Board Duplication a Conflict of Interest?October 31st, 2007 by Steven Gardner
A copy of this entry appears, with a different heading, on the South Kitsap blog. Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter
An article in today’s Kitsap Sun gives details of a ballot measure regarding the proposed merger of Karcher Creek Sewer District and Annapolis Water District. Although the boards of both districts have approved he merger and the two have been under a joint operating agreement since June – sharing staff, computers and other resources – voters who live within each district must still give the final nod to the merger.
As it happens, Bill Huntington and Jim Hart both serve on the boards of both Karcher Creek and Annapolis. Huntington — husband of incumbent Port of Bremerton commissioner Mary Ann Huntington — is up for re-election, facing former Annapolis commissioner Jeannie Screws. Hart is running unopposed for re-election as Karcher Creek commissioner.
I asked Larry Curles, general manager for both districts, if this represented a conflict of interest. He said no, that Huntington and Hart’s experience with both water and sewer helps them do a better job of representing the interests of rate payers in each district. He also said having two people on both boards makes this an ideal time for the merger.
A similar situation could evolve in Manchester, where, if Steve Pedersen beats opponent Mark Rebelowski for position 3 of the Port of Manchester race, there would be two people on the boards of the port and the Manchester Water District. Pedersen serves on the water district board. Jim Strode currently serves on both boards. Rebelowski, being careful to say he has nothing against Strode or Pedersen, raised the issue of conflict of interest. Pedersen has said he could see how people might see that as a concern, but he promises a squeaky clean approach if he wins. Strode has said the two districts already share office staff and may consider sharing more to save money.
As the cost for local government entities to do business goes up and up, mergers may become more and more popular. South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel has said the county may in the future consider going regional with some of its functions to share costs with other counties, that are also experiencing tight budgets.
As development proceeds throughout the county, sewer, water and ports (with their power to raise taxes for economic development) will play a larger role in local politics. The law currently allows people to sit on the board of more than one local entity. Should we be taking a second look at this? Playing devil’s advocate here, what’s the worst that could happen?