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Coppola plans to stay on planning board

Newly elected Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola wants to finish his term as a Kitsap County Planning Commissioner, and does not feel the two positions represent a conflict of interest.

“I’d like to continue on the Planning Commission,” Coppola said before last week’s election.

Coppola was first appointed to the Planning Commission in 2001 by South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel. His second term expires at the end of 2008.

“On the Planning Commission, we never rule on matters specific to a city,” Coppola said. “If we did address a matter that had something to do with Port Orchard, I would recuse myself.”

The Planning Commission is a nine-member volunteer board that has no authority, but makes its recommendations to the county commissioners. It has the highest visibility and arguably the most influence of all the volunteer boards.

Coppola will be removed from the decision-making process in 2008, as he is scheduled to become Planning Commission chairman. At that point he will only vote in case of a tie.

Angel said on Monday she intends to meet with Coppola in the near future to discuss the situation. She claimed no preconceived notions but said, “I need to be convinced there will not be a conflict of interest.”

Neither Coppola nor Angel knew whether a commissioner could fire a previously appointed volunteer board member. “If I thought there was a conflict, I would ask him to resign,” Angel said.

The conflict of interest issue was raised several months ago by Jim Sommerhauser, who also serves on the planning commission.

Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown feels serving on both boards represents a conflict, saying “I can’t think of one instance of an official who was elected in one jurisdiction serves on a board that makes decisions about that jurisdiction. I think there is a very good chance there would be a conflict here.”

Kim Abel, who is finishing her term as Port Orchard mayor, doesn’t perceive a conflict but warned of another possible problem.

“Both jobs are very difficult and time consuming,” she said. “I hope he can give them both the attention they deserve.”

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