Tag Archives: Lary Coppola

Charged with DUI and elected mayor by one vote

That could have happened here, I know, but it didn’t. This was Fife. And the one-vote difference isn’t that big a deal, because the Fife mayor is picked by the city council. Rob Cerqui won the seat with a 4-3 vote of the council, according to the (Tacoma) News Tribune.

The weekend after the Nov. 8 election I was a guest on the Outlaw Radio Network webcast, which is generated locally.

The hosts asked me about the Port Orchard mayoral election and asked if I thought Lary Coppola was running behind because of his DUI arrest. In a race decided by five votes there is a long list of items that contributed to the loss. Do I think three people voted for Tim Matthes instead of Coppola because of the DUI? Probably. (I use “three,” because if three people had switched their votes Coppola would have won re-election.) Was it the biggest factor? I don’t think so, I said. I think the biggest issue was some people, and I said this in the kindest way possible, don’t like Coppola personally. I’m sure the ads played a factor, too.

But still, I think it was mostly a personality thing. Our editorial board, in endorsing Coppola, wrote about him, “Along the way, Coppola has stepped on a few toes — and on occasion his direct manner has rankled some people.” From this (as in me) outsider’s perspective, Matthes’ slogan for the campaign could have been “I’m not Lary.”

I would have brought this up before, but Chris Henry covered it beautifully in her story “A (too?) strong voice for Port Orchard?

Today’s headline from Fife reminded me to weigh in, not that you asked. Cerqui’s DUI came on Nov. 20, less than two weeks after he was re-elected to the council. His opponent in the race for mayor said the DUI was a personal issue and that Cerqui would do a good job as mayor.

The Coppola-Matthes race dissected

Before we relegate the 2011 Port Orchard mayor’s race to the category of “water over the dam,” I will take one last whack at the question of whether negative campaign ads contributed to Tim Matthes’ 5-vote victory over incumbent Lary Coppola.
Coppola came into the home stretch of his campaign with a track record of accomplishments the city has made on his watch, a long list of endorsements from business owners, community leaders and other elected officials, and substantial campaign funding.
Coppola raised and spent nearly $15,000, about three times as much as Matthes.
Matthes’ campaign contributions, most of which came as loans to himself, were below the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission’s $5,000 threshold for detailed reporting, available on the PDC’s website.
An anti-Coppola campaign mounted by People for a Better Port Orchard raised and spent just more than $2,800 on mailers designed to erode Coppola’s credibility.
One flier suggested Coppola exaggerated his role in reducing the city’s crime rate. Another criticized the mayor for requesting (and getting) more than the city had offered for a piece of property he owned on Tremont Street that is to be condemned.
The same flier bemoaned a water rate increase hammered out on Coppola’s watch and slammed the mayor for suggesting to the council early on in his term that the mayor’s position should be full-time, with commensurate compensation.
The council, excepting Fred Chang, agreed. Chang supported the concept of a full-time mayor but said the timing was off given the recession. Chang, head of the lodging tax advisory committee, also objected to the plan at the time to partially fund the increase with hotel-motel tax revenue, which is earmarked for tourism. Chang called the proposal “awkward, although it probably is legal.”
All other council members, except Fred Olin who was absent, voted for the change, which effectively tripled Coppola’s salary.
Although he had no direct say it the matter, and although the new salary was about equivalent to what the Mayor of Poulsbo makes, it created negative PR that has stuck to Coppola’s shoe throughout his term in office.
“He suggested it,” said Nancy Howson, a Matthes supporter. “I didn’t feel good about that. So many people are struggling. I just thought the timing was bad.”
P4P cited their sources, including local news publications and Port Orchard Police Department reports, with links on their website, www.letlarygo.com.
As the fliers came out, Matthes distanced himself from P4P, saying he had neither known of nor condoned their efforts.
Chang was the largest donor among the largest donors to the anti-Coppola group, giving a total of $500. Also donating $500 were Jon Yamamura and Steve Sego, who lists his address as the residence owned by Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Coreen Haydock Johnson.
Donating $250 was Gil Michael, whom Matthes called “my right-hand guy” on Dec. 6, the night his victory was confirmed.
Chang and Michael also donated directly to Matthes’ campaign. Chang gave $167 of in-kind goods or services. Michael gave $250.
Matthes, on his campaign website, made a point of saying he discouraged endorsements and large campaign contributions that could make a candidate beholden to interest groups, large corporations or people who live outside the city. He had a self-imposed contribution limit of $200 for individuals and $500 for organizations.
“My Grandmother Sylvia always said, ‘If you lie down with dogs, don’t be surprised if you get up with fleas,’” Matthes wrote in a statement about campaign contributions on his website. “Check out candidates’ websites to see if you can tell who will be given special favors in the future.”
Whether Matthes realized it or not, the literal effect of his limiting campaign contributions and his denial of affiliation with P4P allowed both his campaign and the anti-Coppola group to fly under the radar so to speak.
Had either group raised more than $5,000, detailed records of their contributors and expenditures would have been readily available throughout the campaign on the Washington Public Disclosure Commission’s website.
As it was, the law provided for access to those records as follows: anyone interested could contact the campaign or group in person during the eight business days preceding the election.
All perfectly legal, but the effect, it seemed, was to fuel a rumor mill that turned toxic in the last few weeks of the campaign.
According to Lori Anderson of the PDC, Port Orchard was one of several places around the state where in-person records reviews resulted in ugly confrontations.
Anderson said word trickled down to the PDC that Coppola’s wife Dee was firmly asked to leave the premises of the printing company used by P4P.
And so it went in a race that has driven a wedge between two former allies.
Whether the fliers had any substantive effect on the race remains open to debate.
Significantly, Coppola lost votes in 2011 in the city’s four original precincts (earning 810 votes total), as compared with the support he received in 2007 (1,103 votes), when there was a far smaller turnout.
Voters in McCormick Woods, the city’s newest neighborhood, helped make up the difference (620 votes total in 2011). But it wasn’t enough.
Coppola disparaged the P4P fliers, calling their content “blatant lies.”
Anderson, to whom I sent copies of the fliers, couldn’t comment on Coppola’s assertion. The PDC would dig down into the weeds only if a formal complaint against P4P were filed, which hasn’t happened to date, she said.
A civil suit for damages would be a separate option open to anyone who believes campaign materials have crossed the threshold of the state’s prohibition against materials that are “false,” “libelous” or “defamatory,” Anderson added.
The upshot of any challenge would not change the outcome of the election, Anderson said.
Incidentally, in 2007 the state’s Supreme Court found Washington State’s law prohibiting false political advertising to be unconstitutional. The decision pertained to the case that pitted former Green Party candidate Marylou Rickert of Shelton against the PDC, which fined her $1,000 after deciding she deliberately made false statements about the voting record of state Sen. Tim Sheldon in his 2002 re-election campaign.
The 2009 Legislature reasserted the state’s right to ban false political advertising, but added the provisions that it must be “libelous” or “defamatory,” apparently to mollify free speech advocates. The PDC hasn’t received any complaints about false ads since the 2009 law, Anderson said.
The transition of power at city hall — or lack thereof — has been painful to watch, with public jabs and parting shots from both camps.
I know I’m arriving a little late to this party — weighing in at the 11th hour as it were — but I think it’s safe to say that Port Orchard is ready to move on.
Larry Stokes, who supported Matthes but considers himself a friend of both candidates, put it this way:
“I think we’re lucky we got them both. I would hope Tim and Lary bury the hatchet and Tim relies on him for some advice and so forth and so on, and we all live happily ever after in Port Orchard.

More P4P docs here and here.

Footnote on Coppola planning commission appointment

The issue of residency was raised Tuesday, as the Port Orchard City Council (minus Rob Puttaansuu and Fred Chang, who were working) discussed outgoing Mayor Lary Coppola’s appointment of his wife Dee Coppola to the city planning commission.

It was up to the council to confirm (or not) the appointment. The planning commission is an advisory board, like the several other boards and committees that weigh in on topics such as parks and development design standards. The planning commission advises on land use, and so could be seen as a relatively powerful body of citizen advisers.

Typically, the council accepts the mayor’s recommendations for all boards and committees without much to-do. But during discussion of Dee Coppola’s appointment, there was a focus on the residency rule that only one of the eight planning commission members can be a nonresident. The council on Dec. 13, already had appointed Robert Baglio, who lives outside city limits.

The Coppolas live in The Rockwell Apartments in downtown Port Orchard, and they own a home in Manchester. At Tuesday’s meeting I, too, was wondering about the residency issue, since Mayor Coppola, in an interview Monday, told me he and Dee plan to move back to Manchester.

