Poulsbo Port Commission must re-do appointment | In Our Opinion
February 28, 2012 · 10:59 AM
The Poulsbo Port Commission must re-do Arnie Bockus’ appointment to the port commission. In light of the Attorney General’s informal opinion that a sitting commissioner cannot be appointed to another board position during his term, Bockus’ appointment lacks legitimacy.
The commission must re-do the appointment in order to legitimize it and restore public trust in the appointment process.
To recap, the commission has three members. Glenn Gilbert resigned in October, effective Nov. 30. Arnie Bockus was defeated by Jim Rutledge on Nov. 8 and was to leave office Dec. 31. While still in office, he applied for Gilbert’s position. He was one of two applicants. Because one applicant was from Silverdale and thus ineligible, DeCarlo on Dec. 1 appointed Bockus to Gilbert’s position, effective Jan. 1.
Because questions were raised whether a lone commissioner could make the appointment, or whether the appointment should be made by the County Commission, the matter came up for re-vote Dec. 28. This time, Bockus voted — and voted for himself, a clear violation of conflict of interest laws.
Rutledge asked for a state Attorney General’s opinion. Assistant Attorney General Christopher Lanese cited a common-law public policy principle that a sitting commissioner is ineligible for appointment if the appointment is made during the commissioner’s term.
Here are the facts: Bockus was the only qualified candidate to apply for this position within the designated filing period. The appointment could have waited until January, when Rutledge would have taken office. DeCarlo made the appointment, and Bockus recused himself. On a second vote reaffirming the appointment, Bockus voted for himself, which is a conflict of interest (commissioners receive $100 per meeting they attend).
Here’s what state law, RCW 42.12.070, says: “Where one position is vacant, the remaining members of the governing body shall appoint a qualified person to fill the vacant position.” Unfortunately, the law doesn’t say whether a sole remaining member of a governing body could make the appointment. However, the law continues, “If less than two members of a governing body remain in office, the county legislative authority of the county … shall appoint a qualified person or persons to the governing body until the governing body has two members.”
Clearly, Bockus could not vote for himself and DeCarlo could not make the appointment alone. The commission would have two members Jan. 1, DeCarlo and Rutledge. Those two should have voted for the appointment.
Bockus’ appointment appears to be null. The commission should vote again on the appointment, with Bockus recusing himself.