Hearing examiner accused of breaking the trust she sought

The city’s newly appointed interim hearing examiner allegedly reneged on a pledge aimed at satisfying concerns that she may favor the mayor in a property dispute.

In a March 2007 audio recording of an examiner hearing, Margaret Klockars, then serving as a fill-in examiner, said she would decline serving as examiner on future Bainbridge cases. She made the pledge to quell criticism that that she may use her decision to curry favor and future employment with Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, who was named in the case.

“Anything that would prevent me from being fair (might be) the fact that I might want to come back here,” Klockars said in a recording made by the city on March 22, 2007. “I can assure you…I would decline if invited to return for any other case.”

Despite her pledge to decline employment, Klockars accepted the mayor’s appointment as hearing examiner 14 months later. She is currently presiding over four cases involving citizen appeals of city decisions.

Jette Hammer, who lives near Kordonowy on Port Madison Bay and is in conflict with the mayor and another neighbor over placement of docks, confronted the mayor on the issue this week.

“I don’t think Bainbridge deserves a hearing examiner who says one thing and does another,” said Hammer, who lost a dock permitting decision appeal presided over by Klockars.

The decision, according to Hammer, benefited Kordonowy, allowing her to keep her dock and for her neighbors, the Knapp family, to build a new dock that crowds Hammer’s property.

Klockars said she made her decision without influence or expectations from Kordonowy,

“I certainly didn’t anticipate coming back to the city,” she said on Friday. “I was not looking to give any favors or to get hired again.”

Klockars filled-in on the 2007 case after the acting examiner, Meredith Getches, recused herself, citing the possible appearance of a conflict of interest between her and the mayor, her employer.

Klockers accepted the interim position in July after Getches died in June.

Although she considers her new position as temporary, Klockers’ interim designation does not bar her from working for several years. Getches’ predecessor served on an interim basis for about seven years.

Kordonowy stands by her decision to appoint Klockars, and stressed that she has received assurances from the city attorney that her actions are in accordance with city rules.

“I have nothing to gain and I have no conflict of interest,” she said.

Kordonowy declined to discuss the property dispute under the advice of City Attorney Paul McMurray.

According to city records, Hammer objected to the proposed construction of a dock by the Knapp family, who live on a Sievertson Road parcel between the Hammer family and Kordonowy.

The Knapps had for over a decade been allowed the use of Kordonowy’s dock, which sits along the Knapp property line.

In 2005, the Knapps filed a development permit to build a new dock on their property. The Hammers protested, arguing that the proposed dock would interfere with the navigation of boats, may harm the environment and crowd their property. The Hammers also argued that Kordonowy’s dock encroaches on the Knapp property, preventing a new dock’s construction or necessitating the removal of Kordonowy’s dock.

In a May 2007 decision, Klockars affirmed the city’s approval of the Knapps’ dock.

“We have spent $200,000 fighting this and the city has spent maybe $50,000,” Hammer said. “The only one who really won is the mayor.”

On Friday, Klockars said she took the city’s interim examiner position as a favor to Getches, who enlisted her help before her death, and to assist with the city’s growing list of cases.

Also the examiner for the cities of Gig Harbor and Normandy Park, Klockars is in the mood to retire and would willingly resign if asked by the city.

“I want to retire and travel – and I don’t mean travel to Bainbridge,” she said. “I (accepted the job) to help out. If I’m not helping out, I’m happy to have my workload lighter.”

Hammer said the city should have transferred the hearing to another city to avoid possible conflicts between the examiner and mayor.

At the advice of the City Council, Hammer is considering a formal complaint with the ethics board, which can issue opinions but cannot reprimand officials.

“It’s difficult to fight City Hall,” she said. “The hearing examiner is supposed to be the defender of the citizens.”

Kordonowy said she had not heard Klockars’ pledge to take no further cases with the city until Hammer brought it to her attention. While commending Klockars’ credentials and service for the city, Kordonowy hasn’t ruled out relieving Klockars of her duties, she said.

“I’m asking more questions to be sure I am serving the city and citizens as transparently and honorably as I can,” she said.

2 thoughts on “Hearing examiner accused of breaking the trust she sought

  1. Well, well, the Kitsap Sun looking into the low-haning fruit of conflicts of interest, corruption or misuse of public powers. In the not-too-distant past Rachel Pritchett, BI beat reporter for the Sun/Islander did a commendable job tracking some of the darker secrets of COBI admininstration and Council. Pritchett broke stories of COBI political censorship, Art and Humanities council shenanigans on Celluloid Bainbridge, slow storm response.

    This article is a good start for Baurick and the Islander. The other paper’s response to misdeed by COBI, the paper the Review, sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil about COBI unless they are forced to do so. As a result the Review is nearly worthless for any investigative action.

    Keep digging Tristan and make your paper properly fund your time and efforts. Transparent government comes with full analysis of troubling matter like you raise here.

    For the sheer joy of it, watch BITV’s latest coverage of this matter (in public comment period). Watch Mayor K’s reaction as Mrs. Hammer states her accusation against Mayor K. Her Honor the Mayor looks like she is going to bolt for the door or worse as Mrs. Hammer plays the tape recording.

    Keep digging Tristan.

  2. Note this carefully:

    “Kordonowy declined to discuss the property dispute under the advice of City Attorney Paul McMurray.”

    In what part of the COBI municipal code is it indicated that the City Attorney is allowed to provide legal advice to the Mayor with regard to private property disputes?

    Obviously, COBI code makes no such allowance. I think the Mayor needs to reimburse COBI for McMurray’s time, however inconsequential it may be.

Comments are closed.