This past Monday night a confusing situation developed regarding the Sunnyside Municipal Code and changes being made to it.
The confusion began just after the Pledge of Allegiance when the Mayor and City Manager proceeded to add an item named “Introduction of Civil Service Commissioners” to the agenda. No additional information on this item was provided to other members of Council prior to the meeting.
At this point the Mayor introduced a new City Manager appointee to the Civil Service Commission. Following this, I raised a point of parliamentary inquiry, asking if Council would confirm the appointment. During the discussion, I looked up the relevant City Code (emphasis added):
2.20.070 Police Department Civil Service Commission.
There is created for the administration of the Civil Service for the Police Department, a Civil Service Commission composed of three members, who shall be appointed by the City Manager subject to the approval of the majority of the City Council. The term of office of the Civil Service Commission shall be six years, except that the first three members of the Commission shall be appointed for different terms, as follows: one to serve for a period of two years, one to serve for a period of four years, and one to serve for a period of six years. In the event any Civil Service Commissioner resigns, becomes disqualified, or is removed for cause, another Commissioner shall be appointed to take his place for the unexpired portion of the term. [1956 Code § 3-101.]
The active agenda for the meeting included changes to remove this section of city code. Council had already had a first reading of the proposed changes prior to Monday night’s meeting, however no changes had been adopted.
While the Mayor initially thought the new code language was in effect, he realized it was not, so the code cited above was enforceable.
Council then voted to confirm the City Manager’s appointment.
Later in the evening, when discussing the code changes on our agenda, the Mayor began citing various portions of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW’s) and giving his views on them. The related RCW’s and original language of the Sunnyside Municipal Code (SMC’s) were not included in the agenda packet for Council.
A Minor Error of Reporting…
Media coverage of the meeting states that I “asked for – and received – copies of the RCWs detailing the topic at hand.” This is a point of contention I raised with the publisher of the newspaper during a phone call yesterday. I was never provided this information; instead I looked it up myself.
A More Serious Error of Reporting…
“Raines eventually concluded that city councils are prohibited from taking part in the process of appointments to the civil service commission.”
I never said that city councils are prohibited from confirming appointments. While discussing this with the newspaper publisher, I pointed out the obvious: we confirmed an appointment earlier that same evening, so it clearly is something the City Council can do.
While the Mayor may possibly think council is prohibited from confirming appointments, I do not agree with this assessment. What I said was that I thought it would be in the city’s best interest to adopt the code changes being proposed. (Which Council did when we took a vote.)
In hindsight, this confusing situation could have been avoided if appointments to the Civil Service Commission were not made during the time of changing relevant City Code. However, it is sometimes important to make appointments when pressing business needs to be done.
Both the Mayor and City Manager are responsible for setting the agenda for Council meetings. In my view, reasons for proposed code changes, and information regarding appointments can be communicated more clearly than they were in this case.
While it is unfortunate that the Mayor, Council, media, and members of the public were confused by the events that unfolded this past Monday night, we are all better positioned moving forward as a more streamlined and consistent version of the City Code will be in place.