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Thursday, April 26, 2007

State Law Calls Port Commissioner’s Alibi into Question

posted by on April 26 at 12:55 PM

Defending her lone signature authorizing Mic Dinsmore’s controversial $340,000 retirement payout, Port Commissioner Pat Davis insists she discussed the matter with her fellow commissioners at two executive sessions last year. Three of her four colleagues say the package was never discussed.

Guess what? It seems to me that debate is irrelevant. I’m certainly not a lawyer, but as I read the subsection of the Open Public Meetings Act that deals with Executive sessions, it seems you’re not allowed to discuss salary and related issues behind closed doors in the first place.

The Open Public Meetings Act lists nine topics (A-I), including matters affecting national security and discussions of real estate transactions in which a public discussion may increase the price, where agencies are permitted to close the door. Compensation is not one of them. In fact, (see bullet point G on the list), it’s explicitly verboten.

The rule says:

discussion by a governing body of salaries, wages, and other conditions of employment to be generally applied within the agency shall occur in a meeting open to the public, and when a governing body elects to take final action hiring, setting the salary of an individual employee or class of employees, or discharging or disciplining an employee, that action shall be taken in a meeting open to the public;

I’ve talked to Port spokesman Mick Shultz, and he’s forwarding my question about executive sessions on to the Port’s legal staff.

RSS icon Comments

1

Key phrases include "generally applied" and "final action".

The Davis/Dinsmore memo is improper on its face, regardless how it was conceived and gestated. (My guess would be that Dinsmore dictated it and Davis signed off, rather than the other way around.)

The ethics apparatus can grind slow and fine. There's no relief in the process for Davis, who just has another 60 days to twist slowly in the wind.

60 days does take it past filing week for Port Commission races. If a vacancy then develops, I'm not sure what happens. Might be that the interim appointee serves until the 2008 general election, rather than having to run immediately in 2007.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | April 26, 2007 3:17 PM
2

Nice brass tacks, Josh.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | April 26, 2007 4:07 PM
3

Besides those imprecise key phrases that seem to allow some discussion as long as there's no action, the majority of the commish says the talk never took place anyway.

Posted by Bill Bigguy | April 26, 2007 4:35 PM
4

You may not be a lawyer Josh, but you did a credible job of reading the statutes and applying them to the facts at hand. That’s a lot better than some lawyers can do.

On the following webpage are drafts of part of the new ordinance Sound Transit wants voters to approve in November:

soundtransit.org/x4862.xml

Take a look-see. What do you think?

If anything doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means SLOG about it. We’re a helpful bunch, out here in the ether . . ..

Posted by Ether Or | April 26, 2007 4:55 PM
5

Keep at this - the plot thickens!

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 26, 2007 5:16 PM
6
Posted by Josephine | May 7, 2007 6:49 PM

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