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Port Orchard may stop reimbursing city councilmen for dues to clubs, non-profit organizations

The city of Port Orchard has reimbursed several city councilmen for dues associated with belonging to local non-profit organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce.

But they may not do so in the future.

“I had to submit for reimbursement from Rotary International, and the treasurer thought it was a good time to talk about this,” said City Councilman Jerry Childs.

The council discussed the issue at a work study session April 19.

“We want to make sure that the council still endorses this policy, which is basically encouraging community service and encouraging community evolvement,” said Childs.

Legally, the council could choose to pay for the memberships and dues, or not.

“There’s a dearth of statutes on this topic,” said Greg Jacoby, Port Orchard’s city attorney. “You’re not going to find anything specific on Rotary and the Chamber.”

Belonging to the community comes with the territory of being an elected official, said Councilwoman Carolyn Powers, “To be out there. To be visible. To be talking to people and promoting the city.”

So, she said, the city shouldn’t feel obligated to pay the dues.

“We do have a decent salary for being on the council,” she said, suggesting that the city councilmen should use that money to pay their dues.

But some groups, like Kitsap Regional Library, see enough benefit to the group memberships that they’ll pay the dues, said Childs.

“Kitsap Regional Library Managers are encouraged to become active in their communities,” he said, quoting one of the library’s policies. “One way of doing this is to join civic groups, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce.”

Joining the groups isn’t required, he said, but “the library supports this community involvement by reimbursing staff for initiation dues and that sort of thing.”

That’s for staff, not elected officials, noted Alan Martin, the city’s treasurer.

“They made a public policy decision that they want their staff people to be out attending these to get feedback,” he said.

Ultimately, though, Childs saw it as worthwhile.

“I don’t think that it’s something that’s not valuable,” he said. “I think it’s valuable to the city and the community to have this interaction.”

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