The whole thing was also a bit reminiscent of rumors that swirled around Lary Coppola’s official residence during his 2007 bid for mayor.

On Tuesday, Councilman Fred Olin asked, “If someone on the planning commission moves out of the city, and Mr. Baglio is appointed as the non-resident, would that person have to withdraw from the planning commission?”

City attorney Greg Jacoby said city code does not address the issue, which has not come up before. He said there were a couple of possible interpretations. On the one hand, the council could ask to have the appointee removed from the commission. On the other, the appointee could be considered grandfathered in. “I’m not saying that’s the best interpretation,” Jacoby said.

At the request of the council, Jacoby said he would do further research to try to clarify how the code should be interpreted in the event Dee Coppola does move out of the city during her term on the planning commission.

Dee Coppola herself was clear on what would happen. “I’d have to resign,” she said, while allowing for the possibility of being grandfathered in. It would be up to the council to make that call, she implied.

Dee added that she and Lary have no immediate plans to move into the Manchester house, in which the Coppolas have undertaken an extensive remodel. There’s still a lot of work to be done, Dee said. So as for moving, “It’s going to be a while.”

People for a Better Port Orchard cites its sources

Rebekah Johnson, representing People for a Better Port Orchard, sent me an email this evening citing sources for the anti-Coppola fliers distributed by her group in the recent Port Orchard mayoral campaign. (See below)

Johnson’s statement rebuts a statement by incumbent Mayor Lary Coppola that was posted on the Kitsap Caucus earlier today, shortly after a manual recount showed his challenger Tim Matthes to be the mayor-elect of Port Orchard. Coppola, completing his first term as mayor, called the group’s materials “blatant lies, half-truths, and innuendo.

In an interview earlier today, downtown Port Orchard business owner Darryl Baldwin praised Coppola for his pro-business stance and strong leadership, but said Coppola may have had a blind spot for constituents who felt alienated.

“Most of us didn’t expect Lary to lose,” Baldwin said. “What I see under Lary’s leadership, there was a split that was occurring, and Lary either didn’t see it or chose to ignore it.”

On the effect of the fliers, Baldwin, former president of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association, said, “It didn’t have to sway a lot of votes, but it swayed enough votes.”

I was at the recount today, and I can testify that there was plenty of scrutiny by both candidates and their representatives of the meticulous process, in which ballots that had been previously run through the machine were recounted by hand. No one, not the candidates, not their supporters, not the people who were there out of sheer curiosity, had a beef with how the recount was conducted. In fact, all said Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore ran a tight ship.

This, folks, is democracy in action. The voters have spoken. Despite Coppola’s widespread support among business owners, those with an interest in real estate, and other electeds from within the city and beyond (including plenty of state-level folk), Tim Matthes will become mayor Jan. 2.

Coppola, no doubt, has done considerable soul searching about what led to his political demise. He has said he has no interest in running for other political office. He has plenty of other prospects, however, he said.

The race was extremely close, a difference of five votes out of 3,072 cast. What this means for the city depends on how everyone left in the game — Matthes, council members, business owners, chamber representatives and ordinary citizens — reacts to the change. Matthes ran on an “I am not Lary” platform. What else can he bring? We at the Kitsap Sun will be watching.

Here is Rebkah Johnson’s statement:
Election Result Confirms Voters
Want a Change in Leadership
Contrary to outgoing Mayor Lary Coppola’s claims that he lost his re-election bid due to “blatant lies, half-truths, and innuendo” by his opponents, the truth is that the same voters who elected him by more than 70% four years ago had seen enough.  The People for a Better Port Orchard, a citizen’s committee comprised of business owners, taxpayers, families and Port Orchard citizens – some who had supported Coppola just four years ago – simply circulated the facts about his actions and involvement in issues and decisions as Mayor.  The sources for these facts, which clearly refuted his claims, were the Kitsap Sun and the City of Port Orchard.
Mayor Coppola had the opportunity to correct these facts when they first appeared in print in the Kitsap Sun over the last years, but failed to do so, and by his silence agreed with their authenticity.  It is unfortunate that, when faced with the scrutiny and judgment by those who have had enough of these tactics, he seeks to blame others for his own actions.
The details and source material for the mailers that were sent are available at www.letlarygo.com
Of the original precincts that first elected Mayor Coppola four years ago, not including the newly annexed areas of the City, Coppola’s support shrank from the original 70% to barely 45%.  The conclusion is clear – those who have endured these last four years have had enough.
It’s time to move Port Orchard forward.

