At Tuesday’s work study meeting, Port Orchard City Council members parceled out committee assignments. Most of the time, this is a process of seeing who steps forward to volunteer for a committee, but in the case of the finance committee, there were more applicants (five) than slots (three).
The reason, Mayor Lary Coppola said after the meeting, boils down to: money is power. “It’s the decision-making committee,” Coppola said. “So many decisions that happen on the council are driven by money.”
Councilman Fred Chang, one of the five contenders, put it this way, “For those of us not on it, we feel there’s a lot of information discussed there, and by the time it gets to the council, there’s already three of the four votes we need (out of seven council members to make a majority). … It’s not so much that they make decisions against what the rest of the council would agree with, it’s just that we’re not privy to information we need.”
Council members do receive minutes of committee meetings, not quite the same as being in on the discussion, I would guess.
Council members who have served on the finance committee for the past two years include John Clauson (chairman), Rob Putaansuu and Carolyn Powers. Besides the three incumbents and Chang, Councilman Jerry Childs threw his hat into the ring for the upcoming term.
Council members each wrote their three top recommendations for the committee on slips of paper. City Clerk Patti Kirkpatrick tallied the winners: John Clauson (who also was chosen by the council to remain chair), Rob Putaansuu and Jerry Childs.
The process seemed to me a little old school and had shades of a fourth grade popularity contest. But, according to City Attorney Greg Jacoby, it was all above board. I had the misconception that no action could be taken at a work study meeting. That’s not true, Jacoby said. State statutes allow final action to be taken on items at properly publicized work study meetings, as long as the item is on the agenda and as long as it doesn’t involve approval of contracts or bills for payment. Jacoby said it is customary for Port Orchard (and most other local jurisdictions) to use study sessions for in-depth discussions and briefing on issues that will come before them at regular council meetings.
Furthermore, said Jacoby, the paper slip voting did not constitute final action. The council will entertain a resolution at its regular meeting Jan. 26 regarding committee membership. Terms run two years. Writing the names on paper was a way to come to consensus on the council’s recommendations for the finance committee.
Information on committees and boards can be found on the city’s Web site. Upcoming committee meetings, which are open to the public, are listed on the regular council meeting agenda, which is available on the city’s Web site and by request by calling City Hall, (360) 876-4407.