Port Orchard City Councilman Rob Putaansuu, who was replaced on the Kitsap Transit board Tuesday morning, was reappointed to the board Tuesday night by the council as the city’s representative to the board. Putansuu will replace Mayor Tim Matthes on the board.
Putaansuu has served in the at-large position on the Kitsap Transit board since the position was created four years ago. Yesterday, in a shuffle of board members, Putaansuu was replaced by a member of the Bainbridge Island City Council.
The at-large position is meant to give representation on the board to Kitsap County’s smaller cities. Putaansuu said that two years ago when the position was open, no one else stepped up. This year Bainbridge expressed an interest in taking a turn at that role.
Other positions on the board are reserved for the three county commissioners, the mayor of Bremerton, and representatives from each of the three smaller cities. Traditionally the small city representative has been the mayor. But Putaansuu at Tuesday’s Port Orchard City Council meeting said the representative could alternately be a member of the city council chosen by the rest of the council, according to transit board bylaws.
The Kitsap Transit board discussion item came up late in the meeting. Councilman John Clauson, who is Kitsap Transit’s executive director, recused himself. Councilman Jeff Cartwright also works for KT, as human resources director, but he said he would not be stepping down.
“Although I work at Kitsap Transit, I don’t believe there’s a conflict because I report to John and John reports to the board. If there are no objections, I do plan on staying for this conversation.”
“I actually do object,” Matthes said. “I would like that you also recuse yourself and Mr. Putaansuu should recuse himself.”
Putaansuu said he didn’t see any reason to recuse himself. Cartwright, however, did step down after Councilman Fred Chang said he also thought Carwright’s presence was a conflict of interest, because actions of the board have a direct bearing on Cartwright’s job. “I’ll honor that,” Cartwright said.
The tension in the air probably stemmed in part from an earlier discussion of emails as public records in which the Mayor and Cartwright grew testy with one another.
The Mayor, as a member of the KT board, also recused himself, and Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Lucarelli took over the meeting.
Putaansuu said he is “passionate about” Kitsap Transit’s study of a fast ferry to Seattle and wants to bring a vote on the proposed service to Kitsap residents, who would help foot the bill for operation of the ferry.
“My position is we’ve spent millions of taxpayer dollars to improve technologies (for the fast ferry) and the business plan (to operate it), and we owe it to the voters to ask them whether or not they want that,” Putaansuu said.
Councilwoman Bek Ashby asked if the council could legally take action on the appointment, given that the meeting was a work study session. City Clerk Brandy Rinearson said they could.
“The rule is you cannot make a motion if it relates to an ordinance or if you’re approving a contract or a bill for payment of money at a special meeting,” she said. Since the appointment was none of the above, they could take action.
Councilman Jerry Childs talked about Putaansuu’s “historical knowledge” of the fast ferry issue and said he was in favor of the appointment.
Chang said he was against it because of the “tradition” of having the mayor represent the city on the board.
When Elissa Whittleton, a member of the audience, asked if the mayor shouldn’t be asked whether he’d like to continue serving on the board, Putaansuu replied, “The bylaws say it’s to be chosen by the city council, not the mayor.”
Putaansuu abstained from the vote. Childs, Lucarelli and Ashby voted in favor of the appointment. Chang voted no.
When Matthes returned to the meeting to find he’d been replaced on the board, he said, “It was all prearranged.”
“In a way it’s a good thing,” the Mayor added, saying now he could still attend meetings and advocate exclusively for Port Orchard’s needs.
Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter