New form of government OK'd for Washougal ballot

Voters will consider switching to city manager model

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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The Washougal City Council on Monday unanimously approved placing a proposition on the Nov. 5 general election ballot that, if approved by voters, would change the city's form of government.

The city's current government is organized under a strong mayor system. The proposition that will appear on the ballot will ask voters whether they're in favor of switching to a city manager system, which would take administrative oversight out of the mayor's hands.

The council's decision to place the proposition on the general election ballot stems from concerns from some councilors that the city's administration doesn't freely divulge information about policy decisions.

There's also a belief among councilors that Washougal would be more professionally run under a city manager.

Washougal has a city administrator, David Scott, who takes direction from the mayor.

"The big problem I see with the current system we have is the mayor basically controls the flow of information," said Councilor Brent Boger, a proponent of changing the

form of government. "If the mayor doesn't want council to know something, council won't know it."

His support of the proposition, Boger added, was not an indictment of Mayor Sean Guard, whom he said he supports as mayor.

Guard, who's running for re-election against fire department Capt. Earl Scott, has opposed the change, saying it would place the majority of power into the hands of an unelected manager.

He's also disputed claims that the city administration has kept councilors in the dark about policy changes. He said councilmembers are not allowed to ask city staffers directly about policy decisions because there's a "chain of command" that would also exist under the city manager form of government.

"There's a perception put out there, specifically and directly, that would lead someone who doesn't know a lot about the city to believe we don't have professional management, and that's false," Guard said.

At the same meeting, Washougal councilors voted not to put a 10-cent levy lid lift on the same ballot.

The lid lift would have generated about $129,000, which would have been used to pay for fire and emergency medical services.

The levy lid lift could still be revived at a later date.