Mayor Lary Coppola’s statement on Tuesday’s recount

Results of a manual recount of votes in the Port Orchard mayor’s race show Tim Matthes to be the official winner. Matthes maintained a 5 vote lead over incumbent Lary Coppola, who has issued a statement on the race, the recount and his tenure.

Mayor Coppola’s statement:
“While I’m disappointed in the results, I also strongly believe that
everything happens for a reason, and the universe has a better plan for me
going forward. I’d like to thank the staff at the Auditor’s office for
their hard work and dedication to making this process work.

I’d also like to thank our staff for their support over these past four
years, for their dedication to our City, and to the vision I outlined in
2008. We have a lot to be proud of: Assembling what is commonly
acknowledged by the other elected officials in this county as the very
best, most talented staff of any City; Moving our City from spending
reserves to meet payroll to creating reserves in the worst economy since
the great depression; Bringing the City back into compliance with the
Growth Management Act; Bringing a business-friendly, can-do attitude to
City Hall; and finally, reducing crime – and more importantly violent crime
– significantly. Port Orchard is now a a safer place to live, work, own a
business and raise your family, then any time in more than a quarter of a

We took the high road throughout and ran a clean campaign based on the
issues. Unfortunately, when my my political opponents realized they
couldn’t attack our record of solid. positive accomplishments, they
resorted to attacking my personal integrity and character using a series of
blatant lies, half-truths, and innuendo – and enough voters bought into it
to make the small difference. Such is the nature of politics.

Serving has been both a true honor and a personal pleasure. I want to
express a heartfelt “Thank You” to the downtown businesspeople who
supported me, the organizations and other elected officials who endorsed
me, and most of all, the voters who believed in me four years ago, believed
in my vision for our City, and still believe in me now. I’m sincerely
grateful to all of you. “

More on mayoral recount and some elections trivia

As we mentioned in yesterday’s story on the impending recount in the Port Orchard mayor’s race, one need look no farther than the 5-vote difference between leader Tim Matthes and incumbent Lary Coppola to know that the campaign has literally created a rift in the town. Both candidates have said that, if elected, they’d offer an olive branch to their opponents’ supporters.

Kitsap County elections history shows the scales statistically tipped in favor of whoever is leading in the final count. One notable exception on the state level is the 2004 gubernatorial race between Dino Rossi and Christine Gregoire. Recall that one? Rossi, who was ahead initially, lost the race after a manual recount and the dismissal in Chelan County Superior Court of a legal challenge to the election.

In Kitsap County, the recount flip-flopped results the opposite way. Gregoire was ahead by a slim margin in the original count. But Rossi pulled ahead in the machine recount. He remained ahead in the manual recount that followed. Kitsap auditor’s archives show Rossi beating Gregoire in Kitsap 49.33 percent to 48.14 percent.

A look at recounts can be a trip down memory lane. Who out there remembers the tortuous back story that led to the annexation of Bainbridge Island into the city of Winslow? Or that the vote in 1990 went to a manual recount. The “yeas” had it with a lead of 136 among 6,384 votes cast.

Here’s something else you might find interesting. The Kitsap County Auditor lists on its website write-in candidates for two races in this election, the city of Poulsbo Council position 3 race, in which Fred Springsteel registered as a write-in, and the city of Port Orchard mayor’s race, because of the recount.

According to Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore, the vast majority of write-in votes are not able to be counted either because the voter will check write-in but fail to name a candidate or because the person named is not an eligible candidate. About 25 percent are flat-out frivolous, Gilmore said, with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck garnering many votes over the years.

Of the 19 write-in votes cast in the Port Orchard race, 13 were “not qualified.” People who got one vote each included City Councilman Fred Chang and Rebeka Johnson, apparently referring to Rebekah Johnson, treasurer for People for a Better Port Orchard, an anti-Coppola committee. Rebekah is the daughter of Coreen Haydock Johnson Haydock-Johnson, executive director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. Other write-in candidates were Kevin Madden, Bryan McKinnon, James C. Price and Linda Webb.

