On Tuesday, March 5, the Board of County Commissioners met with Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer to discuss the recent Whistleblower case and the illegal appointment of councilwoman Jodie Curtis.
Prosecutor Meyer stated that training is being arranged for Winlock City Council members for the Open Public Meeting Act (OPMA). During most of the city council meetings, council members have failed to deliberate on several important issues. This is a clear violation of OPMA, but is this a council training issue or a requirement of the mayor? The mayor, for the past year, has had meetings with his council on Friday afternoon prior to the Monday City Council meetings informing them of the issues of which he needs their support. The Winlock City Council has approved every issue the mayor has presented to them, without once deliberating what the cost to the city might be. Again, the City Council is personally responsible for the cities finances, if they are negligent in their spending, they can and should be held responsible to the citizens.
Prosecutor Meyer also stated the office staff needs training on how to complete public records requests. The city clerk has been an employee of the city for approximately 10 years and has never had a problem before now. Could it be all the extra 'eyes' that need to be involved with the requests and what gets released and when? Councilwoman Randt has public requests dating back to November and December 2018 which have not been completed. The public requests were given to the Mayor as he requested all information be given to him and not the Clerk of Record, which is against what the RCW states regarding who holds the records.
In December, 2018 Mayor Bradshaw had a letter delivered to all council members by Winlock Chief of Police Stephen Valentine stating all information is to go through the mayor. The clerk works for the mayor and she is appointed by him. The final decision comes down the mayor regarding who gets their public requests.
Since the mayor has dictated what occurs in the council meetings and who is to receive the public requests, why is the mayor not obtaining training as well? One would conclude the mayor threw his city council and staff under the bus for his own actions.
Another issue during the meeting was the illegal appointment of councilwoman Jodie Curtis. RCW 42.12.070 is very clear, you must appoint and swear in one council member, then that person participates in the second appointment. Prosecutor Meyer stated "there is not a close enough in the statute." He stated, "Winlock City Attorney Erin Hillier did not agree with his findings." The law firm did not agree with his finding two years ago when Napavine had illegally appointed two council positions.
During the Napavine fiasco two years ago, councilwoman Jennifer Slemp (currently the Winlock Community Development employee) and Mayor Sayers appointed two illegal councilmen. It was determined by Prosecutor Meyer it was not legal as it was over the 90 days allowed for city council to appoint.
In February, 2017 Commissioner Jackson stated in the Chronicle about the illegal appointment in Napavine "If they were appointed illegally, isn't that fruit from the poisoned tree if we follow through with that request." Napavine City Council was asking the Board of County Commissioners to re-appoint the two illegally appointed council members.
Mayor Bradshaw stated on the record February 15, 2019 council meeting they appointed both council members for "the economy of time and function." Mayor Bradshaw went on to state "this is defensible in court." This goes in line with a recent statement in the Chronicle by Erin Hillier where she stated a court order would be necessary to remove Ms. Curtis. The attorney is also appointed by the mayor, again they are taking direction from Mayor Bradshaw. Winlock needs leadership not continuous litigation.
Winlock currently has a council position vacated by Andrew Maloney in February, 2019. The individuals who applied for the position were called early Friday morning March 8, 2019 regarding interviews for the open position. They were informed that interviews would take place the evening of the March 11, but within a few hours the interviews were canceled. According to one of the applicants, the reason they canceled was due to "a bug" going around. They have now rescheduled the interviews to the 25th of March, 2019.
Per the article in the Town Crier last week, Mayor Bradshaw has been pre-screening all City Council members. In the past Mayor Bradshaw has informed the council who he will accept for the new council member. If they are not going to interview the three applicants that are known, how would they know city council were going to be out sick with a bug that is going around four days in advance?