PORT ANGELES — Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd stepped back from staunchly defending her decision to abruptly gavel a Feb. 2 meeting to a halt, saying she has learned from the experience but stopping short of an outright apology.
Her 90-second statement at the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting left Councilman Lee Whetham still demanding Wednesday that the council remove her as deputy mayor, which he unsuccessfully proposed at the Sept. 6 council meeting — although he doesn’t believe he has the votes to make it happen, he said.
Taking away Kidd’s deputy-mayor status would go beyond the verbal admonishment recommended by a city ethics board over the actions by Kidd, who is in her third and final term.
The City Council will consider admonishment Oct. 4. If action is taken, she would become the first City Council member to be disciplined by a city ethics board. Such boards were authorized as part of a code of ethical conduct approved by the council in November 2012.
Kidd, who favors fluoridation of city water, cut short the Feb. 2 council meeting under criticism from residents who opposed fluoridation of city water.
The ethics board, considering a complaint filed by fluoridation opponent Marolee Smith, unanimously decided in April that in doing so, Kidd violated the speakers’ free speech rights.
Board members Frank Prince Jr., Danetta Rutten and former Clallam County Superior Court Judge Grant Meiner said Kidd should have considered other steps, such as calling a recess before going back into session.
Kidd’s actions “reflected discredit on the City Council and Ms. Kidd herself as a public official,” Meiner said at the time.
On Tuesday, Kidd retreated from her statement following the ethics board’s decision that she “acted properly” at the Feb. 2 meeting.
She read a prepared statement during regular time set aside for council member reports, when council members rarely discuss political issues and stick more to trips they took or upcoming festivals and other events.
Kidd said she wanted “to take this opportunity to report to the council” that she ran the Feb. 2 meeting according to state law, Robert’s Rules of Order, the council rules of procedure and Association of Washington Cities guidelines.
“As my dear mother used to say, we do the best we can with what we know at the time, and I led that meeting to the best of my ability,” she said.
“I do respect all members of our City Council,” she added.
“Our council procedures are a living document. We do change them from time to time because we learn things, and so it’s a living document, and I have learned from this experience myself.
“I will do my best to show courtesy and respect, and I’ve worked hard for the city for many years, and I will continue to work hard for the city for many years.
“I look forward to working with our council on many important, positive issues and opportunities that our community has before us.”
Kidd did not return repeated calls for comment Wednesday.
“I thought it was an attempt to apologize,” Whetham said Wednesday.
“Her position is still that it was the best job she could do rather than a simple apology for what occurred.”
Whetham said he supports the verbal admonishment as “the minimum” punishment for her actions.
But the City Council might not go even that far when members consider Kidd’s fate Oct. 4.
With Kidd recusing herself from the Sept. 6 discussion, Councilmen Brad Collins and Dan Gase suggested they were against admonishing her.
Mayor Patrick Downie was against admonishing Kidd, a position he seemed even more inclined to support following Kidd’s prepared statement Tuesday.
“She seems to be of contrite heart and a humble spirit regarding her facilitation of that [Feb. 2] meeting,” Downie said Wednesday.
“There is little value in beating her about the brow and whipping her on her back and running her through the mud here.
“When she said she learned from this experience, perhaps that’s a way to say, ‘I did mess up on this.’
“Let’s try to move on.”
Councilwoman Sissi Bruch, who was not at the meeting, favored admonishment Sept. 6. At that meeting, Councilman Michael Merideth favored removing Kidd as deputy mayor.
But following Kidd’s statement Tuesday, Merideth said Wednesday he is not sure what position he will take Oct. 4.
“I would love to give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that when she says she learned from that experience, that she learned there may have been other avenues to regain control of the [Feb. 2] meeting,” he said.
If the vote for admonishment is 3-3 Oct. 4, the motion fails, City Attorney Bill Bloor said Wednesday.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at email@example.com.