Letter to the Editor: ‘Lessons learned’ from Citizens’ Compensation Commission process

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Editor:

At the August 4th City Council meeting, Mrs. Fraley-Monillas called for the elimination of the Citizens’ Commission on Compensation of Elected Officials (CCCEO). She was joined by Council President Buckshnis and Council Members Bloom and Petso. It was a brave act.

It is difficult to deal with failure. A huge computer implementation project at Boeing during my tenure was cancelled due to a number of causes. But failures can teach. After a failed project comes the “lessons learned” phase. In essence, it is a thorough self-examination of the process conducted by team members. We all take blame for the mistakes, and we discern steps that we can take to do better next time.

As a city, we need to go through a “lessons learned” exercise to examine what went wrong with the CCCEO and then choose one of the alternatives outlined in Mr. Taraday’s memorandum of July 31, 2014.

As always, folks are commenting on My Edmonds News. Many have viewed this as an anti-mayor act. It is not. I have no ulterior motives. I have no designs to be on any future committee regarding compensation. No, I do not have my eyes on Council Member Peterson’s seat.

I am writing because I played a small part in this drama, only a few lines spoken before council and the mayor on August 4th. I was one of the three applicants for the open positions on the CCCEO.

The compensation data included in the CCCEO findings listed monthly benefits paid to council members in eleven small cities in Western Washington. The CCCEO concluded that our city’s compensation was in line with those municipalities. Yes, but the numbers tell me that those towns, including Edmonds, do not pay a living wage to their elected officials.

The soon to be defunct Chapter 10.80 asks us to “base compensation of elected” on the “duties of their offices.” As I had the pleasure of working all of the council members except for Mr. Mesaros, I am aware of the countless hours they spend working for the citizenry. I know that they have a high level of responsibility and its byproduct, stress. While my experiences with council members can be classified as anecdotal, the time spent and the nature of their job can be quantified if the CCCEO had taken the time to do so.

Chapter 10.80 also asks us to consider measures designed to attract the “highest quality” candidates to run for “public” offices. As Mrs. Bloom has aptly stated, it is of paramount importance to encourage young people to work in the public sector. Except for Mr. Peterson, all of the council members have AARP cards as do I. How can we persuade those in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s to run for city council if we pay Mc Wages?

I sent this letter to our council members because felt that I had more to say. A wise friend advised me to share my thoughts with the Edmonds citizens to, in her words, “jump start the conversation.” And so I will. May the debate begin!

Barbara Tipton
Edmonds

12 COMMENTS

  1. The process put in place by enacting a Citizen’s Compensation Commission was to distance the elected officials from setting their own salaries. The Washintington State Constitution is is really clear about elected officials not setting their own salaries; they are allowed to set future compensation for their positions, however.

    Edmonds enacted the Commission and empowered them with the determination of appropriate salary levels; the elected officials were to be away from the entire process. Either the commission filed its results or it didn’t. The elected officials were not to meddle in the process.

    This Commission didn’t follow procedure, didn’t abide by the open public meetings act and didn’t properly file on time. Instead of doing the only thing allowed the council which was to let stand the previous schedule, the Council meddled in the process. Was it because they didn’t like the results the commission came to? It sure looks like it.

    Repealing the Commission is well within the authority of the Council. They will not be setting their own salaries, they will be setting future compensation. But in meddling with the mess of the Compensation Commision, instead of dealing with it at a later time it looks like they objected to the results rather than the process. Which is exactly what Edmonds adopted the Commission to prevent in the first place.

    Council, Mayor and the Judges salaries are not the issue. It never should have been.

    • Ms. Talmadge – I think a review of Mayor, Staff and Commission conduct is warranted. The Open Public Meetings Act is law.

      The June 17, 2014 meeting is highly alarming as they met for nearly 2 hours despite not having a quorum.

      The “Public Official” issue is very important and needs to be investigated and addressed.

  2. Perhaps everyone should wait until ALL of the facts are out regarding this matter before the usual bad mouthing of our City Council. Assuming the Council ” didn’t like the results” (although one could hardly BLAME THEM) is a big stretch without having all of the facts out on this.

  3. Ms Tipton, (this is public and not an email so I will address you more formally) Thank you for the excellent thoughts. In other articles there have been many comments about the process and errors that occurred in the process. This is not the only commission that has had process errors. Is it the fault of the folks on the commission? Did they plan to do their work in secret or violate the process. Doubtful. But it happened. Ms Talmadge also make some good points. I am not sure if Ms Ryder knows of other facts not yet made public or just what she is referencing?

    Back to “Lessons Learned” and what we should do about it. We should take this event with the comp commission to catch our breath and set a course to fix all the issues with not just this commission but with others as well. We have see multiple issues produce fire storms with some commissions and taken valuable public time that could have been avoided. Likely we will see more as we move forward unless we step back and look at all commissions and set forth the rules and roles of each and how we are going to conduct the public’s business and why.

  4. Thanks Ms. Tipton for taking the time to comment on “Lessons learned”.

    On 7/25/14, under a different thread, I commented that:

    My opinion is that this process has been a mess.

    I expressed my disappointment that on 7/22/14 the City Council voted 5-2 to pass a last second Ordinance (No. 3974) that was not included in the Agenda Packet to extend the deadline for the CCCEO to file their compensation schedule, a schedule that the CCCEO had already filed on 7/10/14. I asked how the council members who voted for this last second Ordinance knew that the citizens of Edmonds wanted this new Ordinance passed and wanted the related taxpayer dollars, staff time and energy spent on this additional effort.

