Approximately 45 minutes was allocated on the Edmonds City Council agenda Tuesday night to discuss a City Code of Ethics — an idea that has been before the council in one form or another since 2012. In the end, the process took under 11 minutes, but not everyone was happy about the result, including Councilmember Joan Bloom, who gathered her belongings and left the council chambers after a revised code of ethics she had hoped to review was ignored, and an earlier version was approved by a 5-1 vote. (Councilmember Diane Buckshnis was absent due to family commitments.)
The last time an ethics code was discussed — at the April 14, 2015 council meeting-– Bloom made it clear that she wasn’t satisfied with the proposed code drafted late last year by Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Strom Peterson, calling it a “watered-down version” of the model she preferred from the City of Shoreline. (Peterson has since left the council for the State Legislature.) At that April 14 meeting, councilmembers agreed to have her work on a revised draft, and Buckshnis volunteered to assist her. That draft was listed on Tuesday’s council agenda as Attachment 16, Options A, B, C, and D. You can see that version here.
But when the council reached that agenda item Tuesday night, Fraley-Monillas made a motion to approve Attachment 13, which was essentially the ethics code that she and Peterson had created in the first place.
“I am just shocked by that personally,” Bloom responded after Fraley-Monillas introduced her motion. Bloom then requested instead that the council have a chance to review the “much stronger” version she and Buckshnis had worked on.
Fraley-Monillas said that she had received an email from Buckshnis stating in part that “just because my name’s on the agenda memo and I assisted Ms. Bloom in in trying to add more data and pattern it after the Shoreline Code of Ethics, I’ve always been of the opinion to start small, and I’ve like what both Mr. Peterson and Ms. Monillas put forth. So let’s march on.”
Councilmember Lora Petso then appealed to the council chair — a role filled by Mayor Dave Earling — to rule that the motion made by Fraley-Monillas was “not germaine” to the agenda item because it referred to attachment 13 rather than attachment 16. Earling disagreed, so Petso moved — and Bloom seconded — a motion to overturn the chair’s ruling. That motion was defeated by a vote of 2-4 (Petso and Bloom voting for).
Fraley-Monillas then said, “I reject (Attachment) number 16, which is why I put forth number 13. If you don’t like number 13, I respect that as a councilmember and you are welcome to vote against it. And if it’s voted down, then you can move back up to number 16 if you wish. But I don’t believe that number 16 is in the best interest of the city or the citizens.”
“This is appalling to me,” a visibly upset Bloom said. “You are not giving us an opportunity to discuss this and you want us to vote on what we have talked about in the past and I requested that we not go forward with, and that we be more inclusive in our Code of Ethics.”
After a 5-1 vote to support Attachment 13, Bloom left the room and did not return for the remainder of the meeting.
Later in the evening, the council also had a lengthy discussion about how best to support the city’s various boards and commissions. City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite noted that she and Development Director Shane Hope had worked with Councilmembers Bloom, Buckshnis and Fraley-Monillas to compile a spreadsheet identifying all the city’s boards and commissions, staff time allocation, cost and other logistics. Of particular concern has been staffing for the Tree Board, which doesn’t have regularly dedicated staff support, and the newly-formed Diversity Commission, which hasn’t been able to get up and running yet because there is no staff available to support it.
While it has been proposed that contract staff be hired to assist, Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said she would prefer that existing city staff handle those duties because of the valuable “institutional knowledge” they bring — even if it means adjusting their work priorities. Councilmember Tom Mesaros asked Mayor Dave Earling to work with staff to research what might be possible with existing staff, and to come back to the council with ideas at an upcoming study session.
In other action, the council:
– held a public hearing on an interim ordinance that would prevent property developers from submitting more than one development application for the same property. This is a followup to the emergency ordinance on the same topic that was approved by the council March 17. Councilmembers were told that the public hearing was supposed to be held within 60 days but that Tuesday’s hearing was held on day 77. City Planner Kernen Lien described the late hearing as “an oversight” that city staff is looking into and “something that we will ensure doesn’t happen again.” The city’s attorney was consulted and staff were told that the oversight had “no substantive affect on the timeline and will not affect the validity of the ordinance,” Lien said.
The ordinance was approved with five yes votes and an abstention by Bloom, who said she was concerned that it wasn’t brought to the council during the 60-day deadline. “I don’t think we did this right and I don’t feel right in supporting it,” she said. Fraley-Monillas said that while errors were made, the city is following up to address them. “Seeing that it serves no purposed to vote against, I’m going to vote for it,” she said.
– agreed to a year loan for the city-owned painting “Two Workmen,” done in 1960 by Pacific Northwest artist (and former Edmonds resident) Guy Anderson, to the Cascadia Art Museum, which is scheduled to open at Salish Crossing in September. According to City Arts and Culture Manager Frances Chapin, the work now located in the city council chambers “is one of the significant paintings in the city’s public art collection.” The painting has been located in the council chambers because of the need for security coupled with a desire for public visibility. Having the painting temporarily in the museum “will be an opportunity to show this painting to a much broader audience,” Chapin said.
– presented a resolution and plaque to council student representative Noushyar Eslami, who is graduating this year from Edmonds-Woodway High School. Eslami plans to study chemical engineering this fall at the University of Washington.
– heard a proclamation from Mayor Dave Earling regarding Music4Life Month. The program encourages people to donate their no-longer-used musical instruments for use by student musicians who otherwise would not be able to afford them.
– observed an Oath of Office Ceremony for Edmonds police officer Mark Froland’s promotion to the rank of corporal. Corporal Froland, who is an Edmonds native and was accompanied during the ceremony by his wife Brenda and their three daughters, will work in the detective unit.
– heard the March 2015 Quarterly Financial Report from Finance Director Scott James.
– received an update on the city’s Public Defender Services and made recommendations for contract amendments in order to comply with a new state and federal court rulings regarding public defender case load. The city signed a contract with the city’s long-time public defender, Feldman and Lee, P.S., for 2015, and plans to hire a contract staff person to ensure compliance with the court rulings. In addition, the city will engage in a competitive bid process to secure public defense services for 2016 and beyond.