At the City Council’s September 17 meeting, the Council majority voted to remove one of our city commissioners over attendance concerns.
I’m writing to offer some details behind that vote and to put it into a larger context.
Woodinville has two city commissions, each made up of seven unpaid volunteers who meet once a month to advise the City Council on issues ranging from parks to roads to how we distribute population growth around the city.
The Woodinville Municipal Code – Woodinville’s law – lays out clear expectations for attendance. Commissioners may be removed “for unexcused absence for more than three consecutive regular meetings.” In more general standards of conduct, it also allows removal for “just cause.” To rationalize their actions, the City Council majority ignored the clear “unexcused absence” standard and seized upon the vague “just cause” loophole.
The information provided to the City Council before this vote did not indicate whether absences were excused or not (in fact, all absences by current commissioners were excused). It reported only absolute attendance numbers, only for the previous nine months, and contained other shortcomings and errors.
Attendance was published with commissioners’ names, raising concerns about public shaming. The information was published without any clear intent to take action and without a published motion. No alternatives were presented, such as establishing clear new rules and implementing them in the future, or declining to reappoint commissioners when their terms expire. The item was introduced and a motion was made up on the spot, with a sense of urgency that simply doesn’t match reality.
This is the latest in a series of hasty, haphazard actions by the current City Council majority that destabilize our staff, our budgets, our capital priorities, and now our volunteers.
Unfortunately, this event also hearkens back to dark days in Woodinville’s past, in which misleading attendance numbers were used in campaign mailings. This action by the City Council majority has strong political overtones and may predict an attack on a talented commissioner who is also a City Council candidate.
I hope that if such a campaign mailing materializes, voters will see it for what it is and make better choices for our future.