    This is the type of decision making that I find so disappointing and hard to understand as a citizen.

    I think it was and still is a bigger mess than previously thought.

    I’ll discuss one item in more detail now:

    After Ordinance No. 3974 was passed, I asked the City if the new Ordinance could be legally effective before thirty days from the time of final passage and if it was subject to referendum during the interim. I asked this because the City of Edmonds adopted the powers of initiative and referendum related to our Ordinances back in 1985. Hence, Ordinances shall not go into effect before thirty days from the time of final passage and are subject to referendum during the interim except for 7 exceptions, none of which I thought applied to this situation.

    I never received an answer but I may have been on the right track. The new draft Ordinance repealing ECC 10.80 states the following:

    “This ordinance is subject to referendum and shall take effect thirty (30) days after passage.” This is much different than Ordinance No. 3974 which stated that it was NOT subject to referendum and effective FIVE (5) days after passage and publication.

    Hopefully one of the “Lessons learned” as a result of this mess is that many of the Ordinances passed by the City Council are subject to referendum and cannot be legally effective before 30 days from the time of final passage.

    I wonder how many of our Ordinances passed since 1985 were not subject to referendum and the thirty (30) day period when they should have been?

  5. To the best of my knowledge, following are the 7 exceptions for those interested:

    (1) Ordinances initiated by petition;

    (2) Ordinances necessary for immediate preservation of public peace, health, and safety or for the support of city government and its existing public institutions which contain a statement of urgency and are passed by unanimous vote of the council;

    (3) Ordinances providing for local improvement districts;

    (4) Ordinances appropriating money;

    (5) Ordinances providing for or approving collective bargaining;

    (6) Ordinances providing for the compensation of or working conditions of city employees; and

    (7) Ordinances authorizing or repealing the levy of taxes; which excepted ordinances shall go into effect as provided by the general law or by applicable sections of Title35A RCW as now or hereafter amended.

  6. The public’s business needs to be performed according to ALL LAWS and the City of Edmonds needs to update its codes and have a CODE OF ETHICS also. The present outdated and inconsistent code allows for less than fair treatment of citizens and permitting any number of unethical behavior, decisions, and actions that may or could unfold because of this.

    In regards to “process errors” and whether the commission intended to commit those errors, it doesn’t matter, other citizens rights were violated……the right of the PUBLIC to know the proceedings……..This is about the LAW!

  7. Tere, The present city council has been working on a code of ethics for at least 2 years, speaks volumes. Do they actually want one. The employees of Edmonds have one.

    • I see NOTHING that shows that ANY employee for the City of Edmonds is part of ANY Code of ETHICS!…..

      A Code of CONDUCT is not the same as a Code of ETHICS. .

      A Code of ETHICS is quite simple, and for some reason, All of the government/staff of the City of Edmonds has purposely chosen to not implement a simple Code of Ethics. I believe that is WHY many do not TRUST our government here. There ARE ethical STANDARDS, and we ALL know them!….quite simple.

      One has to entertain the question of WHY?? our government does not want to have a simple Code of Ethics. Perhaps we need to VOTE people in that AGREE to a simple Code of ETHICS…….If they do not, they should not be a part of our government if we want an ETHICAL/TRANSPARENT government.

      I believe most people that live HERE do want an ETHICAL GOVERNMENT…..Really!

      • Most of the Professional Staff of the City have Codes of Ethics via their professions. The City Attorney is bound to the Canon of Ethics for attorneys, the Finance Director is bound by the Code of Ethics for Certified Public Accountants.I am sure there are others as well.

        A Code of Conduct is not a Code of Ethics. The elected officials took an oath to follow the laws. In Edmonds that is all.

        But the City Employees may or may not have a professional Code of Ethics and are bound to the Code of Conduct.

  8. Don – I don’t think that the employees of Edmonds have a Code of Ethics. There is a General Code of Conduct in the City’s Personnel Policies, but I believe that is not the same thing as a codified Code of Ethics. I believe the General Code of Conduct falls far short of what is needed. Also, how would a citizen of Edmonds request a General Code of Conduct investigation? Who would conduct the investigation and who would be responsible to take any necessary related action?

    As I’ve said before, Monroe states it very well, as follows:

    The public has a right to expect that each and every public official and employee live up to the highest ethical standards in the performance of their duties. Citizens have the right to courtesy, impartiality, fairness and equality under the law.

    The City of Edmonds should be courteous and impartial and treat its citizens fairly and equally under the law.

    I’ll provide one quick example. Bad things can happen when the City fails to be impartial by factoring its perceived liability exposure into its actions. For example, Former City Attorney Scott Snyder represented in a September 16, 2010 email that the city (administration) was forced to “push the issue” related to potential for liability.

    I believe the City should not “push the issue” related to its fear of liability issues. How can an ethical, law abiding City be “forced” to apply its laws differently to different citizens? Citizens have the right to courtesy, impartiality, fairness and equality under the law. I believe a Code of Ethics that applies to Mayor, Staff and Council will be of great value.

  9. Ken, You are correct. I attended the committee meeting a couple of months ago where the ethics policy was discussed. I spoke on having an enforcement policy. We shall see.

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