“Sit Down and Shut UP”
Commentary by Evangeline Boyd
In a commentary published in the PDN recently, Former Mayor Karen Rogers implores the public to return to the days of civil discourse during City Council meetings. She, and a few former mayors state: “What we have now is complete chaos and the type of government where the loudest voices, some who don’t even live in the city limits, disproportionately influence the City Council.” This unrest is actually proportional to the needs of the public; judging by the huge number of rate-payers attending council meetings and speaking out against the council decision. No “influencing” is going on as the city council chose to ignore the majority. What recourse do concerned residents have?
It is hard not to agree with much of what these former mayors are saying. The problem started during Karen Rogers’ time in office, when she and her fellow council members routinely ignored the stated wishes of the public. One most notable incident was the decision to start fluoridation of the City’s water supply 10 years ago. Thousands of residents signed petitions rejecting the proposal, and the council responded by threatening to personally sue those that gathered signatures. Who did Rogers and her council listen to? The residents she now tries to influence, or the “outsiders” from the Dental Foundation, Sequim dentist, and Port Townsend medical officers, all of whom have financial interests in the outcome.
Now, ten years later, her once fellow council member Cherie Kidd picks up where Ms. Rogers left off. Over the last year the council held hours of public hearings and “informational” gatherings about fluoridation. They listened to many hours of testimony and always in attendance were more against the fluoridation of our water than for it. The council intentionally designed and sent out an expensive survey to solicit the public’s input. During the survey period, thousands of colorful, expensive, professionally produced placards were repeatedly mailed out by “outside interests” in attempts to sway voters to keep fluoridation.
Every time–the public has said “No.” Clearly, unmistakably, “NO.”
But Council members Cherie Kidd, Pat Downie , Brad Collins and Dan Gase choose to ignore the clearly stated will of the people, and instead support the “outside interests.” After repeatedly and blatantly ignoring, the voices of the people the voices get louder and louder.
“Civil discourse” was not being effective in getting the elected representatives to listen to constituents. In an attempt to shame citizens into compliance, Ms Rogers says “this isn’t Port Angeles.” What does she see as Port Angeles, a compliant majority that will sit down and shut up? (Prozac anyone?)
The response from the council members? “We won’t be bullied” and restated by Ms Rogers as “threats of intimidation and stalking” are actually options citizens are attempting to put forward. Call it what you will, but it is all for the “betterment of the many”.
One can hear the faint echoes of days past, of the British monarchy complaining about those rude colonists. “When will they learn to sit down, and shut up”!
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily NewsReviewing the maze of findings
State and local officials explained why they will take no action after a state auditor’s report concluded that former Port Angeles Mayor Karen Rogers she had allegedly broken state law.
■ City of Port Angeles action was not required because the contracts with the city that were cited in the report had expired, the Auditor’s Office said in the report.
City Attorney Bill Bloor said Thursday the city will not pursue any action against Rogers.
“There is a plan to present some options to council and to follow up with additional training” to deal with council members also being members on community boards that do business with the city.
■ The state Auditor’s Office did not recommend any state enforcement action in its April 14 report.
“We investigated it and issued a report,” agency spokeswoman Kara Klotz said.
“In this case, since that person is no longer there, we consider the matter investigated and reported on,” she said.
“Our work is done.”
■ The state Attorney General’s Office told the Peninsula Daily News on April 14 that the report was under review.
But enforcement action was never contemplated against Rogers, agency spokeswoman Kristin Alexander said.
“It is the practice of the Attorney General’s Office to consider initiating action on a local ethics matter only if requested to do so by the state Auditor’s Office, and no such request has been made,” Alexander said in an email.
“The AGO does not intend to take any action and defers to local authorities to decide how to respond to the [state Auditor’s Office] report.”
She added that “this is a local issue involving a former elected official” and that the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue the matter.
■ Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly confirmed her office would not recommend any action against Rogers “given the constraints on our office, and that the Auditor’s Office was not recommending any action and given that we would defer to the Attorney General’s Office whether or not they would pursue it.”
Kelly said there also were more important cases for her office to deal with, given her agency’s reduced staffing.
“I felt it was appropriate to defer to the people who had the report and had the opportunity to review it and had concurrent jurisdiction,” she added.
Kelly said her office received the April 14 report, but she did not read it.
“I have not seen the report,” she said.
Paul Gottlieb, Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — The state Attorney General’s Office will take no legal action against former mayor Karen Rogers after the state Auditor’s Office concluded that she allegedly violated state law.
Now, the state Public Disclosure Commission is awaiting more information, said PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson, who added that the case is a low priority.
The state Auditor’s Office said in a report released April 14 that Rogers did not disclose her “remote interest” in city-contracted Capacity Provisioning Inc. — as required by state law — when she voted in 2007 on the company’s fiber optics contract with the city, which has paid the company about $5,000 a month.
Under state law, Rogers was required to disclose that CPI was paying her for “property management services” at the time and abstain from voting on the contract, the Auditor’s Office said.
The Attorney General’s Office took no action because the state Auditor’s Office did not request it, Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Kristin Alexander said in an email to Peninsula Daily News.
Rogers also will not face action from city of Port Angeles, the state Auditor’s Office or the Clallam County Prosecutor’s Office, according to city, county and state officials interviewed this week.
No criminal action was alleged in the auditor’s report. She could have faced a $500 fine if the Attorney General’s Office had decided to pursue the matter in court and was successful, according to state law.
Rogers did not return calls requesting comment.
Bill Roberds, a co-founder of CPI, and Craig Johnson, company vice-president, did not return calls for comment Thursday.
The Auditor’s Office forwarded the report to the Attorney General’s Office and the state Public Disclosure Commission.
In the report, the state Auditor’s Office also said Rogers allegedly violated state law by not disclosing city payments to three organizations on Personal Financial Affairs Statements she is required to file with the Public Disclosure Commission.
Rogers was a member of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Clallam County Economic Development Council and Peninsula College Foundation, all of which received payments from the city, the Auditor’s Office said.
The state Public Disclosure Commission is waiting for more financial information on her involvement in the three community organizations to see if it reveals conflicts of interest, Anderson said.
The case is not a high priority, Anderson said.
“Considering the fact that she’s not in office any more, this kind of goes to the bottom of the pile as far as our priorities,” she said.
“Having her fix the report is important, regardless,” Anderson said.
“Once we find out what the public did not have a chance to see what they were entitled to see, then we will decide what to do next, and whether there will be enforcement.”
Anderson said the PDC staff would probably contact Rogers next week for information.
If the PDC staff files a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission, the commission could dismiss the complaint or assess penalties of up to $4,200 for multiple violations, Anderson said.
The state Auditor’s Office report was prompted by a Jan. 5, 2009 anonymous complaint to the agency’s hotline.
Rogers served on the City Council from 2002 to 2009 and as the council-appointed mayor in 2006 and 2007.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at email@example.com.