Council considers censuring Mike Regis

POULSBO — The word was uttered just moments after city council voted unanimously to refuse the final offer from the Poulsbo Police Department bargaining unit, sending over a year of contract negotiations into arbitration.

“Censure” was first discussed earlier this year after councilman Mike Regis violated city protocol by discussing executive session material pertaining to the proposed contract with a law enforcement official. In response, council not only added a new “code of conduct” to dissuade such activity but also devoted three separate meetings to Regis’ possible censure.

Nothing worked, and in the end council delayed public discussions on Regis' conduct.

A tactic that backfired, according to Ed Stern.

“Not taking action seems to have emboldened the behavior,” Stern said.

The motion to censure was further postponed during the recent election while Regis challenged Mayor Donna Jean Bruce for her position. Throughout the process, no candidates mentioned the problems the city was having behind closed doors. Although ballots were still being tallied at the time and Bruce had a commanding lead, Stern made it very clear that censuring Regis was not related to the recent election.

Although the motion was made and seconded to censure Regis for violating the city’s executive session policies, it failed on a 2-5 vote.

“We have to take our positions at the city seriously,” said councilman Jim Henry, chastising his long-time friend before voting to censure. “It wasn’t that Mike didn’t know it (was wrong), it’s that he should have known.”

Councilman Stern was the only member to agree with the dissenting position.

“This is not frivolous. It’s not personal,” he said, noting that the July motion, which allowed city council to censure itself, was passed unanimously. But even though Regis was among the approving members, his improper discussions with the police continued.

Despite this attitude, his fellow elected officials were lenient in their remarks Wednesday night.

“I think our goal has always been appropriate behavior — not to punish or embarrass,” councilman Dale Rudolph said, noting that an apology or show of understanding would suffice to resolve the matter.

“This is a really tough decision. I hope Mike learned something from this,” councilman Jeff McGinty remarked after seconding Stern’s motion. McGinty was the first to vote “nay.”

“I feel that there is a difficulty adhering to what other council members are saying,” Connie Lord said, noting that during the three executive sessions on the possible censure she had witnessed a lot of misunderstanding. “My concern is that listening and talking are like two different languages.”

Rudolph agreed somewhat with Lord, giving the motion it’s third “nay” vote but adding, “Mike talked about things he basically should have stayed hands off on.”

Councilwoman Jackie Aitchison also voted “nay.”

She too, however, explained her feelings on the censure.

“The bottom line is money and when we speak out of line after executive sessions, it costs the taxpayers money,” Aitchison pointed out.

Not surprisingly, Regis also voted against the censure, stating that he accepted the lesson. He called his actions inadvertent and said his statements were made “without willful intent.”

“I regret that an informal conversation with a member of the Poulsbo Police Department (led to this),” Regis said humbly.

While Mayor Bruce said she couldn’t comment on whether Regis’ actions were detrimental in terms of the negotiations, she did note that he had basically ignored the council’s suggestions to honor the rules of executive sessions.

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