The Clark County council passed an ordinance Tuesday altering the way sensitive contracts are publicized. By the next morning, Councilor David Madore had convinced 256 people to sign a petition seeking to refer the ordinance to a vote.
The ordinance was drafted by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Horne to give the county manager greater authority in delegating routine contracts and also to address concerns voiced by some members of the council that contracts for sensitive human resource investigations not be published on the county’s website.
The measure changes a 2015 ordinance approved by the Clark County council that required the county manager to post contracts on the county’s website prior to signing them, allowing the public and councilors to offer input. The Home Rule Charter gives the county manager authority to sign contracts.
Horne explained that individuals involved in human resources investigations “may have claims to confidentiality.”
“It is our job to protect everyone in the investigations,” said council Chair Marc Boldt at Tuesday’s meeting.
The ordinance was passed with a 3-2 vote with Boldt, no party preference, and Republican Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Julie Olson voting in favor of it. Republican Councilors Tom Mielke and Madore, who have often been at odds with the rest of the council, voted against it.
Madore called the ordinance a huge step backward for “transparency and accountable government,” while suggesting it was politically motivated and related to two legal actions against members of the council.
In April of this year, Madore said County Manager Mark McCauley violated county ordinance when he entered into a contract with Seattle attorney Rebecca Dean to investigate allegations that county staff lied about the councilor’s zoning proposals. The contract also directed Dean to investigate Community Planning Director Oliver Orjiako’s whistleblower and harassment complaints against Madore.
Before having his microphone cut, Madore launched into a lengthy tirade where he claimed that the council and county manager had awarded “self-serving contracts” to investigate their “adversaries.” During this speech, he referenced a lawsuit regarding a recall petition filed by Mielke seeking to recall Boldt, Olson and Stewart over the contract, among other allegations.
Madore also mentioned a legal petition he filed last month in Superior Court asking that the county stop entering into contracts without publicizing them. The petition also asks the court to declare that the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has become too conflicted to provide the counselor with unbiased legal advice.
“Today’s proposed ordinance further eroded the county council and gives too much power to the county manager,” Madore said.
“What you are doing here is complete baloney,” Stewart shot back at Madore’s accusations.
Nicholas Power, the Friday Harbor attorney representing Madore, told The Columbian he found it “strange” that the county council was changing a law it was accused of violating. He also said that a redacted version of a contract for an HR investigation could be posted online. He also criticized an earlier version of the ordinance for directing the county manager to only notify the council chair and two other councilors of a contract for an HR investigation (this provision was removed through an amendment).
McCauley told The Columbian that the provision to only notify three council members was because some may not be available, but he was comfortable with the new language requiring him to inform the entire council. He also said that key individuals involved in an HR investigation could be identified by other details contained in a redacted contract.
“Simply lining out a person’s name doesn’t protect them like you’d think,” he said.
Madore, who lost his re-election campaign and will step down in January, has filed a petition with the county auditor seeking to have the ordinance referred to a vote.
Cathie Garber, county elections supervisor, said that such a petition needs to have at least 100 valid signatures from Clark County voters to begin the process of placing it on the ballot. If the signatures are valid, she said, the prosecuting attorney writes ballot language. She said once it’s registered the petitioner has 120 days to collect a number of signatures equivalent to 10 percent of voters who cast votes in the 2012 gubernatorial election, which is 19,350.