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Posts Tagged ‘City Manager’

Inflammatory emails released by the city pursuant to a Public Records Act request reveal behind-the-scenes strategizing and advocacy among some Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) members, frequent emails about city business from UAC Chair Arlene Buetow to certain council members’ personal email addresses, testy exchanges between Buetow and City Manager Doug Schulze, and scorching criticisms by Buetow of city staff, UAC colleagues and citizens with whom she did not agree.

Buetow assumed the chairmanship of the UAC in March of 2012 and is now running for Bainbridge city council.

Under her leadership, the UAC’s mission has expanded well beyond the scope of the city’s UAC ordinance. She regularly emailed council persons Sarah Blossom, Steven Bonkowski, David Ward and/or Debbi Lester at their personal email addresses, with extensive comments on utility issues. Those four council persons often vote as a bloc on a variety of contested issues. When they were running for council, Ward, Blossom and Bonkowski were critical of the city’s management of utilities. Their candidacies were supported by the Ratepayers Alliance, a group that sued the city in 2009 over utility issues. Sally Adams, secretary of the Ratepayers Alliance, was occasionally included as a recipient of Buetow emails.

Except for routine matters like scheduling and a thank-you note to Anne Blair, Ms. Buetow did not include council persons Bob Scales, Kirsten Hytopoulos or Anne Blair in the emails produced to me.  (more…)

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The conversation at the Council meeting tonight began with council member Anne Blair talking about the many communications the council has received from citizens and staff about the choice for Interim City Manager. She also indicated that she and others on the ad hoc committee who brought Mike Caldwell to Bainbridge had been surprised at his remarks about change during his interview.

There was a smattering of citizen comment–about equal for and against Caldwell.

And then the surprise. On a motion by Bob Scales and seconded by Kirsten Hytopoulos, Acting City Manager Morgan Smith became Interim City Manager. The vote was 4-2, with Scales, Hytopoulos, Anne Blair and Sarah Blossom voting in favor, and Debbi Lester and Steve Bonkowski voting against. Dave Ward was absent.

I want to give a shout out to Sarah Blossom, who broke with her usual voting bloc. She said she’d been in favor of giving Caldwell the nod, but was voting for Smith because in the time it would take to find an outside Interim, the council may well be close to finding a permanent City Manager. (more…)

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Nothing like a scathing editorial from the local newspaper to cut a City Council down to size.

The courteous, even deferential atmosphere of last night’s meeting was a marked departure from the “I’m the decider” stance taken by the Council majority since January. Gone were the dramatic votes, the lack of explanation for actions and the silencing of dissent.

Instead, meeting chair Steven Bonkowski gave Council member Bob Scales, who has been silenced repeatedly in prior meetings, ample time for questions and comments as the Council’s agenda moved along. Bonkowski and others in the Council majority responded to Scales’s remarks with obliging phrases like,  “Certainly” or “Of course.” (more…)

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Plotting to fire City Manager Brenda Bauer from their first days in office, and accomplishing the deed in their first six weeks, wasn’t radical enough for the new City Council. They had to fire her again last night in front of a crowd of stunned citizens and surly Council majority supporters. Bauer was given twenty-four hours to clear out, and will collect nine months worth of salary and benefits from the City.

By “new City Council,” let me name names, because all Council members are NOT equal in this swath of destruction at City Hall. The wrecking crew is  Debbi Lester, Steven Bonkowski, Dave Ward and Sarah Blossom.

Minority Council members Bob Scales, Anne Blair and Kirsten Hytopoulos walked into the Council meeting from executive session with the air of people who know they have little chance of salvaging the remains of Bainbridge Island’s reputation after a bad month of making the regional news for all the wrong reasons.

