Wilson blasts Bernheim over premature removal of ‘no dogs’ signs in Edmonds

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The Edmonds City Council made decisions on several key issue during its Monday night meeting but in the end, the evening really went to the dogs.

Among the items approved during the meeting — held on Monday this week to avoid conflicting with General Election night — were two laws related to sheltering the homeless. The first was a permanent ordinance that allows area churches to temporarily house  the homeless during cold weather, replacing a temporary ordinance passed in December 2009 and renewed in June 2010. The second was a measure establishing rules governing the establishment of a temporary (90 days or less) homeless encampment such as a Tent City, if one were to be located in Edmonds.

The meeting got heated after the council approved an ordinance that opens up four Edmonds parks — Hickman, Haines Wharf, Hutt and the west side of Sunset Park — to dogs on leashes. Following the council action, Councilmember D.J. Wilson slammed Council President Steve Bernheim for his decision last Saturday morning to physically remove — according to Wilson, prematurely — the “No Dogs Allowed” signs along Sunset Avenue’s west side, which resulted in at least one citizen complaint and a five-hour police investigation.

At the time of the “sign removal ceremony,” which Bernheim invited fellow councilmembers and the media to attend through a press release emailed out early Saturday, Bernheim told My Edmonds News that he was taking matters into his own hands because the council had voted April 20 to allow dogs into the park yet the signs remained, confusing the public.

Wilson, however, said that the council’s approval did not occur in April as Bernheim said, but Monday night. The Council minutes from April 20 stated that the council agreed unanimously “to adopt the recommended amendments to Edmonds City Council Code .05.060 allowing dogs on-leash and on the designated paths at Hickman Park and Haines Wharf Park as well as the path and grassy strip along the west side of Sunset Avenue known as the Sunset overlook.” (Hutt Park was added to the list later.) The April 20 minutes also noted that City Attorney Scott Snyder agreed to place an ordinance adopting the amendments on a future council consent agenda.

Wilson said that Bernheim’s sign removal was “a violation of the law as it existed,” since it occurred before the council officially approved the ordinance allowing dogs on the park pathway. In addition, because police were called to the scene, the situation could place the Edmonds police chief in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether to refer a case involving the Edmonds City Council President to the Snohomish County Prosecutor. “At a minimum you should apologize to staff as well as the community,” Wilson told Bernheim.

Bernheim made his own statement to the council and those remaining in the audience, insisting that the council actually approved the action to legalize leashed dogs on the west side of Sunset in April. He described the minutes as “the biggest bunch of baloney I’ve ever read coming out of this town. I think it’s legally false. We voted to open this up in April.”

“I’ve simply removed the signs,” Bernheim said. “I’ve done nothing wrong and I’m proud of everything I’ve done here.”

Following the council meeting, My Edmonds News asked Bernheim about his comments and how the April council action was represented in the minutes, and he reiterated his belief that the council in April “adopted the ordinance to open the park to dogs on leashes.” He also expressed frustration with the amount of time it took the City Attorney to bring the ordinance before the council, and with the delays by city staff in removing signs from the park.

In other action, the council:

– Approved an update to the city’s Street Tree Plan, which details the care, removal and replacement of city trees, particularly those on downtown Edmonds streets.

– Decided to postpone until its Nov. 16 meeting action on an ordinance that would have authorized a 1 percent increase in the 2011 levy for regular property tax, authorize the 20 emergency medical services levy at the prior year’s level and continue the debt service levy.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Our current Council is comparable in quality to the outstandingg Councils of the 80s. That is, with one glaring exception D J Wilson!! The question now is did we elect DJ to be a legislator maker or a trouble maker? He consistently goes from issue to isssue behaving in a crude and ridiculous manner. Examples–He proposed a Council resolution supporting Haakenson closing Yost pool and reducing senior funding.(which died for lack of a second). Currently he has been emailing his perceived supporters urging them to vote against the Council’s proposed car tab tax. What will be his next bizarre behavior?

  2. There is likely no better example of bizzare behavior than our council president’s action removing city signs. Even when signs are left improperly in place by city staff, which doesn’t appear to be the case with these signs, citizens do not have the right to go around removing them.

    Mr. Bernheim, I urge you to re-evaluate your position and apologize for your improper actions.

  3. @Mr. Martin,
    Mr. Wilson’s conduct is not the issue. Mr. Bernheim took the law into his own hands, and probably violated a statue or two in doing so. Mr. Wilson was proper to put it on the record at the Council meeting. (By the way, I am not a huge fan of Mr. Wilson but in this Mr. Wilson is not the problem.)
    Mr. Bernheim should receive no special treatment for his behavior, and if a citizen would be charged and prosecuted for such acts, then Mr. Bernheim (an attorney who should know better) should be charged and prosecuted. He should receive no special treatment at all. In addition to apologizing to Edmonds for his bizarre behavior.

  4. Diane T (?): It is ALWAYS an issue when a false statement is made by a city councilman, in this case, once again the perpetually wrong DJ Wilson!

    Ron: review the Council minutes as April 20th please, which clearly shows your buddy D J made a false statement beginning in paragraph 5 of the article proving that his current harngue was again way off track.

    And Mr. Snyder, the city Attorney acknowledged and apologized in an Oct 27 email stating in part “I am not sure where it fell through the cracks”—”

    Based on the foregoing correct facts, Bernheim’s action leave little room for any real meaningful criticism unless viewed by an unreasonable rigid individual.

