman Dale Wilson.

Wilson said Kidd “gave false testimony under oath” that Councilman Lee Whetham had incited residents at a contentious Feb. 2 City Council meeting that she soon afterward abruptly adjourned.

Kidd had told the ethics board that public safety had become at risk at the meeting at which a large number of people complained of a council decision to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply, and cut off public comments.

State Assistant Attorney General Scott Marlow outlined his decision not to file criminal charges against Kidd in a three-page June 5 letter to Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols.

Nichols had referred Wilson’s complaint to the state agency over issues involving potential conflict-of-interest and appearance-of-fairness issues.

AG ruling

“The defense that would be raised to either a charge of perjury or a charge of false swearing is that the words of Ms. Kidd expressed an opinion — her opinion that it was not safe to continue the City council meeting within the atmosphere that had arisen,” Marlow said.

“An opinion can be neither false nor true; it can only be supported or not supported.

“This was the question at the heart of the ethics board hearing — was Ms. Kidd’s opinion that it was unable to continue the City Council meeting supported by the circumstances or not?

“The board ultimately determined that Ms. Kidd could have and should have taken other steps to address her concerns about safety and they found her in violation of the Ethics Code and issued a reprimand.

“Ms. Kidd expression of her opinion, however, cannot support either proposed criminal charge as that opinion is not false.”

Kidd said Friday she was not surprised by Marlow’s decision.

“I’ve always been confident that this would be the outcome, that it would be dismissed,” she said.

“This entire complaint was an abuse of the process, and I think it was a waste of taxpayer money.

“I’m glad it was looked at and was thoroughly dismissed.”

Wilson, an opponent of fluoridation, did not return calls for comment Friday.

Nichols said Marlow’s letter, though dated July 5, was postmarked July 11 and did not reach his desk until July 14.

Nichols provided Peninsula Daily News with a copy of Marlow’s letter Wednesday, after he notified Kidd’s private attorney, William Payne of Port Angeles, of the decision.

Ethics complaint

The ethics board before which Kidd testified was considering a complaint by Port Angeles resident Marolee Smith, also a fluoridation opponent.

The panel composed of Frank Prince Jr., Grant Meiner and Danetta Rutten had decided April 1, a week before Wilson filed his complaint, that Kidd had violated the ethics code by bringing “disrepute” on the City Council for interrupting a speaker during the public comment session, then abruptly adjourning it, when other avenues, such as calling a recess, were available to her.

The board recommended to the City Council that Kidd should be verbally admonished.

Council members will consider the recommendation after four ethics complaints filed by residents surrounding City Council meetings on fluoridation earlier this year have been ruled on by a city ethics boards.

Kidd would say little about the recommended admonition Friday.

“That’s all to be settled,” she said, adding that she appreciated Marlow’s decision.

Other complaints

A complaint against fluoridation proponent Mayor Patrick Downie for allegedly acting unethically toward fluoridation opponents at Jan. 5 and Jan. 19 council meetings is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 5 at City Hall in the council chambers, where Kidd gave her testimony.

An ethics board hearing on a fourth complaint by Marie Wiggins, a fluoridation supporter, against four council members over allegations they violated the state Open Public Meetings Act at the Feb. 2 meeting, has not been scheduled, City Clerk Jennifer Veneklasen said Friday.

A hearing on Wiggins’ complaint will not be scheduled until a board decides on the complaint against Downie, also filed by Smith.

Smith said Downie was unethical because he subjected residents “to inappropriate, long-winded lectures, chided the citizens and actually ‘finger wagged’ at them, as if he were scolding children.”

Downie said Friday he was not guilty of being unethical.

“If I was guilty of anything, it would be said of me that I was asking the audience to act civilly,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong with a healthy debate, but when it deteriorates into rancorous, angry, uncivil behavior, I will then and will always seek kinder, softer voices.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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