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Community council agrees to a temporary one-member board Monday night

Rob Harmon argues against a motion to elect a new board at Monday night’s meeting. - Leslie Brown/Staff Photo
Rob Harmon argues against a motion to elect a new board at Monday night’s meeting.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

Islander Hilary Emmer withdrew her decision to step down from the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council’s board Monday night, making her — at least for now — the lone member of the council’s nine-member board.

The surprise turn of events took place at the community council’s regularly scheduled meeting — a spirited and sometimes free-wheeling gathering of nearly 100 people who met at McMurray Middle School to decide the next steps for the town hall-style council in the wake of the board’s mass resignation last month.

The meeting, facilitated by former council board chair Craig Beles, took a number of twists and turns as the group tried to decide how to move forward without a board, what its bylaws allowed, where Robert’s Rules of Order should enter in and what could happen in the course of the two-hour meeting.

First up, however, was whether the nine board members had actually resigned, since Robert’s Rules suggested board resignations have to be “accepted” by the governing body — in this case, all Vashon residents 18 or older who show up for the council’s monthly meetings.

When asked by Beles Monday night, those board members in attendance said they wanted the council to accept their resignations; only Emmer said she’d withdraw her resignation and stay on the board in an effort to keep the council afloat until a new slate of candidates could be elected in November and installed in December.

After Emmer’s decision to remain on the board, the group discussed a number of motions offered up by various Islanders in an effort to determine who — if anyone — would serve with her as interim members of what people called a custodial board. Several residents argued that the group should try to create at least a five-member board that night, noting that such a body was needed to ensure an ongoing relationship with King County and provide other direction for the community council.

“Hilary was not even elected,” said Tom Bangasser, noting that she was appointed to the board two years ago to fill a vacancy. If the group Monday night could not find five people in the room to step forward and serve, he added, “We should just fold the whole tent.”

Others said Emmer could not be the lone board member, even temporarily, because she cannot act on her own.

“For the VMICC to take any action at all, we need a quorum,” argued Carl Sells, who put forward the motion for a five-member board either nominated or elected Monday night.

Normally, the council doesn’t take action in one meeting; its bylaws require a motion to be made in one meeting and acted on at the next. Alice Larson suggested the group declare the election of new board members an urgent motion, allowing the group to make a decision Monday night.

“The election’s in November. We don’t have much time” to impanel a new board, she said.

Others, however, said they were uncomfortable electing a board on such short notice — even one considered custodial until a permanent panel is elected in November. Roger Fulton noted the power of incumbency; others said it was only right that the council follow its normal practice and give notice to the broader community before taking such a step.

“As uncomfortable as I am with a one-member board, I’m also uncomfortable with us here electing a five-member board,” Rob Harmon told the group. “It feels like we’re taking an uncomfortable circumstance and creating another uncomfortable circumstance.”

Cynthia Cruver agreed. “I don’t know their resumes. I don’t know their agendas,” she said of the people in the room who might step forward to join the board. “I think it’s dangerous to do it so fast.”

Others were frustrated that the bulk of the meeting was being taken up by the question of whether the council should elect a five- or nine-member board that night.

“We’re thinking awfully narrowly,” Ellen Kritzman told the group. The bigger and more important question, she said, “is the direction we want the community council to go in.”

On a 37-29 vote, with several abstentions, the council voted against the motion to select four Islanders to serve on an interim board with Emmer. Another Islander put forward a motion to select eight members to serve with Emmer; that motion also failed, 46-24.

Monday’s meeting was the first one since last month’s tense gathering, when Bangasser refused to sit down and then-board chair Jean Bosch abruptly ended the meeting and walked out. She resigned the next day, concerned about a far-reaching public disclosure request by Bangasser and a legal analysis by the King County prosecutor’s office that the board is required to comply with the state’s Public Records Act.

Over the course of the next several days, the other eight board members stepped down as well.

Several discussions have been taking place since then, where Islanders are exploring the future direction of the community council as well as broader questions about how the Island might more effectively govern itself.

Monday, after the mo-tions about the interim board were debated, Emmer offered up a motion proposing that Vashon’s community council give up its county recognition as an Unincorporated Area Council or UAC, a designation that gives the council a formal status with the county as well as a $10,000 budget. The motion will come before the council at next month’s meeting. And Rayna Holtz put forward a motion asking the county council to establish “an electronic means” for UACs to track all of their correspondence; that, too, will be taken up at next month’s council meeting.

Emmer, after the meeting, said she plans to do only enough to keep the community council afloat over the next two or three months, until a new board is in place: She’ll get the mail, for instance, track agenda items and keep those on the VMICC outreach e-mail list informed about upcoming issues and meeting notices.

She made the decision to remain on the board, she added, because of her concern for the community council and her commitment to the role it plays in the community.

“I didn’t want the community council to be in limbo, and I didn’t realize that my resignation and everyone else’s was putting the community into such turmoil,” she said.

VMICC board nominations now being accepted

The community council agreed to the creation of a new nominating committee Monday night — Ron Irvine, Gay Rosser and John Staczek. The group is now accepting nominations for the nine positions on the VMICC board. It will close the nomination process on Oct. 8. For more information, contact Staczek at 463-1959 or at john@staczek.net.

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