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Due to conflict over meeting times, cemetery board selects new member

Jake Jacobovitch, a well-known islander elected in November 2011 to serve on the three-member commission that oversees Vashon’s public cemetery, never took office and was replaced last year by another resident, Jay Hanson.

The commission opted to replace Jacobovitch after he failed to show up for the first three consecutive meetings of his term, commission chair Lisa Devereau said last week. Under state law, a seat is considered vacant and can be filled by the commission if a commissioner-elect fails to take the oath of office.

“He never showed up for a meeting,” Devereau said. “We were advised we could fill the vacancy.”

Jacobovitch said he never made it to a meeting because he works full-time in Seattle and was unable to attend the monthly sessions, held the second Wednesday of the month at 3 p.m. He said he asked the chair at the time, Tim Lafferty, if the meetings could be moved to the evenings.

“Tim said, ‘There’s no way we can change the time,’” Jacobovitch recalled.

Lafferty declined to comment, saying that he would talk about the situation only if a reporter attended the commissioners’ monthly meeting.

“Because of the nature of how this came about, I feel it would be best to discuss the events in a public meeting,” he said in an email to The Beachcomber.

The Beachcomber discovered that Jacobovitch hadn’t assumed his role as a commissioner when a reporter called him last week to ask about the cemetery district and the small cemetery it oversees. “I never ascended to the throne,” Jacobovitch told the reporter.

Jacobovitch said he opted not to fight the issue when he was told the meeting time couldn’t be changed. “I was the new guy. I didn’t want to be adversarial,” he said.

Jacobovitch was to begin serving the six-year term in January 2012. According to the minutes from the Feb. 8, 2012, meeting, the two commissioners at the time — Devereau and Lafferty — discussed Jacobovitch’s request for evening meetings.

The commissioners decided “it would not be advantageous to the district,” according to the minutes, because the agency would have to pay its groundskeeper to attend an evening meeting and because it would be difficult for Len Burton-Hardin, director of the Howden-Kennedy Funeral Home in West Seattle, to attend. Burton-Hardin, whose funeral home is a sister company of Island Funeral Service on Vashon, is contracted to offer management services to the cemetery district.

The commissioners appointed Hanson, at its April 2012 meeting. Hanson, 67, is a retired Metro Transit engineer who began attending commissioners’ meetings because of his interest in the cemetery.

“I was really impressed by how well the commissioners worked together,” he said. “That was when an opportunity presented itself to become a commissioner.”

 

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