Petso criticized for appointing non-resident Plunkett to Edmonds Economic Development Commission
Should a former Edmonds City Councilmember who no longer lives in Edmonds be able to serve on the Edmonds Citizens Economic Development Commission (EDC)? That was the question raised during the public comment period at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, during strongly-worded remarks from former Economic Development and Community Services Director Stephen Clifton and ex-Edmonds City Councilmember Ron Wambolt.
While Plunkett wasn’t mentioned by name during the remarks, My Edmonds News confirmed that Petso did recently appoint Plunkett to a vacancy on the commission. Each ciity councilmember gets to appoint two people to the 17-member EDC, and Petso’s action was to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of a previous Petso appointee, Commissioner Evelyn Wellington. Unlike appointments to some of the city’s boards and commissions, individual councilmembers’ EDC appointments do not have to be reviewed and/or approved by the full council.
At issue, however, is whether those appointments are required to be people living in Edmonds. In an interview Wednesday, Petso said, “It looks clear that this (being a resident) is not a requirement.”
“Michael will do well on the EDC,” Petso added in an email. “As a long-time resident, a property owner and a recent former councilmember, he is well qualified.”
Plunkett left the Edmonds City Council’s Position 1 seat in June 2012 so that he could move into his new wife’s home in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood on a full-time basis. A three-term councilmember, he was elected Edmonds City Council president in 2004 and 2008 and also served on numerous committees, boards and commissions.
During Tuesday’s comments to the council, Wambolt said he was “pretty shocked” by the appointment of a non-resident. Noting that the first part of the Economic Development Commission’s official title is “Edmonds Citizens,” Wambolt added: “I am the only person in this room who was on the city council when the commission was formed in summer 2009, and I tell you most assuredly the intent was for it to be only citizens of Edmonds,” he said. Some boards and commissions have provisions for citizens living outside of Edmonds but there are no such provisions for EDC membership, Wambolt said.
Clifton, who used to staff the EDC before leaving the city in mid-April to take a job with Snohomish County, said it was unfair that Petso “gave priority to someone that does not live in the City of Edmonds.”
“If each councilmember did what Councilmember Petso just did…it’s possible that the commission could consist of a majority of residents who are not Edmonds residents,” Clifton said. “Is it the council’s intent to allow a majority of non-Edmonds residents the ability to help shape and influence economic development in the City of Edmonds?”
Clifton requested that the council direct the Edmonds City Attorney to amend city code so that it clearly states that EDC members must be Edmonds residents.
Council President Diane Buckshnis confirmed in an email Wednesday night that the Council’s Public Safety and Personnel Committee will take up that very issue during its meeting next Tuesday night. The goal is to review the EDC’s language for membership eligibility to see if it is consistent with other city boards and commissions, she said.
For example, while both the Tree Board and Planning Board don’t have the word “Edmonds Citizen” in their titles, city code does state “must be a resident of Edmonds,” Buckshnis noted. “I am but one of seven votes on this council but common sense tells me that I would want to have a citizen of Edmonds on this commission.”
While Buckshnis clarified that she “not an attorney,” she added that Plunkett’s appointment “also opens the door so that anyone from anywhere can be selected and was that really the intent of this Commission? It is important to have consistent code and if it is changed to reflect the language of the other codes, I would imagine that a non-resident would not be qualified to continue to sit on this commission.”
Petso said it’s hard to know exactly what each city board, committee and commission does require in terms of residency of its members, as it doesn’t appear that there is a master list. “It raises the bigger question of do we want to sort through each committee and figure out which one is closed and which one is not?” she said.
Plunkett said that as an EDC member, he “would be happy to serve and do the best I can for the people of Edmonds” He added that he sees the advantage of having a small percentage of the EDC include “non-resident business owners, economic development specialist or even former councilmembers.”
Editor’s note: My Edmonds News Publisher Teresa Wippel is a member of the Edmonds Citizens Economic Development Commission. She lives in Edmonds’ Lake Ballinger neighborhood.