Weatherill vetoes committee ordinance

The day after it passed unanimously in the Port Orchard City Council, Mayor Jay Weatherill vetoed an ordinance stripping him of his power to appoint committees.

Most of the council members said they weren’t surprised Weatherill had vetoed the measure. However, no one could predict what will happen when the matter returns to the council at the first council meeting of the year Jan. 14.

Since the ordinance was approved Dec. 20, two council seats have turned over, placing Ron Rider and Todd Cramer in seats formerly occupied by Warren Van Zee and Tom Stansbery, respectively. In order to overturn the veto, the council needs the support of a super-majority, or five out of seven council members. Most of the council feels the two new members will play a pivotal role in whether the ordinance passes over Weatherill’s veto.

“It was expected,” said councilman Don Morrisson, who sponsored the ordinance. “Jay obviously feels comfortable that (the new council members) are going to follow his lead.”

The ordinance would overturn another measure passed in 1983 which gave the power of committee appointment exclusively to the mayor. Previously, the council members had formed committees as a body.

Councilman John Clauson, who at that time was serving his first term on the council, sponsored the 1983 measure. He said the idea was to take some of the work burden off the council and streamline the process.

“We thought: ‘Well, it would be just as easy to throw it onto the mayor’s lap,’ ” Clauson said. “There wasn’t any ulterior motive — it just made sense.”

Nevertheless, Clauson said he felt it was time to return the power of committee appointment to the council. He said the process had become less of a collaborative effort, which was not the idea behind the 1983 ordinance.

Morrisson said the mayor’s appointments were done almost entirely without council input. He said several councilmembers, including himself, were given major committee changes and were never asked whether or not they supported the changes.

“Everyone kept calling and saying how dissatisfied they were,” Morrisson said. “There’s a lot of work and a lot of background on these committees. To change them constantly is to kind of reinvent the wheel. (In addition,) there was some feeling there was some favoritism being shown.”

Weatherill disagrees with Morrisson’s assessment.

He said the changes were necessary to keep the committees functioning smoothly while incorporating the two new councilmen. Weatherill said the procedure in which the mayor appoints the council has worked well for years, and he feels that personal feelings — not need — may have been the primary force behind the ordinance.

He also said the allegations that he rejected council input on the committee assignments are false.

“I’m still willing to talk with individuals,” Weatherill said. “I always have been. It’s just never been an issue before.”

At least one council member present at the Dec. 20 meeting supported the mayor’s changes and his right to make them.

Councilman Rick Wyatt said that not only was the ordinance inappropriate, but the timing was equally so. He said he felt the new councilmembers should have been given the chance to vote on the ordinance since they were the ones who would be having to live with the results. He also said the motion which put the power to decide the new format of committee appointment in the hands of the three senior council members — Clauson, Carolyn Powers and Bob Geiger — was patently unfair.

“Taking some of the mayor’s responsibility away for the wrong reasons is not proper,” Wyatt said. “This has been part of his job description for the last 18 years.”

He said that although his committee assignments also changed significantly, he was happy with the overall outcome of the assignments.

“I think it was done very well,” Wyatt said. “You take a look at some of the changes and I think it’s good.”

Rider also said he thought the ordinance was ill-timed. He said he thought the problems that spawned the ordinance were largely a miscommunication which could have been talked out instead of becoming a public controversy.

“To me, the ordinance was being done for the wrong reasons,” Rider said. “I think the problem could have been ironed out if everybody had sat down.”

He wouldn’t disclose how he is planning to vote on Jan. 14, but said he has already thoroughly thought the matter over. Rider said he hopes that, whatever the outcome, neither the council nor the mayor will hold grudges or take the results personally.

Regardless, he appreciates the awkward position in which the issue has put he and Cramer.

“You know, this is kind of like throwing us on the front line of World War III,” Rider said. “I just hope it doesn’t get ugly.”

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