All Politics is Local

Charter advocate proposes detailed implementation plan

Last week, I posted David Madore’s proposed charter implementation agreement. The county commissioner (councilor, as of Jan. 1), also asked for feedback on his Facebook page.

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Ridgefield resident Chuck Green offered his feedback in an email to Madore, Jeanne Stewart and Tom Mielke as well as to Chris Horne, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecutor, and acting County Manager Mark McCauley.

Green wrote:

Hopefully this email finds you in good health and spirits, ready for the exciting new year.

I am writing to you out of an invitation from Councilor and soon-to-become Council Chair David Madore in his Public Facebook post from December 26 encouraging feedback on the proposed “Charter Implementation Process Agreement”.  Having attended most of the Freeholder meetings and, in fact, conducting and presenting my own research on a number of charter topics (some of which became part of the adopted Home Rule Charter), and having been involved with the Charter Yes campaign, I believe I have a good understanding not only of Clark County’s Home Rule Charter, but also the Freeholder intent that went into drafting that charter.

Councilor Madore’s Facebook post indicated that there was research conducted by county staff that indicates the charter may be violating state law with regard to appointments by the county manager: “Last week, we discovered that state law requires the legislative body of the county (not the executive manager) to appoint many of the citizen advisory boards and commissions. Until we researched this, we were on track to unknowingly violate state law by assuming that the process specified by that portion of the Charter was lawful.”

This is surprising to myself, and likely to 63,730 others who voted for the Charter, as I recall the Freeholders being very careful to ensure that the charter was consistent with state law by adding the provision to Section 3.3B to allow for appointments by the county manager “except as provided by state law”.  In fact I believe this language was crafted with the assistance of Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christine Cook.  I do understand there are some appointments still needing to be made by the council or chair, such as Planning Commissioners (RCW 35.63). 

I’m assuming the “we researched this” statement reflects research and legal opinion by the County Prosecuting Attorney’s office; therefore, under RCW 42.56, Washington’s Public Records Act, I am requesting a copy of that research and opinion document which led to Councilor Madore’s statement.  Since this is a critical finding, I would encourage you to also post this document to “The Grid” for the voters of Clark County to review.

Regarding the proposed Charter Implementation Process Agreement, I offer the following comments and concerns: 

1. I am pleased to hear that it will be discussed in a properly noticed, Board Time public meeting.  Its surprise presentation on December 23, in my opinion, would have violated the Open Public Meetings Act if the Board had taken action then, since it was not published as part of that agenda.  Still, since this is a critical document, and it appears to be a contractual, policy action, I would encourage the Council to offer the public an opportunity to comment on it in a regular hearing agenda meeting, rather than at Board time.

2. This proposed agreement takes the form of a contract or otherwise legally binding agreement between the Executive and Legislative branches of Clark County government, which may actually be in violation of the Charter’s separation of the Executive and Legislative branches.

3. The Process Agreement intends to “identify and implement the amendments necessary to change all current rules, processes, practices, ordinances, and resolutions to complete the transition by January 1, 2016.”  I don’t believe this was the intent, but it effectively locks out 40 percent of the full county council by implementing changes in county code prior to them taking office.  One of those new councilors will represent the district in which I live.

4. There are two date references for similar actions which are inconsistent with each other.  One references a “goal of implementing achievable changes by June 30, 2015”, while the other references the aforementioned January 1, 2016.  In both cases, however, any implementation of permanent changes co-opts the input and participation of two of the five-member council who won’t be in office until after January 1, 2016.

5. Additionally, I believe that the council identifying changes in county code is inconsistent with Charter Section 10.8, which gives that authority to the Prosecuting Attorney: “On or about December 31, 2015, the prosecuting attorney shall propose amendments to the Clark County Code that are necessary to make code consistent with this charter”.

6. Since Clark County was established under RCW 36 as a municipal corporation, I believe even something as simple as a name change of the governing board requires a legal and policy action, which in my mind becomes not an action by the Chair, but a policy action by the full council.  Mr. Horne can provide his legal opinion here, but I believe changing the name of the County Commissioners falls under “successors and assigns” contractual language.

There is no mention of including members of the public in any activities related to this agreement.  The Charter specifically gives the people the power on Initiative and Referendum in order to give them (us) a voice in Clark County governmental actions. 

To borrow from Rod Serling, I would like to “submit for your approval” an alternative, which is attached.  Instead of implementing this Agreement, how about agreeing on a collaborative work or “Action” plan for 2015 which would create an orderly review of county code in partnership between the Executive and Legislative branches and the Prosecuting Attorney’s office?  It would develop a set of transition-year (2015) implementation measures to ensure the county can transition into the charter but also continue to function with the interim council in 2015, and presents a full slate of changes to county code, agreements, etc. that can be considered by the full, five-member council in 2016.