  5. Ray:
    I have reviewed the April 20th minutes. The closing statement of the agenda item says the following: “Mr. Snyder advised an ordinance adopting the amendments would be scheduled on a future Consent Agenda” The amendments were not adopted until last night. When something doesn’t meet your schedule you do not take the law into your hands.

  6. Ron: While I agree with you wholeheartedly in yout application of law theory, there remains a practical element that has been overlooked. And that is: Where is the CRIMINAL INTENT? You know, sorta like the 3/Walnut tree caper.

    What we have here instead is a dedicated public servant correcting what he perceives to be and in fact was an obvious error, or oversight, if you will. And at the same time he also has an unreasonable, partisan, and malicious false charge of wrondoing leveled at him by DJ Wilson! Also our officers 5 hours time could have been used elsewhere more productively. PS-I’m enjoying your oldies. email. Take care.

  7. So Bernheim states—He described the minutes as “the biggest bunch of baloney I’ve ever read coming out of this town. I think it’s legally false. We voted to open this up in April.” So who approves the meeting minutes? Does the President of the Council not review the meeting minutes? If the president of the council doesn’t work through the system, reviewing the minutes, asking the staff what the status of a change is and instead does it himself…..what kind of example is he setting?

  8. Bernheim should be prosecuted. If any of us had pulled this, we would have been paying a fine or sitting in jail. Just because you are an elected official does not mean that you get to go around the law.

  9. Is it a crime to remove signs in a public park? Clearly it is. Criminal intent….Mr. Bernhiem is an attorney in addition to being the Council President and a private citizen. As an attorney he took an oath to uphold the laws of the state, as an attorney he is also an officer of the Court. He knew, or should have known that his actions would be against the law and he did it anyway.
    Mr Bernhiem announced via press release and his emails to the Mayor his intent to break the law. He is shown with photos removing those signs.
    Had you or I done the exact same thing with the exact same fact pattern we would be answering to a judge. Even in cases of civil disobedience, you get to see a judge when you break the law regardless of your justifications.
    Should Mr. Bernhiem retain his status as Council President if his solution when things don’t suit him or move quickly enough for him is to simply go around the law assuming that he is “doing no wrong”?

  10. The last 3 writers appear to believe in the same medieval inflexibility as their idol, DJ Wilson. Punishment first anf forget investigation and legal process, thats the way to go, right?

    DJ also called prematurely for Dave Orvis’ resignation prior to his exonerating trial and tried to use a questionable investigation to discredit Stephanie Wilson.

    It appears DJ has a few followers in his display of bizarre leadership attributes. What will he do next?

  11. @ Mr Martin
    An old legal saying for you to contemplate. “when you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you don’t, argue the law. When you have neither the facts nor the law on your side, pound the table”
    For the record I am not a supporter of Mr Wilson. I am advocating that Mr Bernhiems actions be investigated, and proceed through the legal process as either you or I would be. Simple as that.

  12. Sounds like there are bizzaro (residents) in this city. Ray Martin you are the only sane poster yet. Wilson needs to find a hobby or get a life. On the plus side – most of what comes out of this govt is decent and makes sense.

  13. Indeed I believe that Mr. Bernheim acted improperly by removing and defacing the signs. As an elected official and an officer of the court it behooves him to act in accordance with the law as it is written.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Look at the local refs who used pink whistles and donated their game checks to the Susan G. Korman foundation; they violated the rules and were punished. They had great intentions, but by not looking into the regulations, they ran afoul of the system in which they enforce the rules.

    So yes Mr. Bernheim is guilty of, at the very least, being overly enthusiastic and grand standing. He should apologize and move on. Instead we get a spitting contest between two grown men who refuse to back down.

    Is this what our elected officials need to focus on? This is a distraction and nonstarter at best. Why are we even discussing this instead of asking why our roads aren’t being paved? Why are we a police officer short and our city staff taking furloughs? Why does the city council seem to need to hire someone who can read a budget for them?

    Finally, why are some people content to be sitting in the council chambers (and on this website) and taking pot shots at each other? It speaks volumes of their intent and focus when this much energy is being expended upon this so-called issue.

  14. This discussion is just pure entertainment.
    Reminds me of a comment by a neighbor a few years back after he won a case against the WA state supreme court:

    “Small town city council is the closest thing to tyranny ever experienced in the US”

  15. My question is, Why didn’t someone stop Mr. Bernheim before he did the sign removal? He gave ample notice. No one corrected him then. Be proactive not reactive.

  16. If thats in fact what he did bernheim then he should pay the city back all the time they spent investgating his removing the signs and fyy to all people in city council you just go to the meetings and vote on issues thats it thats where it ends, you dont go out and take city matters in your own hands. Am I clear Steve is there any part of that you don’t understand

  17. Please remember that it was just not the removal but also the defacing of one sign he couldn’t get removed.

    What everyone here is missing is the basic tenant of civil service that our council is seriously lacking; Service Before Self. This is once again an example of a council member’s personal agenda to make a name for themselves. Instead of just inquiring about the reason as to why the signs were still up, one has to make a big statement on a small item by calling a press conference. How about you wait calling a press conference until you can showcase a new business being opened in Edmonds rather than closing down.

    Just another example of our “me, me, me, council”.

  18. An update: My Edmonds News filed a public disclosure request for the police report. However, the police informed us that the report has been sent to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office for charging review. Once a decision has been made, the county will advise the Edmonds Police Department, and the case report will be available for release or review. We’re told that it’s likely this process could take several weeks.

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