Recounts put the Auditor’s office in the spotlight, because the public is allowed to observe every step of the process. Gilmore is just fine with that. In fact, she and her staff are happy to share the intricacies of state regulations that guide the elections process. Did you know, for example, that there’s a process for deciding which candidates will appear first on the ballot? Elections staff put slips of paper with all 26 letters of the alphabet in a container and draw them out, establishing a non-aphabetical order that applies to all races.

Both Matthes and Coppola said they would send representatives to observe the recount and be present at least for part of the process themselves. Gilmore said she’d be surprised if there weren’t observers.

“We’re pretty well used to observers coming in and looking over our shoulders, so I don’t see it being a big thing for staff,” Gilmore said.

The recount begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The final result will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kitsap County Administration Building, 619 Division Street in Port Orchard.

History Recounts





Two votes

That’s the margin separating incumbent Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola and challenger Tim Matthes after today’s (Nov. 16) release from the Kitsap County Auditor’s office. Matthes has held a hair’s-breadth lead throughout.

Nov. 22 is the next ballot update in what has been an excruciatingly close race ever since election night.

Reporter Rachel Pritchett logged this quote from Coppola, who attended this morning’s meeting of the Kitsap Aerospace Partnership, a local partnership attempting to get a piece of the 737 MAX action.

“I’ll just tell you, it sucks to be me right now.”

Hand recount likely in Port Orchard mayor’s race

If you follow such things, you’ll have noted that the gap between incumbent Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola and challenger Tim Matthes is down to two votes, in preliminary results released Tuesday.

Matthes is ahead as he has been since election night, when one vote separated the two. The widest the margin has been is 13 votes.

Although a hand recount seems all but certain, Kitsap County Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore says it’s not a slam dunk. Hard as it may be on the candidates and their supporters, the auditor’s office can’t make that call until the election is certified Nov. 29.

The Kitsap Sun has been tracking updates from the auditor’s office. New numbers are due out tomorrow, but barring a dramatic change in the margin, we will wait until certification is complete to do our next update.

Here’s the brief we’ll run in tomorrow’s paper, with links to earlier stories on the race, below.

By Chris Henry
PORT ORCHARD — The gap between the two candidates for Port Orchard mayor has narrowed to two, in preliminary results released Tuesday, and a hand recount is a strong likelihood, according to Kitsap County Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore.
Since the Nov. 8 election, incumbent Lary Coppola has trailed challenger Tim Matthes by a margin ranging from one vote to 13 votes.
The current margin between the candidates, 0.08 percent if you don’t count write-in votes, is small enough to trigger a hand recount.
“It’s neck and neck at this point,” Gilmore said. “Right now a recount is likely.”
State election law calls for a machine recount with a margin of less than 0.5 percent and a hand recount for less than 0.25 percent.
But there are still a couple of wild cards in the race in the form of 13 more Port Orchard ballots left to count and 25 “challenge” ballots, whose signatures must be “cured” if they are to be included in the results.
The Kitsap County Auditor’s office has mailed letters notifying challenge ballot voters that they can resubmit their signatures, which either were missing or did not match the registration.
Anyone the auditor’s office doesn’t hear from by Nov. 21 will receive a reminder phone call. Voters have until Nov. 29, the date the election will be certified, to resubmit their signatures.
The auditor’s office will issue an updated report by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Nov. 8
Every vote really matters in Port Orchard race

Nov. 9
Latest ballot count increases challenger’s lead

Nov. 10
Matthes maintains slim lead

Nov. 14
Port Orchard mayor’s race still in limbo

Josh Brown, Lary Coppola trade accusations.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola takes the county to task for its dealings with Juel Lange in Poulsbo and Marcus Carter in Central Kitsap. Carter has a gun range. It’s Coppola’s arguments about Lange that got County Commissioner Josh Brown upset. Lange had an outdoor swimming pool he operated for customers for 35 years in North Kitsap. He closed it in 2004 but had hoped to reopen it this year. That won’t happen. From Coppola’s column in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal, which he publishes:

Lange won’t be able to open this season after being a victim of what can only be called a classic flim-flam by county regulators.


Meanwhile the Kitsap County Health District is requiring Lange to have a lifeguard at the pool, something he claims has never worked because parents would dump off their kids for long periods, with a lifeguard, while they always stayed and watched without one — and according to Lange, the kids behave better.