This work plan would be discussed in open, public meetings, perhaps with presentations by staff including the prosecuting attorney’s office toward the end of 2015, leading up to the full council consideration of changes and other provisions in 2016.  I recognize there are sections of county code, especially Title 2 “Administration and Personnel”, which do need some clean-up in the short term.  For example, CCC 2.52 refers to “Clark County Regional Planning Council”, which no longer exists (it is now the Regional Transportation Council).   

You will see a number of date references in my proposed Action Plan, which are on purpose.  I’m sure you would agree, that out of fairness and transparency to the election process, it would be best for voters, and candidates, to not have changes in county code become part of campaign platforms during the 2015 elections but to save those discussions until after the elections are over and certified, and in which those who are elected can participate.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide my input, and I am more than happy to answer any questions.

Sincerely,

Chuck Green

The county councilors will discuss the implementation agreement at board time on Wednesday, and we’ll see if Green’s suggestions come up.

Here’s Green’s proposed Clark County Home Rule Charter Implementation Action Plan:

Purpose
The voters of Clark County approved a new charter form of county government in the November 2014 general election.
The transition from the Constitutional form to the Charter form of county government takes effect on January 1, 2015.
A number of existing Clark County Code provisions, including those in Clark County Code Title 2, Administration and Personnel, are obsolete or require modification to be consistent with provisions in the Home Rule Charter.
It is the determination of the county council that an orderly transition “action” plan is needed to implement the provisions of the Clark County Home Rule charter, including the interim period between the January 1, 2015 effective date and the date that all five (5) members of the county council will be elected and sworn into office. The action plan will also develop a set of ordinances, rules, and other provisions that will be considered by the full five-member county council.
This “Action” plan is a work plan agreement between the county council, Acting County Manager, and the county Prosecuting Attorney’s office.

Applicable Provisions of Law

The provisions contained in the Clark County Home Rule Charter, especially Chapter 10 “Transitional Provisions”, shall apply. Priorities in this Action Plan are provided to Section 10.3, Continuation of ordinances and vested rights, and Section 10.8, Code Provisions. In no instance will any ordinance or other amendment to Clark County Code to implement the Charter be adopted which are inconsistent with Section 10.8 unless the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney has deemed it necessary to the functions of Clark County’s Executive and Legislative Branches in 2015.
For county manager appointments to boards, commissions, committees, etc., the applicable Charter section is Section 3.3B, which states “The county manager shall appoint members of boards, commissions and task forces except as provided by state law, intergovernmental agreement or this charter (emphasis added).”
All items developed and discussed under this Action Plan shall be carried out consistent with the Washington Open Public Meetings Act when doing so with the county council.

Work Plan and Milestones
The following are major task action items. In a number of cases, the county council will be requested to take legislative action in order to implement items.
On or before January 31, 2015:

* The Acting County Manager shall develop and submit for review and comment by the county council an organizational structure of administrative departments not specifically assigned by the charter or ordinance (Charter Section 3.2B (6)).
 * The Prosecuting Attorney’s office shall submit a list of ordinances which are necessary for the county’s Executive and Legislative Branches to function during 2015. Such ordinance shall include the renaming of the Legislative Branch consistent with the Charter, and shall also include continuing ordinances and vested rights (Charter Section 10.3). The “working name” for the council until enacted by the county council by resolution shall be “Board of County Councilors”.
 * The County Prosecuting Attorney’s office shall provide to the county council an interim ordinance and administrative code to enable the peoples’ rights to initiative and referendum during the 2015 transition year.

On or before March 31, 2015:
 * The Acting County Manager, in coordination with the County Prosecuting Attorney, shall review and present to the county council for review and comment the list of boards, commissions, and other committees contained in Clark County Code Title 2, Administration and Personnel, to identify those which are obsolete, revisions needed for consistency with the Acting County Manager’s administrative organization, or other items necessary to implement Section 3.3B Appointments by County Manager.

On or before August 31, 2015:
* The County Prosecuting Attorney’s office shall provide a draft list of ordinances and other changes to Clark County Code that are necessary to make code consistent with this chapter (Section 10.8 of the Charter).
* The county council will provide review and comment but will not act on any code or ordinance revisions until the full five-member council is elected and sworn into office.

On or before December 31, 2015 but after the 2015 election has been certified:
* The County Prosecuting Attorney’s office shall provide a final ordinance and proposed resolution containing changes to Clark County Code that are necessary to make code consistent with this chapter (Section 10.8 of the Charter).
* The County Prosecuting Attorney’s office shall provide to the county council a final ordinance and administrative code to enable the peoples’ rights to initiative and referendum to be considered by the full county council when they are sworn into office.

 

 

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.