Edmonds City Council asks mayor to delay action on new communications consultant

A decision by Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling to renew a search for a half-time city communications consultant raised concerns among some on the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night, since the revised request for qualifications (RFQ) being issued does not specifically call for the position to report to the council.

After reviewing the candidates and proposals for the new communications position, Earling decided to reject the consultant that had been recommended by a committee formed to review the proposals. Among Earling’s concerns: The selected consultant did not have enough background on Edmonds.

Several councilmembers did not like the wording of the new RFQ, as it took out specific mention of the position reporting to the city council. When asked by council, the mayor said that it was still his intention for the consultant to provide reports to the council and that he thought the new RFQ was a better match for the duties required.

Councilmember Joan Bloom, who had originally raised the issue, said her concern was that the mayor could hire and or fire at his discretion under the new proposal. She admitted that Earling had the same prerogative under either of the RFQs, but added she felt it was important to return to the document that was originally proposed.

Bloom was one of the the councilmembers who had recommended the original candidates, but admitted that even she was unhappy with the overall capabilities of the candidates who were suggested.

Councilmember Strom Peterson noted that Earling has specifically stated that the consultant will report his or her findings to the council.

Councilmember Lora Petso suggested that the council postpone any action for a week to see if the differences could be resolved. A comparison of the two RFQs can be found here.

The renewal of the city’s contract with Lighthouse Law Group was also brought up during Tuesday night’s meeting. Lighthouse is requesting a pay increase, from $32,000 a month to $41,000 a month starting in 2015, with a 7 percent increase each year after that.

When Lighthouse got its original contract with the city in 2011, it proposed the $32,000 monthly payment but requested an annual increase each of the next four years. Then Councilmember D.J. Wilson wouldn’t agree to the annual increases during initial contract. So Lighthouse agreed to the flat rate.

The $9,000 difference amounts to a 28 percent increase over the old contract..

Council President Diane Buckshnis said she computed the hourly rate that Lighthouse has been receiving and found that it compares favorably to what other cities are paying.

The Mayor sent out a memo to councilmembers stating that there are still six months before the contract expires, so there is plenty of time to explore other options if the council so desires.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said she wanted more investigation into the possibility of bringing the city’s lawyer “in-house” as an employee and the potential costs. Bloom suggested that an “in-house” attorney would be subject to the whims of the Mayor and she was opposed to that.

This item was also put off for discussion in the future.

In other action:

- City Attorney Jeff Taraday gave a presentation on how the council can stay in compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act.

- Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan announced the promotion of Kenneth Crystal to Corporal. Crystal was the police department’s “Officer of the Year” in 2013.

– By Harry Gatjens

 

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