Washougal council appoints ethics review committee

Recommendations are due in June

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After much discussion regarding the composition of a committee to review the City of Washougal’s ethics policy, three City Council members were appointed last night by their fellow councilors.

The new ad-hoc committee consists of Molly Coston, Michael Delavar and Jennifer McDaniel.

Before the committee was named, Paul Greenlee recommended that representatives from Battle Ground and Vancouver provide information and insights since they have relatively new ethics policies.

“Three members [of council] are not an adequate knowledge base,” he said.

Greenlee made a motion to include three Washougal councilors as voting members of the ethics policy review committee, to serve alongside three “outside experts” — elected officials or staff members from other cities.

“The committee would make recommendations to the council,” he said.

The motion was seconded by Rod Morris, before Dave Shoemaker said he did not want “outsiders” involved.

“It’s a Washougal problem,” Shoemaker said.

Coston said she liked the idea of having discussions with experts in other areas, while they would not be voting members of the committee. The motion to add three outside experts to the committee failed, with Russell, Delavar, McDaniel, Shoemaker and Coston voting against it.

McDaniel recommended that Washougal residents serve on the ethics committee in order to find out “what citizens want and expect from us.”

Mayor Sean Guard said he hoped Washougal Human Resource Director Jeanette Cefalo would assist the ethics committee.

Mayor’s e-mail mentions ethics concerns

In a Nov. 16, 2010 e-mail to City Council members, Guard mentioned the idea of forming an ethics policy ad-hoc committee.

“I was cautioned by a council member that there is a new majority of the council and that I should decide if I want to just go along with that new majority as it would make things easier,” he said. “This was after two different conversations when I was advised on two different topics that ‘we have the votes needed to push it through.’

“Those types of comments are beginning to worry me that, in fact, there are conversations (meetings) taking place outside of the Public Meetings Act,” Guard added. “I am asking for advice from [Finance Director Jennifer Forsberg] to see if they rise to the level of needing to be passed along to another authority.”

Last night before the ethics committee was appointed, Morris said “there is 4 to 3 voting here on any given topic.” He favored the addition of three citizens to the policy review committee “so the deck of cards is not stacked.”

Shoemaker said “the voters have ‘stacked the deck.'”

“I have no problem with the mandate of the voters,” he added.

Later in the meeting, Shoemaker said he has voted with the minority and against the minority on council.

“This is not a steady voting bloc,” he said.

The motion to have three Washougal council members serve on the ethics policy review committee was approved by Coston, Shoemaker, Delavar and Russell.

That was followed by a motion by Delavar for the committee to make recommendations regarding any ethics policy changes by June 27. After that, the committee would cease to exist. That motion was unanimously approved.

The appointments to the ethics committee involved several motions.

Delavar nominated Coston, and that was seconded by Russell. Russell then nominated Delavar, and that was seconded by Shoemaker.

Morris nominated Greenlee, but Greenlee declined “with all due respect” and nominated McDaniel. Coston seconded the nomination of McDaniel.

Shoemaker asked if there would be a conflict of roles to have McDaniel, the city’s mayor pro tem, serve on the ethics policy review committee. He then said he would support her “for everything.”

McDaniel offered to not accept the nomination to the committee if there was a council consensus to that effect.

All of the nominations were unanimously approved.

Council comments are removed from meeting minutes

Earlier in the meeting, Delavar made a motion to not include council comments in the April 4 minutes.

The council comments occurred after he and Russell exited the council chambers, to disagree with the attempt to name members to an ethics committee without input from McDaniel and Shoemaker who had excused absences. Delavar and Russell’s departure resulted in there being a lack of a quorum for the meeting to continue.

Delavar’s motion to delete the council comments from the minutes was approved 4 to 3, with Coston, Greenlee and Morris voting against it. The amended minutes were then unanimously approved.

During public comments last night, Nettie DeRoche said she had been in the audience during the April 4 meeting.

She was upset that the minutes were revised, to delete council comments that were made after Russell and Delavar left.

“The citizens and staff were left hanging,” DeRoche said. “It was unprofessional.”

She referred to the past when Delavar opted to abstain on another issue “and no one left.”

“I would like to see peace in City Council, ” DeRoche added.

Toward the end of last night’s meeting, Russell thanked Delavar and Guard “for the [ethics committee appointment] process.”

The first meeting of the ethics policy review committee has not been scheduled. Their meetings will not be open to the public.