PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council could not agree on how to deal with a recommendation from an ethics board to verbally admonish Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd for abruptly adjourning a Feb. 2 City Council meeting.
Kidd, who chaired the meeting in Mayor Patrick Downie’s absence Feb. 2, cut short the meeting during which she and other council members who favor fluoridation of city water were being criticized. She recused herself from the contentious discussion Tuesday night.
Councilman Lee Whetham proposed to go further than verbal admonishment, saying Kidd should be stripped of her position as deputy mayor.
Whetham said admonishment would be appropriate for a council member in a first term, but because Kidd is in her third term and had been mayor for two years, admonishment was insufficient.
“Putting the slap on her is not enough,” he said.
After failing to reach a consensus, the council tabled discussion until Oct. 4.
Throughout the discussion, Councilman Michael Merideth called for Kidd to be removed as deputy mayor.
“As an adult, you know that’s not what you do,” he said. “I will not support [admonition], and I will support removal.”
Councilwoman Sissi Bruch wanted to follow the recommendation for an oral admonishment, but in an attempt to compromise with Whetham and Merideth, she voted in favor of a written reprimand.
“I can compromise to go in that direction so we can get this done and over with,” Bruch said.
Councilmen Brad Collins and Dan Gase suggested that admonishing Kidd was too rough a consequence for abruptly ending a meeting.
Collins asked the council to just agree on rules that had been adopted Aug. 16.
“I think we can all agree that abruptly adjourning the meeting is not the first step to take,” Collins said. “If we can vote on that and move forward, Deputy Mayor Kidd would get the message and the community would get that message.”
Downie repeatedly commended the ethics board for its effort in the recommendation.
“I have difficulty ignoring that advice,” he said. “They worked really hard at this thing.”
However, Downie voted against the motion to admonish Kidd, which Bruch amended to include language used only by the board of ethics.
“For me, it is apparent we are not going to gain consensus on any motion on this tonight,” Downie said.
After the night progressed and it was obvious there would be no agreement to have Kidd step down, Whetham made motions to censure (a reprimand Kidd can’t reply to), reprimand or admonish her, all of which failed.
“I talk about compromise quite a bit, and I wish there were a few others that could think about that,” he said.
Kidd could not be reached by phone Wednesday.
Merideth said that because Kidd has stood by her decision, he saw removal from her position as the best option.
“You screw up, you stand up, you step forward and say what you did,” he said. “Don’t make excuses about it; learn from it, figure out how not to do it again.”
The ethics board composed of Frank Prince Jr., Grant Meiner and Danetta Rutten had ruled April 1 on a complaint filed against Kidd by Marolee Smith. It decided that Kidd violated the ethics codes by adjourning the Feb. 2 council meeting with speakers waiting to be heard.
The meeting drew a large number of speakers opposed to fluoridation of city water, a practice that has since been discontinued, at least until an advisory vote in November 2017.
The ethics board wrote that Kidd abruptly closing the meeting brought “discredit to herself and the City, tended to bring the City into disrepute, and impaired its efficient and effective operation,” and recommended verbal admonishment.
The board was ruling on what remained of a multipart complaint filed by fluoridation opponent Marolee Smith, a former City Council candidate.
A total of four ethics complaints were filed in the wake of the Feb. 2 meeting. Two — one against Collins, Whetham, Merideth and Bruch, and another against Downie — were withdrawn. Another against Gase was dismissed.
Gase called the complaints politically motivated and said they were filled with unfounded accusations.
After Kidd ended the Feb. 2 meeting, Gase said he asked the city’s attorney if it was legal for her to end the meeting. He was told it was.
City Attorney Bill Bloor said Tuesday he stands by that advice.
In a letter dated Aug. 5, Smith wrote she had little faith in the ethics complaint process, calling it a waste of everyone’s time.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].