The resignation of former city manager Charlie Bush, the hiring of Matthew Huish as a replacement and other city-related matters came under scrutiny as seven of Sequim’s 10 city council candidates took the lead. speaking at a Clallam County League of Voters’ virtual forum on September 7. 29.
Participants included: Kathy Downer for position 2; Vicki Lowe Position 3; Rachel Anderson, incumbent, and Daryl Ness, ext. 4; Brandon Janisse, incumbent, and Patrick Day, ext. 5; and Lowell Rathbun, position 6.
Organizers said starters Sarah Kincaid, Position 2, and Mike Pence, Position 3, declined to participate, with Kincaid saying in an interview that she believed the league format had too many “trap moments.”
Keith Larkin, holder of the 6 position, turned down on Sept. 25 due to an “unexpected conflict,” league organizers said. The three advisers did not have a representative to speak on their behalf.
Previously, five other candidates – Downer, Lowe, Anderson, Janisse and Rathbun – had refused to participate in a forum organized by the Independent Advisory Association in September; this forum was canceled anyway due to COVID-19 issues. Some candidates said they did not intend to participate because they questioned the objectivity of the association because it had supported each of their opponents.
To view this forum and others, visit lwvcla.clubexpress.com.
Former City Manager
When asked what they thought of the call for Bush to step down in January, Lowe, executive director of the American Indian Health Commission, said she still wondered why she was asked to resign and that she would like this clarified to the public. .
“I would appreciate more transparency… and less executive sessions,” she said.
Anderson, a volunteer for several nonprofits who was appointed to city council in February, said she would have voted to keep Bush.
“It feels like voters need to know why a decision was made,” she said.
Ness, a retired railroad administrator, said from his experience with a large corporation that the only person who can make a problem like Bush’s transparent is him.
“He chose not to (to fix the problem),” Ness said.
Janisse, a control room technician at Clallam County Jail, said he had asked to remove the discussion from the executive session and believed Bush had done “great things for the city.”
Janisse said “citizens deserve to know why he was fired”.
Day, a retired California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation employee, said in his role as chairman of a trust that he had to let people go and was asked what had passed. But the decision to be private or public is up to the employee, he said.
“If they had to explain why, then he could sue for libel,” Day said. “There is obviously more to the story, but how I would have voted, I really don’t think I could answer that.”
Rathbun, a retired engineer, said he was disappointed with the decision and listed Bush’s accomplishments, such as good performance reviews, balanced budgets, spending a night outside to better understand the sans -abrism and more.
Downer, a retired nurse, said there were reasons such as hirings and layoffs to be dealt with in executive session, but she wishes there were more reasons than the “philosophical reasons” cited in one. city press release calling for Bush’s resignation.
“I am very disappointed that she was asked to resign,” she said.
New City Manager
Community members also asked about the timing of hiring Huish – whose contract was finalized on September 30 and begins November 1 – so close to the general election with five seats on the city council being elected. They also asked about Huish’s hiring despite being investigated for alleged sexual harassment in 2018; Huish was cleared, but his emails were deemed “unprofessional and sometimes inappropriate” by an investigator.
Anderson said he heard many citizens were concerned about the allegations, but based on information provided to him by consulting research firm Colin Baenziger and Associates, they were bogus allegations.
“In his CV he talked a lot about how he learned the lessons,” Anderson said of the hiring, adding that she reportedly delayed hiring until after the election.
Ness said he only looked at the council’s votes on the candidates and with a 6: 1 vote for Huish in the final tally, he felt that “it seems like a solid decision.” He said he was not sure if he would have voted to suspend the search for the city manager, however.
Janisse said he thought Baenziger had done a good job researching the topic, but it was still an issue he was taking into consideration. He would also have preferred to wait until a new council had met.
Day said the board could have waited for the hiring, but it may be better to get someone on board quickly. He added that Huish had been cleared of the allegations.
Rathbun chose not to comment on the allegations as he may soon be working with him on the council. However, he said that replacing Bush with a majority with mostly appointed city councilors “shows distrust of voters.”
“Charisse Deschênes (Interim City Manager of Sequim and finalist as City Manager) was well qualified to lead the city until after the election,” said Rathbun.
Downer said a decision should have been made until a new board was passed and no one should handle a situation of sexual harassment lightly.
Lowe echoed this, saying that if hiring was delayed a different candidate might have been likely.
Candidates were asked about their potential role in the health and well-being of citizens, and their views on the September council resolution on vaccines and business. Ness said Clallam County Health Officer Dr Allison Berry makes the county decisions and believes that is where the decisions should be.
“The resolution was not to change it, but to wish them to be more informed (of the regulations),” he said.
Anderson said one of city council’s top priorities should be health. She said the decision to impose vaccination for restaurants boiled down to whether or not to show proof of vaccination to dine inside and “make everyone get sick and shut down businesses.”
Janisse said he believes city council “has a fundamental interest in making healthcare the best it can be” and in working with partners such as the Olympic Medical Center. He said the city needs to be concerned about things that fall under its jurisdiction, which health mandates are not, and that is why he voted no on the resolution.
Day said the resolution was a statement to county residents who wanted to be more involved in decision-making regarding warrants. He added that the resolution didn’t change anything, but showed people wanted to be more involved.
Rathbun said that “the function of leaders is to unite, get vaccinated and bring this pandemic as far behind us as possible.” He called the resolution “bad policy” and “dangerous”.
Downer said the resolution was unreasonable for the board.
“Except unanimity, it doesn’t mean anything,” she said of the resolution. “They should have contacted the health department and asked how they can help. They must model good behavior. We need elected leaders with a critical mind.
Lowe said the resolution was “inappropriate and confusing”, violates a public health order, did not help the community, and that the four councilors who voted for it “fell out of their chain of command.”
Ballots will be mailed on October 13 to local voters for the November 2 general election.