01/29/2007: "CC Tells Rose Not To Attend State Meeting Of Officials"
Each year the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) holds a meeting for county officials to come together, to meet, share, discuss and learn about common interests, and hopefully to do some good for their constituents back home.
This will be the first year San Juan County will have a County Administrator (CA) who could attend the meetings, and while CA Pete Rose has attended past meetings when working in other jurisdictions, this would be the first time for him join some of the County Councils members in representing San Juan County as the person in charge of the administration of San Juan County.
Or at least it was assumed that would be the way things would go. Assumed that is, until Council Chair Lichter and Councilman Ranker told Rose in a public meeting, in no uncertain terms, that "It would be inappropriate for you to attend" because, Ranker said, Rose is not elected, and does not make policy. The message was pretty clear that while his work for the county was important, the county would best be served if Rose stayed in San Juan County, and did not hobnob with other County officials who were elected. Lichter informed Rose that he had a lot of work to do here, and he should not join the Council members at the meeting..
Councilman Rich Peterson questioned that opinion, telling the council that the "County is best served by having the Administrator attend", to which Ranker countered by telling the council "The Association of Counties is only for members that are elected"; and then told Rose that "during a specific hearing it would be good to have your limited testimony".
In the face of Ranker and Lichter's strong factual statements, the other councilmen seemed somewhat resigned that Rose could not attend, but Councilman Myhr said "Seems to me it is important to have as many voices as possible." Lichter said "we are going to have a heck of a lot of work to do, and it is important not to blur the lines (policymakers vs. administrators).
Councilman Peterson was the Fire Chief of Santa Barbara, and his past experience in leading large departments -with large budgets- has given him some special insights into how government works, and should work. He expressed his experience by telling the Council that "Our county will not have the same impact if we don't have our administrator there".
Myhr told Rose "I have no problem with having you down there, and it should be up to you to decide if it would be helpful to be there". Councilman Gene Knapp seemed to agree with Lichter, stating that he was "troubled with Rose attending, I have a concern about his time and the legislative aspects of it".
Rose had remained silent during most of the discussion, and at the end told the Council "I suggest staff help you, and prepare you for the meeting", indicating that he would change his plans to attend.
None of this made sense to Councilman Peterson, so instead of simply taking Ranker and Lichter's word that it was inappropriate for Rose to a attend, he called the Association to double check, and found out that the meeting was open to all county officials, elected or not. The Island Guardian has learned that the truth of the matter is that, only elected officials are allowed to vote on WSAC matters, but all are encouraged to attend.
Following Peterson's lead, The Island Guardian also called the Association, and we asked Bill Vogler, the Executive Director of the Washington State Association of Counties, if he agreed Rose should not attend because he is appointed to his position, and not elected. Vogler said that the Association encourages county officials to attend, and it would not be unusually for members of other departments, such as planners and building officials, to attend.
To the point-blank question of would it be appropriate or not, Vogler said "Well, we invited him to attend". We then called twelve year veteran of the former County Commission, John Evans, to ask his opinion, and Evans said that while a sitting Commissioner he had invited "various unelected department heads to attend in the past", and said "the meetings are an excellent time for the County to work as a team to forwarding SJC interests at the state level".
If any of this has changed the minds of any of the Council, they have yet to so state in a public meeting