Port Angeles ethics board clears Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd for chairing meeting; delays decision on other complaints

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd ()

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd ()

PORT ANGELES — A three-person ethics board cleared Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd of an allegation of wrongdoing Thursday for chairing a contentious Feb. 2 City Council meeting while an ill Mayor Patrick Downie participated by speaker phone.

But the board, which is considering a multi-part ethical-code complaint by the anti-fluoridation group Our Water, Our Choice!, delayed ruling on ethical charges over Kidd’s part in banning signs in the council chambers, on gaveling Councilman Lee Whetham out of order when he asked for a legal opinion and declaring a recess and adjournment without council input.

Submit arguments

Instead, ethics board members Ken Williams, Jerry Dean and William Yucha asked Our Water, Our Choice! and Kidd to submit arguments on those allegations that the panel will consider at an unspecified future date.

They asked the two sides to address potential double-jeopardy-type issues that were created by a separate April 1 ethics board ruling on Kidd’s actions during the Feb. 2 meeting.

“Once a claim has been decided, you are precluded in effect from raising the same claim again in a similar proceeding,” Williams, a retired Clallam County Superior Court judge, said in an interview.

“The issue is whether that applies in this circumstance or not.”

Our Water, Our Choice! had asserted that Kidd should not have chaired the Feb. 2 meeting without council approval if Downie participated by telephone.

Edna Willadsen of Our Water, Our Choice! said Kidd’s actions reveal a pattern of unethical conduct.

“She took over everything,” Willadsen said at the meeting.

Authorized to run meeting

But the board ruled that Kidd, as deputy mayor, was authorized to run the meeting if the mayor was not physically present.

“The allegation here is serious,” said Williams, the board chairman, at the meeting.

He added that no council members objected to Kidd chairing the session.

“You need to find some malfeasance, some misfeasance,” Williams said.

Kidd said later Thursday that she was “very happy” about the ruling.

“Our mayor had been extremely ill,” she said.

“The mayor had asked me to preside, and it was all appropriate.”

The first ethics board composed of Frank Prince Jr., Grant Meiner and Danetta Rutten had ruled that Kidd violated the ethics code by interrupting a speaker and by abruptly adjourning the Feb. 2 meeting during a public comment session.

The panel, deciding on the complaint filed by Marolee Smith, unanimously voted to recommend that the City Council verbally admonish Kidd, as opposed to a written chastisement, censure or removing her as deputy mayor.

Wait to act

Council members decided Tuesday to wait to decide on the recommendation until the board chaired by Williams finishes hearing the Our Water, Our Choice! complaint and until a third board rules on a similar complaint against Downie, also filed by Smith.

The ethics board Tuesday also decided that Our Water, Our Choice! could withdraw abrupt-adjournment and speaker-interruption charges from its own complaint.

Kidd and she “absolutely” will argue that the first board already dealt with the antiflouridation group’s remaining allegations.

Willadsen the first board actually did not rule on the charges.

“They opted to not cover them at the first board,” she said.

“They decided to brush them aside.”

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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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