The recent political debacle and government shutdown made me painfully aware of how important it is for me to REALLY pay attention to whom I cast my vote. With our own local election for council only weeks away, I went back to paying attention to the details of our local race.
In my previous letter to the editor I shed light on how one of our councilmembers, who is up for re-election, received the majority of her financial support from outside of Edmonds; several of those supporters happen to be party-specific special interest groups. Interesting fact in light of this being a “non-partisan” position.
Here’s what I also found interesting that happens to involve this same councilmember…but before I go there, let me provide some background: Rrior to 2013, councilmembers were paid $50 per meeting for attending up to four outside committee meetings and four Edmonds City Council meetings per month. Per Ordinance 3110 no payment would be due if the committee meeting host paid for the councilmember’s attendance. Each month councilmembers were required to complete time sheets reporting the meetings for which they were requesting compensation. Effective with 2013, this policy changed and the councilmembers’ monthly pay assumed that they had attended eight meetings for the month, so they no longer have to complete attendance time sheets.
Councilmember Fraley-Monillas was the council’s representative on the Snohomish County Board of Health committee. She was paid $55 by that organization for each meeting attended. Contrary to City Ordinance, councilmember Fraley-Monillas also sought, and received, $50 for attendance for each of those meetings from the City of Edmonds. Hmm. What happened to “no payment would be due if the committee meeting host paid?” In March of 2012 this overpayment was discovered by the City, and Councilmember Fraley-Monillas was required to reimburse the City $900 for the 18 meetings she reported as having attended during 2011 and Jan/Feb 2012. Just as a side note, this information was obtained through a public records request from the City.
Just to confirm that there wasn’t some discrepancy in documentation, a public records request was also filed with the Snohomish County Board of Health to verify the number of meetings for which Councilmember Fraley-Monillas was paid. Those Board of Health records show that Councilmember Fraley-Monillas was not paid for attending 18 meetings, but only 15 meetings. Hold the press. Councilmember Fraley-Monillas reported on her city council time sheets that she attended 18 meetings and was paid by the city for attending 18 meetings, yet the Board of Health only shows her being paid for 15 meetings. What happened to the other 3?
Now I realize that there may be some explanation as to why Councilmember Fraley-Monillas was unaware that it was not legitimate to receive a double payment for meetings. I find this a bit interesting when several folks have pointed out that Councilmember Fraley-Monillas is fiscally smart. If this was in fact a legitimate mistake on Councilmember Fraley-Monillas’ part, then integrity, transparency and common sense would dictate that she disclose it to the citizens of Edmonds when it was discovered over a year and a half ago. Mistakes happen and when we are forthcoming, then it is much easier to look past the mistake. But this is kind of like the kid stealing candy, thinking he can get away with it, gets caught, has to pay restitution and just prays that his parents don’t find out. The parents found out.
I think it is really important that those we elect to office remember that they are public servants and need to answer to the public. I’m disappointed in these recent findings and no matter what type of spin one wants to put on this issue, there is no legitimate reason to claim payment for meetings that were not attended.