The Health District also required Lange to install a second pool drain to supposedly prevent sucking swimmers down the drain, or some such nonsense, while an alternative solution he proposed was not acceptable.

Brown points out in his response that Coppola actually sits on the Kitsap County Health District’s board of directors. Here’s the two of them together on the district’s website.

Coppola never raised this issue in his position on the board, Brown’s chief contention in the response to Coppola Brown wrote and shared with us:


I read your recent editorial in your newspaper blasting the Kitsap Health District policies over Lange’s Ranch. Your article attacks Kitsap County and our DCD. What you never clear up for your reader is that the regulations that Lange’s Ranch must clear are Health District policies—a board on which you sit! You have never brought this up to the Health District Board at a meeting, nor do I recall ever seeing any correspondence from you asking Health District staff to report back to you and the Board on this matter. This article continues your pattern of misrepresenting facts, attacking others when you take no responsibility, and just plain lying. I believe you owe the employees and Board of the Health District an apology.

Josh Brown

Also worth reading are some of the comments on the stories referenced earlier, the ones from our paper. The first story, the one warning of a “showdown,” begins mostly with those complaining along the same lines Coppola does in his piece, with some counterarguments from those saying government should regulate as it has here. After the second story, however, there appear to be a lot of folks who know Lange weighing in.

Should Port Orchard Relinquish its Role in Hearing Land Use Appeals?

The Port Orchard City Council last week heard testimony on a contentious land use issue — should a Gig Harbor advertising company be allowed to put eight billboards within city limits?

The issue grew thorny after the city initially turned down the applications, submitted in batches last spring. James Weaver, director of development, took the most “stringent” interpretation of the city’s code, which is allowed and called for in another part of the code, he said. The billboard company owner appealed to the hearing examiner, and now the case has come before the council.

Like most cases that reach the appeal stage, there are a number of questions in play:
Did Weaver correctly interpret the code? (The city’s hearing examiner says so.)
Should the billboard company’s application be vested under old rules, even though the city has since passed an ordinance banning billboards? (The hearing examiner agrees with the owner here.)
And was the city’s ban on billboards a violation of constitutional rights? (The hearing examiner declined to rule on this question.)

During the hearing, the attorney representing the billboard owner questioned the council’s ability to rule on the case since none of them are attorneys. He railed against the process by which the city countered his appeal, bringing the matter to the council. He called the actions of City Attorney Greg Jacoby and attorney Jennifer Forbes, representing the city, “frivolous” and “in bad faith.” He said the process had gotten unnecessarily drawn out and was wasting taxpayers’ money.

“I see a lot of blank faces here,” William J. Crittenden told the council. “Do you think your money is being well spent?”

Before 2008, the council used to be the first stop (not the second) in hearings on land use issues. The change was made, in part, because of the tremendous amount of council time involved in preparing for and conducting the hearings. The city now uses a hearing examiner for preliminary review of land-use applications. Where open-record public hearings on such issues were formerly held before the city council, the open-record hearing is now held before the hearing examiner. If the hearing examiner’s ruling is challenged, the appeal moves to the city council.

In a work study meeting, Feb. 15, before the billboards hearing, Councilman Rob Putaansuu questioned whether the council should be involved at all, or whether the city should switch to a model as such the one adopted in 2010 by Kitsap County. Appeals that formerly came before the county’s board of commissioners now go directly to Superior Court.

Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer proposed the change, because he said having the board hear appeals created confusion among the public. The board can only rule on whether the hearing examiner has erred. Their ruling does not necessarily reflect the position the board would have taken on a proposed project, Bauer said.

Hearing examiners generally are attorneys, and they are required to have extensive knowledge of land use codes. A city council or board of commissioners, on the other hand, oversees matters on a wide range of topics, meaning they are arguably less well-equipped to navigate the labyrinth of motions, counter-motions, arguments and counter-arguments that make up the appeal process.

Putaansuu suggested as much, and he reminded the council that, although they’ve only heard one other matter since going to the new system, it, too, turned nasty. A proposed birthing center was turned down by the hearing examiner over neighbors’ concerns about traffic (a needed re-zone was denied). The council initially backed the hearing examiner’s decision. They agreed to revisit the proposal, however, as part of a legal settlement with the owners of the center, who took their case to Superior Court and threatened to challenge the city’s comprehensive plan before the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board. The city ultimately approved the center.

