Ethical conduct complaint against four Port Angeles City Council members dropped

The move clears the way for the council to mull whether Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd should be verbally admonished for stopping a Feb. 2 meeting.

PORT ANGELES — Marie Wiggins has dropped her ethical conduct complaint against four Port Angeles City Council members over a fractious Feb. 2 meeting.

Wiggins’ Aug. 16 withdrawal of her complaint paves the way for council members to consider if Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd should be verbally admonished for cutting short a Feb. 2 meeting during which she and other council members who favor fluoridation were being criticized.

Admonishment was recommended by an ethics board that ruled on the first of four ethics complaints filed this year against council members, including by Wiggins’ complaint, who filed the last one.

Kidd and Councilman Dan Gase, and Mayor Patrick Downie, were not disciplined by ethics boards that had received two other complaints.

They, like the one against Kidd, were filed by fluoridation foes who focused on council members’ behavior toward residents who criticized council members’ actions on fluoridation at council meetings.

Council members had said they will not decide on admonishment against Kidd until all the complaints have been completed.

Wiggins, the wife of former Mayor Glenn Wiggins, filed her complaint May 2 against council members Brad Collins, Lee Whetham, Michael Merideth and Sissi Bruch.

Wiggins had alleged the four ran afoul of the city code of ethics by violating the state Open Public Meetings Act.

The council members continued to listen to public comments Feb. 2 in the council chambers after Kidd had abruptly adjourned the City Council meeting while council members were being criticized during the second of two public comment sessions.

“I wish to withdraw my complaint, not because of its validity, but rather to put it to rest,” Wiggins said in her three-sentence notice to City Clerk Jennifer Veneklasen.

“My motivation was to alert the anti-fluoridation citizens that the vehicle for ethics complaints was and is available to both sides of this issue.”

Wiggins said Sunday the City Council has better things to do than deal with her complaint.

“It was time to drop it, as far as I was concerned,” she said.

Veneklasen said Aug. 16 that the council might discuss the recommendation against Kidd at the council’s next meeting Sept. 5.

An ethics board made up of Frank Prince Jr., Danetta Rutten and former Superior Court Judge Grant Meiner unanimously said Kidd should be verbally admonished for abruptly cutting short the Feb. 2 meeting.

Merideth said Sunday he could not say if staying in the council chambers Feb. 2 was the right thing to do or if he would do the same thing again.

“Whether or not it was right or wrong, I haven’t spent much time thinking about it,” he said.

Merideth said he believed that Kidd should have sought a majority vote of the council before adjourning the meeting, which is required under rules of procedure that the council passed Aug. 16.

But a council vote was not required according to rules of procedure under which the council was operating Feb. 2, and under which it was operating when former Mayor Dan Di Guilio was on the council, Di Guilio said Sunday.

Di Guilio, mayor until the end of 2015, had decided not to run for re-election in November.

Merideth won the election for his position.

“We just adjourned the meetings,” Di Guilio said.

Merideth said he is anxious to address the ethics board’s recommendation on Kidd.

“I’d like to see us look at it sooner rather than later so we can put all this stuff behind us,” he said.

Merideth lumped deciding on the recommendation with resolving questions over recently approved rules of procedure that prohibit council members from using profanity — and on determining what profanity entails.

“We’ve got to put this crap behind us, we need to put this stuff behind us,” Merideth said.

Kidd, who added the profanity language to the rules the same night they were approved, had told the Peninsula Daily News that she was prompted to make the addition after Whetham said “hell yes” in reaction to the council voting Aug. 2 to discontinue fluoridation at least until a Nov. 7, 2017, advisory election, when voters will consider whether to restart the practice.

Merideth said he did not believe using “hell” fit the ban on profanity.

“The word ‘hell?’ Come on,” Merideth said. “We are not children.”

Kidd did not return calls for comment Sunday.

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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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