Noting that the majority’s action was a complete surprise so they had no prepared response, they labored to express their disgust and helplessness in the face of their colleagues’ behind-the-scenes maneuvering. (more…)

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This afternoon, the following statement (posted on the City’s website) was issued by the City of Bainbridge Island:

The City of Bainbridge Island
February 27, 2012

Dear Bainbridge Island residents:

The Seattle Times published stories, yesterday and today, which focused on the Douglas Ostling tragedy and on how the city has dealt with accusations of misconduct by our police officers in the past. TheTimes’ story does not adequately reflect the City’s commitment to police professionalism and accountability, nor does it convey some of the significant work that has been in progress at the city. The relationship between our community and our police department is one of the city’s most critical connections with its citizens, and because this is such an important topic, I wanted you to be aware of some facts.

The Council, the Police Chief and I are committed to ensuring that police officers receive the appropriate training, that practices are transparent, that any misconduct is addressed, and that we improve the standards and expectations for everyone who works for our police department.

Under any circumstances, the loss of a human life is very painful. The City continues to join its citizens in offering its sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Ostling. The Kitsap Sheriff and Prosecutor have made their investigative files available for those who would like more information. Our administrative report and reports from the prosecutor are included with this letter.

Our commitment to the citizens of Bainbridge Island is that our officers will understand how to best handle people in crisis. Chief Fehlman is a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), facilitates classes here, and was on the Board of the Sonoma County NAMI chapter before coming to Bainbridge. Before the officer involved shooting, seven of our 21 officers had completed Crisis Intervention Training, with three getting additional certification to become trainers. The Bainbridge Island Police Department will continue to make this critical training a priority for our officers.

Police officers are often called upon to engage people in the most difficult moments of their lives. Every police department will receive complaints about how an officer handled a situation. The most critical thing when a complaint is made is how we respond. I can assure you, when there has been misconduct, or accusations of misconduct, we have responded appropriately by investigating allegations in a timely and fair manner. (more…)

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At tonight’s presentation about the authority of Council members under the Council-Manager form of government by Seattle lawyer Steve DeJulio, Mayor Debbi Lester and Council members Dave Ward and Steve Bonkowski quickly shut down Council member Bob Scales when he tried to ask questions about the authority of individual Council members to act without a Council vote. Council authority has been a raw question since Lester, Bonkowski and Dave Ward hired a law firm to give advice about firing City Manager Brenda Bauer without obtaining a vote of the full Council. DiJulio’s presence was at Council’s request following the dispute over that issue.

DeJulio gave a crisp one-hour briefing on the laws governing the power and functioning of local government in our state. He told Council it has legislative authority to act by motion, resolution, or ordinance. A significant responsibility is to adopt a budget, also done as a legislative body in open session.

DeJulio explained that, under the island’s Council-Manager form of government, the Council has legislative authority, and the power to appoint the City Manager. State law specifically prohibits the Council from interfering with the decisions of the City Manager. The statute requires that the Council deal with staff solely through the Manager, except for purposes of inquiry, or at public Council meetings. (more…)

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Yesterday a “Transition Addendum to Employment Agreement” was posted to the City Council’s next meeting agenda. With it, the word is out: City Manager Brenda Bauer’s time with the City of Bainbridge Island is indeed coming to a close. Although the Addendum isn’t effective until the Council votes on Wednesday night, it signals that the Council, which has been meeting in extended, closed Executive sessions over the past several weeks, has reached an agreement with Bauer on the terms of her departure from the City.

The skulking, anonymous Mrs. Johnson of threatening-email fame was correct back in the beginning of January when she sneered that Bauer’s “employment is coming to a close.” She was also right when she wrote “you do have a choice on how you leave.” But Bauer’s choices have turned out to be much better than Mrs. Johnson’s resign-now-or-you’ll-be-sorry taunt.

In fact, judging by the generous terms of Bauer’s leave-taking, she might have had a taunt or two of her own (I’m guessing it was along the lines of “until you find a new manager, you need me more than I need you.”) Under Bauer’s original Employment Agreement, she was entitled to six months’ severance if she was fired without cause (which is narrowly defined in the contract). If she quit, she got nothing. Hence, Mrs. Johnson’s effort to entice her to resign. (more…)

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