Port Townsend City Council investigating potential changes to PDA pact

Chartering municipality looks for more oversight

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has begun discussions into potential code changes regarding the city’s agreement with the Fort Worden Public Development Authority.

No action was taken Monday night regarding proposed amendments to the operating agreement in which the PDA was created by the city, which is the chartering municipality.

The Fort Worden Public Development Authority (PDA) is currently in the process of restructuring as it recovers from financial losses due to the use of capital project funds for operations and losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is just the opening act for what we hope will be a public engagement,” said Mayor Michelle Sandoval during Monday’s meeting.

“We felt it was necessary to get the ball rolling because we’ve had so many express concern through stopping us on the street — when they can find us, given it’s COVID — on the phone or through email.

“So many people were wondering if we were asleep at the wheel because we weren’t taking action and we hadn’t opened the discussion. We are starting that now. This is just the beginning.”

The council is expected to continue conversations during its workshop next Monday at 6:30 p.m.

The council members all agree discussions are needed among the council, PDA and state before any decisions are made regarding potential code changes.

David Timmons, interim executive director of the PDA, sent a letter to the board asking for that collaboration.

“Simply stated, there has been minimal dialogue between the City and PDA and no public dialogue relating to the language that the Ordinance attempts use to address valid concerns we all share,” Timmons said in the letter.

“There is a general consensus that changes are necessary and desired by all parties.”

The proposed changes to the code include modifying and streamlining the process for appointing board members, as well as adding the executive director responsibilities, a prohibited conduct provision from the city’s Code of Ethics, corrective action provisions the council could take and a requirement for quarterly financial reports among other changes, according to city documents.

The corrective action provision would allow the council to step in and take action to correct potential issues that the PDA may have, without having to dissolve the PDA board.

The original code has dissolution only as a corrective action, said Heidi Greenwood, city attorney, in her notes on the proposed changes, according to city documents.

The financial monitoring changes that are proposed include changing the annual financial reports to quarterly ones, as well as creating a financial oversight committee made up of the city manager, city finance director, two additional people appointed by the city manager and three PDA board members, according to the city documents.

The PDA board would be required to submit a budget to the city manager and the financial committee, the documents said.

Proposed changes and last Monday’s discussion can be found at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-PDACode.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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