Jacoby told the council that cities vary in their methods for hearing appeals. Appeals in Gig Harbor and Fife go straight to Superior Court. The Poulsbo City Council, like Port Orchard, hears appeals.

“It’s sort of an issue of how much control the council wants to have over the process,” Jacoby said. “There’s no right answer, but we can certainly change it.”

The council could appeal any ruling of the superior court with which they disagree, Jacoby said.

Most of the council said they would support a resolution switching the process up. Councilman John Clauson said he could go either way.

As for Crittenden’s criticism of the process, the council sat in shock as he bad-mouthed the city up one side and down the other, particularly Jacoby.

“I’ve been treated like crap by your city attorney for six months,” Crittenden said.

Mayor Lary Coppola challenged Crittenden’s “rudeness.” “He’s acting like a spoiled child,” said the mayor.

Shortly afterward, Coppola banged his gavel and cut short Crittenden’s testimony. “That’s over. We’re done,” Coppola said angrily.

When Crittenden continued his tirade, Coppola got up and walked out of the hearing. (The mayor does not rule on an appeal, only the council, so his absence did not delay proceedings.) He later said he felt he had to excuse himself in order not to say something inappropriate to Crittenden.

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers, later in the hearing, advised Crittenden that he would present a more convincing argument “if you would spend your time talking about the particular questions that are pertinent to this whole case as opposed to talking about our counselors spending a lot of money and time … Can you do that?”

“If my anger has spilled over on you, I apologize,” said Crittenden, who remained angry with Jacoby, Forbes and the process in general.

If nothing else, I guess, the change in procedure would spare the council similar tongue-lashings in the future.

Mayors’ Forum: “No 800-Pound Gorilla in Here”

At a mayor’s forum today, featuring Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, Bremerton resident Klaus Golombek asked, “Where are the 800-pound gorillas?”

The event, at Port Orchard City Hall, was hosted by the Bremerton and Port Orchard chambers of commerce.

Before the Q&A, both mayors highlighted the positive side of their respective cities. Lent touted public and private development projects completed and in the pipeline. Coppola, whose city is still trying to get multiple major projects shovel-ready, noted that his city is financially “in much better shape than most other cities” due to conservative budgeting.

The tone of their comments was not derogatory, and neither mayor appeared to be trying to one-up the other.

Lent, in response to Golombek’s question, talked about fiscal challenges the city faces and will continue to face under the “new normal.” The city in 2010 eliminated 34 positions through layoffs, buyouts, early retirement and unfilled vacancies. A total of 17 individuals left the city. City workers in Bremerton, as elsewhere, will continue to have to do more with less for the foreseeable future, Lent said.

Councilman Jerry Childs brought up what has been an 800-pound gorilla, Bremerton’s annexation of the South Kitsap Industrial Area and Gorst sewer project, which cast uncertainty on Port Orchard’s plans to provide SKIA with sewer. But as you’ll read in the story, both mayors said they could sit down and come up with a resolution to this and other areas of conflict.

Lent, a former county commissioner who was sworn in as mayor in November, 2009, said she was against the SKIA annexation. “I never wanted that airport to be annexed by any cities,” she said. “I thought it should be a regional airport, but I was out of office.”

Lent continued, saying Bremerton has a “great relationship” with the Port of Bremerton, SKIA’s major property owner. So, basically, she’s willing to work with what she “inherited” from former Mayor Cary Bozeman, now CEO of the Port of Bremerton.

Another thing she inherited but didn’t seem too keen on was the Bremerton ferry tunnel. Phone calls to her office criticizing the tunnel have subsided, Lent said, in response to a question. The tunnel is doing its job, which is diverting traffic to make downtown more pedestrian friendly. “People seem to be used to it now,” she said.

Golombek thought the mayors, particularly Lent, side-stepped the gorilla question. He’s still smarting about the Port of Bremerton’s marina expansion. He thinks increased revenue from the marina should go toward paring down the bond. Less should go to the city’s general fund, he said. Looking ahead, Golombek’s got concerns about Bremerton’s planned Youth Wellness Center, which he thinks could become a financial burden on residents.

As for the rapport between Bremerton and Port Orchard, however, there doesn’t appear to be any gorilla in here. At least as far as the two mayors are concerned. Port Orchard Councilman Jerry Childs said the two councils may be a different matter. The only interaction they’ve had was over SKIA, and it wasn’t pretty. Competition for state and federal funds is another potential area of conflict for both cities.

