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Bangasser to remain on community council board after motion fails

Tom Bangasser stands behind his wife Melissa while votes on a motion to remove him from the community council board are tallied. - Leslie Brown/Staff Photo
Tom Bangasser stands behind his wife Melissa while votes on a motion to remove him from the community council board are tallied.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

Tom Bangasser, a controversial Islander who has drawn criticism as well as accolades for his unrelenting use of the Public Records Act to secure documents, narrowly survived an effort to have him removed from the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council board Monday night.

With a two-thirds majority needed, the effort failed by nine votes: 156 supported the measure to remove him from the board, while 91 voted against the move.

As the vote was announced, fellow board members slapped Bangasser on the back, grabbed his hand or gave him the thumbs up, while he sat passively. Asked to comment, he said simply, “It’s the way the vote should have gone.”

CC Stone, an Island woman who brought the motion before the council, wasn’t in the room when the total was announced around 10:30 p.m. — three and a half hours after the meeting began. While votes were being tallied, however, she said she was glad she’d had the courage to bring the motion forward.

“I have peace because I did what I could. There were people who were afraid to speak up,” she said.

“If we get over 50 percent,” she added, “that’s a referendum on his behavior.”

Stone’s motion — thought to be the first time an Islander has sought the removal of a standing VMICC board member — called for his ouster because of his actions over the last several months, when he began to challenge the legality of the community council and filed several requests for documents under the Public Records Act.

Her effort drew a standing-room-only crowd of around 250 people to the VMICC general meeting at McMurray Middle School, a monthly gathering that often lacks the 30 people needed for a quorum. Passions were strong as Islanders on either side of the issue stepped forward to take the mic and voice their opinions.

Alice Larson came to the mic to speak against the measure, carrying a large bucket with feathers attached to it. “In case this passes, I brought the tar and feathers,” she joked.

John Staczek, who also serves on the nine-member VMICC board, gave a particularly impassioned speech in favor of Bangasser, whom he called a friend. “Tom is thoughtful, sensitive, sympathetic and compassionate. He is also humane and fundamentally fair,” he said.

But others took issue with Bangasser’s role on the community council’s board, a position he assumed in December, as well as his style over the last few years, when, among other things, he took issue with the rezoning of the K2 site and a plan by two Island businessmen to redevelop it.

Kyle Cruver, a former VMICC board member who resigned last August when the rest of the board members also stepped down, told the audience he turned “sour” about Bangasser’s role after he learned that during the fight over K2, Bangasser, a commercial real estate developer, was seeking to have the building donated to Vashon College. Cruver called it “a fundamental conflict of interest.”

Much of the recent concern over Bangasser’s behavior has centered around his efforts to secure emails from former board member Hilary Emmer, who served in what she and others called a housekeeping capacity as the sole board-member after the rest of the board stepped down last summer.

Emmer recently turned over her emails, putting all of them in binders and placing them in the Vashon Library.

Emmer also stepped forward to argue in support of the motion, noting, however, that she didn’t want it to become “an issue of Hilary vs. Tom.” Her concern, she said, is that Bangasser “does not accept the will of his council” — problematic, she said, when he’s part of a board that’s supposed to represent Islanders’ interests before King County.

Bangasser did not speak during the 45-minute discussion.

Voting took place by written ballots, which people had to sign. Counting took more than an hour.

The effort took place after several other motions came before the council, including one asking that each board member issue a statement of support endorsing the November election, which put most of the members of the current board into office. Roger Fulton, who made the motion, said he was doing so because Bangasser questioned its legality, even while taking office once the results came in.

That measure, too, triggered a lively debate, with some comparing it to McCarthyism while others heartily endorsed it. The measure passed, 121 to 74, requiring each board member to then stand up and say whether they endorse the election that put them into office. Most of them did, though some reluctantly.

“I agree (with the statement of support),” said board member Bill Rowling. “And I’m glad this issue is coming to a close.”

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