On a night with a packed agenda and more than usual watching from home, the City of Bainbridge Island lost it's only hold over from the previous Ethics Board. Chairwoman Jennifer Hodges sent a letter to the City earlier in the day letting everyone know she would be resigning due to her having to move. Hodges had been conducting her work for the board from the east coast for several months. She often made reference to the three hour time difference as meetings went into the wee hours of her night.
It was back in late January 2020 that Jennifer Hodges became the sole member of the City of Bainbridge Island Ethics Board when 4 of the 5 members resigned in protest to the changes made by the City Council. A letter sent to Mayor Leslie Schneider was signed by then Ethics Board Chairwoman Suzanne Keel-Eckmann and Members Ingrid Billies, Maradel Gale and Brian Strully. With a record number of ethics complaints in 2019, the four members went on to explain their displeasure with the Council by saying:
“The council’s response was not to address the behaviors leading to these complaints but to challenge the integrity of the Ethics Board, in some cases to attack members of the Ethics Board, and to draft a new Ethics Program that stifles citizen complaints and reduces the role of the Ethics Board to administrative gatekeeper.”
Here we are at the end of 2020 and not much has changed. The most recent agenda packet was 189 pages and contained 5 complaints.
Three of the five complaints (2020-02,03,04) were regarding the actions and behavior of now gone North Ward Council Member Kol Medina. They ranged from conflicts of interest as CEO of The Kitsap Foundation and Bainbridge Island City Council Member during the Harrison police station negotiations to his voting of how the Ethics Board rules should be written. The Ethics Board voted to delay sending article II complaint 2020-02 to the Hearing Examiner as originally planned because it still needed some edits. The working group voiced their displeasure with the delay but needed the extra time due to some communication issues that had arisen as a part of tonights board member resignation. Both 2020-03 and 04 were dismissed as there was not enough information for the Ethics Board to justify moving forward.
NOTE: The Board notes that Chairman Jennifer Hodges did not participate in the consideration, discussion of, or voting on the Complaint 2020-03, and that Board Member Dominique Cantwell did not vote on the final determination regarding the Complaint 2020-03.
One of the two non Kol ethics complaint was filed more than 10 months ago. This one was about the ability of a sitting council person to vote on items that they may currently be involved in. More specifically:
This case centers around Councilmember Rasham Nassar and her property on Bainbridge Island. While participating in discussions related to land use, the Councilmember was involved in a series of code violations regarding her property.
At the January 8, 2019 City Council meeting during a discussion of ethics matters, Nassar read into the record a statement regarding a violation on her property, and indicated she had requested on December 20, 2018, an advisory opinion of the Ethics Board related to her ability to vote on land use regulations given the constraints on her property by critical areas, wetlands and grandfathered uses on the property. [Case #2018-06] In that statement, Nassar indicated that she was working to obtain an afterthe-fact (sic) building permit only “for repairs to the historic and unrecorded storage shed/well pumphouse located in the critical area buffer, work undertaken due to tree fall in the winter of 2014, completed in January of 2015.”
And then there was the latest Article I ethics complaint to hit City Hall regarding the behavior of Council Member Michale Pollock during the recent appoint process of Brenda Fantroy-Johnson to the North Ward Council Seat. Yep, the one that was vacated by Kol when he left to move to Walla Walla.
Jane Lindley's ethics complaint against City Council member Michael Pollock will move forward. The six person Ethics Board decided the Article I complaint (violation of the Code of Conduct) had enough teeth to issue a Threshold Determination. In it they will state why they believe it's worth going to mediation.
The discussion was quite animated going back and forth regarding the options in front of the board and if they were worth pursuing.
The complaint was filed on December 10th, the same day Michael Pollock sent out the first in a series of emails to the entire Bainbridge Island City Council, Kitsap County Commissioners, then North Ward Candidates (Brenda Fantroy-Johnson and Jane Lindley), newly elected Representative to the 23rd Legislative District Tarra Simmons and a resident.
The complaint states:
"Council Member Pollock just sent an email (below) that:
• makes me concerned for my safety as he is clearly trying to paint me as a raciest and put me in harms way; and also,
• pigeonhole anyone who might vote for me as a racist, with a subject line and article that are completely unrelated to Bainbridge or the process we are in regarding the North Ward council seat;
• makes me concerned for what else Pollock might do if he's willing to send inflammatory emails to not just me, the council but also commissioners, and one of our state Reps - he's starting real fires to ensure his pick for council wins"
The Ethics Board said they would be ready to discuss next steps at their January meeting.
Stay Tuned & Stay Woke!