“It makes it difficult for our cities to get along, because we’re both fighting for a piece of the pie,” Childs said.

The Port of Bremerton, too, should be included in talks on potential areas of collaboration and conflict, Childs said.

Notes on the Coppola DUI Case

Readers commenting on today’s story about Lary Coppola’s court appearance Thursday in Pierce County District Court on DUI charges had questions I will attempt to address, having spoken with DUI defense attorney Linda Callahan.

Callahan has offices in Seattle, Shelton and other Puget Sound locations, and she is the author of the Washington DUI Practice Manual, a tome that is updated annually and referenced by defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges.

Callahan, obviously, could not comment on Coppola’s case specifically. Her responses were to my questions about DUI law in general and a “hypothetical case” (my quote marks).

Mojo7 asked, “Had the police officer actually SEEN him DRIVING or had he just been walking outside his parked car?”

As reporter Josh Farley wrote on May 3, “Shortly after 1:30 a.m., officers found Coppola seated in a silver Mini Cooper, according to Port Orchard police reports.”

The underlying question seems to be, “Is it a crime to be sitting in one’s car in an intoxicated condition?”

“It depends. It can be,” said Clallahan, spoken like a true attorney. “It depends on whether a person is in actual physical control of the car.”

Questions attorneys on both sides might ask to prove or refute the question of control: was there a witness? Was the car running? Was the transmission engaged? And so on.

On one point Clallahan was clear: simply the fact of being in one’s driveway does not put you in the clear of being charged with DUI. Conceivably, she said, one could have attended a party, had a few drinks, driven home without incident, realized one forgot one’s cell phone in the car, went to fetch it, the law pulls up for whatever reason, and, depending on other circumstances and evidence, one could be charged with DUI.

Several people, commenting on the story, suggested Coppola was getting off easy, despite repeated protests he expected no special treatment as a public official.

To recap, the hypothetical defendant I described to Callahan has no criminal history or prior driving offenses.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to the DUI charge but agreed to a “pretrial diversion,” which is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant.

Under conditions of the diversion, the defendant agreed:
1. To undergo a chemical dependency evaluation, attend a drug and alcohol information class and listen to a DUI victims’ panel.
2. He must pay $866 in court costs, a $200 bench probation fee and $150 to the Washington State Patrol for its emergency response the night of the incident.
3. The defendant is to remain clear of any violations for two years, at which time the charge will be reduced to first-degree negligent driving (that’s why he’s not pleading guilty to the DUI).
4. The judge did not require the defendant to have an interlock device on his car.
5. His not prohibited from drinking, but the judge advised the defendant to “be very careful about any use of alcohol.”

In a case like this, Callahan said, “That is a standard disposition. That is not a special case scenario.”

Clallahan specifically remarked on the standard-ness of a couple aspects of the judge’s ruling, including the diversion itself for a first-time offender and the lack of an interlock requirement.

The hypothetical defendant, as court records showed, had already completed several terms of the diversion agreement, including the chemical dependency evaluation. If the evaluation had shown the subject was an alcoholic or had a problem with alcohol, an interlock device unquestionably would have been required, Callahan said.

As for condition 5, allowing for reasonable alcohol consumption, Callahan said that, too, was typical in a hypothetical case like this. The prosecutor would have been able to review results of the drug and alcohol evaluation before refraining from adding a total prohibition on consumption. If the assessment of a defendant shows they have a problem with alcohol, such a prohibition is a given, Callahan said.

On a final note, the diversion is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant; it is the judge’s role to accept or reject it.

Chris Henry, reporter

The View from the Inside

Chris Henry writes on the Speaking of South Kitsap blog about Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola’s shifting or non-shifting views on the county’s relationship with the Puget Sound Regional Council.

Toward the end of the entry is a conversation about how things look from the inside.

Regarding the column and writing columns in general, Lary said that his views on a lot of things have changed as he has become more familiar with the ropes of local government.

“I’ve learned a lot more about the inner workings of this stuff than I knew from the outside,” he said.

“Has it changed your perspective?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve realized that some things aren’t as black and white as they seem. … When you look at something from the outside without having all the information, things are sometimes very different from what they appear on the surface. … I’m trying to take a more thoughtful approach to things because the quality of the information I’m working with is a lot better than it was before.”