Council wraps up another year

  • Written by Don Mann
In its final meeting of 2011, the Woodinville City Council stayed late and covered quite a bit of territory.

First, the council confirmed the reappointment of Parks & Recreation commissioners Paul Cowles, Greg Fazzio, Hal Larsen and Al Strand.

What followed was a no-brainer: approving an agreement with the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) to accept a grant for $4.5 million to assist with the funding of the Woodinville- Duvall Road widening project. The overall $8.5 million project is expected to go to bid a year from now and be completed about a year after that.

Then, after some discussion, the council decided to take no formal position regarding a reduction in the state’s annexation sales tax credit program — a budget cut proposed by Governor Christine Gregoire that will affect neighboring cities but not Woodinville.

Next, the council approved an agreement for continued legal services with Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC Attorneys at Law, which has provided legal services to the city since its incorporation in 1993.

Greg Rubstello, who joined OMW in 1995, has been Woodinville’s city attorney for four years.

There was a question of conflict of interest regarding the recent election of Les Rubstello, cousin of Greg, to the city council.

In a memo sent to City Manager Richard Leahy after a request for independent legal advice, Pat Mason, senior legal consultant for Seattle-based Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, stated the following: “In my opinion, the election of the cousin of the city attorney to the city council does not generally affect the ability of the city attorney to serve as legal advisor to the city or to the city council specifically. It is potentially possible that a specific situation could arise involving the city councilmember who is a relative of the city attorney that would make it preferable that the city attorney excuse himself from advising the city on a particular situation but it is not certain that this type of situation will ever occur and it can be easily dealt with if it does.”

Mason recommended that the city review its local ethics codes to make certain there are no local provisions that may apply to the situation, and council voted unanimously in favor of it.

Said the city attorney in a memo to the council: “I do not currently and have never had an attorney-client relationship with Les ... I trust that after Les is seated on the council you all will find I provide Les with no greater or lesser level of consideration, availability or deference than I do to all other members of the council.”

He added that he has had no business or financial relationships with his cousin, and none will be created.

The council then moved on to its continuing public hearing on Ordinance No. 524, which amends and clarifies development regulations for the downtown master plan. There were no public comments by the citizenry.

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders, apparently acting unilaterally, provided her colleagues with an updated version of her definition of Northwest woodland character in terms of her vision of what downtown development should look like.

“Woodinville has a brand, Woodinville values that brand and Woodinville incorporates that brand into its downtown design standards,” she said.

She added the work was a four-person collaboration, which included Councilmember Art Pregler, Mayor Bernie Talmas and a member of the city’s planning commission. The mayor, who said he hadn’t yet read Boundy-Sanders’ document, suggested it was more appropriate for the topic to be discussed at the first council meeting in January, when Pregler, who was absent, was back and Les Rubstello was seated. And so it was moved.

Moments later, during her report, Councilmember Liz Aspen said “I’m a little astounded that three council members have rewritten our design standards.”

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