Local County Council Has Lengthy Meeting With Legal Council Prior to January 9th Special Meeting

In Local Government, News, Wake Up Whatcom, Whatcom County Council by commonnw

UPDATE – County Council will nominate candidates to fill vacant At-Large seat on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 at 6:00 pm.

Appointment to be made January 16th, 2018

Mark your calendar and be sure to join like minded citizens at 6:00 pm this coming Tuesday evening, January 9 at the County Courthouse, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham, 1st floor in the Council Chambers. You will witness the newly sworn-in Council’s nominations to fill the vacant At-Large seat created by Todd Donovan’s election to the new District 2 position, setting in motion the positioning for a special Council election in November, 2018.

CTNW / Friday, January 5, 2018: On Thursday, January 4, 2018, at 1:00 pm the Whatcom County Council held a Special Committee of the Whole meeting for the purpose of discussing and finalizing the process to be followed for appointing a temporary replacement to fill Todd Donovan’s vacated Council At-Large (B) position. In November, Donovan was elected to represent new Council District 2.

Filing for the special election to complete the balance of the unexpired term for the At-Large (B) position will take place in May, 2018, with the election taking place in November, 2018. Meanwhile, whoever Council selects for appointment later this month may or may not choose to run for election in November to continue filling the At-Large seat until the term ends at the end of 2019.

The free-flowing and sometimes chaotic January 4 meeting lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes and was a good case study in unintended consequences flowing from incomplete or imprecise language sometimes found in our County Code. On several occasions, Chief Deputy Civil Prosecutor Dan Gibson was asked by Council to provide his legal opinion as to legislative intent in the governing provisions of County Code which apply to the Council’s Charter responsibility for filling vacancies on County Council. While responding, Prosecutor Gibson read portions of Whatcom County Code sections 2.02.015, 020, 025, and 030, and noted that the Code is silent as to some circumstances relevant to the current situation.

Mr. Gibson drew a distinctions between the “application for consideration” process Council adopted at their regular Council meeting held December 5, 2017 and the “nomination for appointment” process spelled out in WCC 2.02.025, subsections (A) thru (C). He also pointed out usage of the permissive wording “may” here in the code, and advised Council not to confuse “application” with “nomination” while finalizing their process for making the appointment, the third and final part of the exercise.

The central issue Council struggled with during the January 4 meeting was how to establish a reasonable process for “winnowing down” a final list of 29 applicants while giving all Councilmembers a fair opportunity to participate in an informed selection. The new Council, including Tyler Byrd, will be sworn in on Monday, January 8.

Before adjourning, Council decided to devote their previously scheduled January 9 special meeting entirely to “winnowing the list” of 29 applicants and making nominations. To allow time for interviews, the actual vote to appoint was rescheduled to take place one week later during Council’s first regular meeting of the year on Tuesday, January 16. Here is a link to the revised Council Agenda for the Special Council Meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 6:00 pm in the Council Chambers to nominate the finalists. Details they agreed to for conducting the nominations are set forth in this agenda. To see Council’s unofficial draft minutes for the January 4th “discussion meeting”, click here.

~ Chet Dow