Ethics panel urges Port Angeles deputy mayor be admonished for violation

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd ()

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd ()

PORT ANGELES — Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd stood by her abrupt adjournment of a Feb. 2 City Council meeting despite an ethics board recommendation Tuesday that the City Council should orally admonish her for it.

“I feel like I acted properly,” she said Tuesday afternoon following the three-member panel’s unanimous decision.

“I do stand for civil discourse.

“I feel like I acted appropriately under the circumstances, but I do appreciate the commitment of the ethics committee.”

Mayor Patrick Downie said Tuesday he expects the council will discuss the recommendation in public session at its next regular meeting April 19.

“I would have to believe there are people on the council who want this to be discussed at the earliest opportunity, including Cherie.”

The ethics board composed of Frank Prince Jr., Grant Meiner and Danetta Rutten had decided April 1 that Kidd violated the ethics codes by adjourning the Feb. 2 council meeting with speakers waiting to be heard.

The board was ruling on what remained of a multi-part complaint filed by Marolee Smith, a former City Council candidate.

“It’s better than nothing,” Smith said after Tuesday’s meeting.

The ethics board had dismissed Smith’s other allegations, such as claiming Kidd intended to prohibit free speech, was abusive toward the public and that Kidd demeaned, harassed or intimidated another person.

Smith said she was heartened by the board Tuesday also rejecting a request filed by Kidd and Kidd’s taxpayer-funded attorney, Michael Kenyon of Issaquah, that the board reconsider its decision that found Kidd violated the ethics code by cutting short the council session.

“I’m glad they stuck with their guns,” Smith said.

During the board’s 45-minute meeting Tuesday, Prince read from a 1½-page prepared statement that praised Kidd.

It said Kidd, a former mayor who is in her third and final term on the City Council, has served the public tirelessly and that she adjourned the Feb. 2 meeting “in a tense and politically charged atmosphere” in which a volatile subject, fluoridation of city water, was addressed.

“Many members of the audience seemed to be in a hostile mood,” said the recommendation.

But the final sentence recommended that Kidd should be “orally admonished” as called for in the ethics code, which includes options of written admonishment, censure and removal from her office as deputy mayor.

“We do not write this last sentence lightly,” Prince said, noting that Kidd has served in many capacities in service to the city.

But the recommendation “is what it is,” Prince said.

He said Smith’s allegation was supported by 14 hours of public and behind-closed-door meetings and 97 pages of documents.

The Feb. 2 meeting “ended in a way that no one wants to repeat ever again,” Prince said.

In separate findings of fact and conclusions of law, the board said Kidd violated the ethics code by engaging “in conduct that reflected discredit on herself and the council, tended to bring the city into disrepute and impaired the efficient and effective operation” of the City Council meeting.

“She did so by the manner in which she adjourned the council meeting.”

That finding was based on her interrupting speaker Robert Flood during a public comment session at the Feb. 2 meeting.

Flood had compared Kidd and other pro-fluoridation council members Robert Downie, Dan Gase and Brad Collins to the Four Horsemen, which the ethics board took to mean “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

Kidd declared Flood out of order.

“Mr. Flood was not disrupting the meeting,” the board said.

“And, until that point in the meeting, there was no disruption in the audience, but at that point, the audience erupted with boos and other noise.”

Kidd warned the audience, but when the next speaker stepped up to the podium, she adjourned the meeting and left the council chambers.

The board said she could have taken other, less onerous courses of action, such as calling for a recess, clearing the council chambers or adjourning and reconvening elsewhere.

Kidd, given an opportunity by Prince to respond to the decision, thanked the board for its work.

“It’s a learning experience for all of us,” said Kidd, the first city official ever found to have violated the code.

“This has never really happened before, so I can’t really expand on that,” Kidd said in the later interview.

Kidd also faces an ethics complaint focused on the Feb. 2 meeting that was filed by the anti-fluoridation group Our Water, Our Choice! and will be considered by a second ethics board.

City Attorney Bill Bloor has removed himself as legal adviser to the second ethics board over conflict-of-interest issues that he would not elaborate on Tuesday.

“It affects my office on any future cases at all in the ethics ordinance,” Bloor said.

“Other cases will have to be evaluated on their own.”

Former Superior Court Judge Ken Williams, a member of the second ethics board, said Tuesday the board is seeking new legal counsel from the city.

City Clerk Jennifer Veneklasen said Tuesday city officials are still looking for a lawyer for that ethics board.

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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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