Councilors Temple Lentz and Julie Olson successfully delay process to fill vacant seat on Clark County Council

Councilors claim busy March calendars prevent them from conducting the estimated two-hour meeting to select a replacement for Eileen Quiring O’Brien

March is apparently a very busy time for Clark County Councilors Temple Lentz and Julie Olson, so much so in fact, that the two elected officials couldn’t find a single two-hour window of opportunity during the next four weeks to conduct interviews of the three final candidates for the vacant District 5 position on the County Council.

County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman
County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman

Two hours was the amount of time that County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman was attempting to carve out for the interviews of candidates Dick Rylander, Peter Silliman and Thomas Schenk. Last week, Bowerman announced the three as the final candidates in the process to replace Eileen Quiring O’Brien, whose resignation from the County Council became official Tuesday (March 1).

Last week, Bowerman attempted to schedule the candidate interviews, and presumably a vote of the current councilors, for today (March 2). However, even though Bowerman was dutifully following the process handed to her by County Manager Kathleen Otto and county staff, Lentz and Olson told Bowerman she was “rushing’’ the process for filling the vacant seat and they refused to participate in the interviews today.

Councilor Temple Lentz
Councilor Temple Lentz

So, as a result, Bowerman attempted to seek a solution with Lentz and Olson during a Council Time session Wednesday morning. Bowerman had spoken to the three candidates about their availability through March 10 and she initially attempted to find time when the councilors could conduct the interviews in that time frame. However, Lentz and Olson repeatedly indicated their busy schedules prevented them from both being available at the same time.

“I’m looking at my calendar and I don’t have a lot of availability up to the 10th,’’ Lentz said. “I’m looking and I just don’t have any blocks available.’’

Olson then added two full weeks of availability to the discussion.

“I’m literally out the week of the 14th and the week of the 21st,’’ Olson said.

Bowerman noted that if three councilors were available, they would have a quorum with which to conduct the interviews. However, Olson said she would refuse to participate if all four councilors were not present.

“I won’t participate unless all four of us are there,’’ Olson said.

Councilor Julie Olson
Councilor Julie Olson

Lentz and Olson finally agreed that they were each available on Tue., March 29 at 10 a.m. Both Bowerman and Councilor Gary Medvigy clearly showed their exasperation for the tactics of their fellow councilors during the 20-minute discussion conducted in a virtual format.

“All of a sudden, you’re both not available for a number of weeks?’’ Medvigy asked.

“I find waiting until the 29th to be unacceptable,’’ Bowerman said. “Come the 29th, there could be an additional issue why it could be postponed further.’’

Neither Lentz nor Olson showed any willingness to accommodate any of Bowerman’s many suggested remedies, which also included moving around the council’s business on the upcoming agendas for scheduled meetings in the coming weeks that Lentz and Olson plan to attend.

The councilors have 60 days to select one of the candidates to fill the vacant District 5 seat. If they are unable to do so, the decision then goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who then has 30 days to pick from Bowerman’s three candidates.

“I’m sorry, but apparently my schedule fills up a little more quickly than others,’’ Lentz said. “I don’t have the privilege of being retired. I have many commitments.’’

Medvigy, who is a retired judge, reminded Lentz and Olson that they were paid elected officials and obligated to perform their duties as members of the County Council.

“You are not retired,’’ Medvigy said. “You get a salary to conduct county business.’’

To which Lentz shot back, “This is not assumed to be a full-time job.’’

Councilor Gary Medvigy
Councilor Gary Medvigy

Medvigy suggested that because of the two councilors’ tactics, maybe Bowerman should just send the decision to the governor immediately. 

“I think it’s important to move this process along and not delay it,’’ Medvigy said. “Let’s just send it to the governor now if we’re not available to meet.

“I think that would be a great embarrassment to us, but that’s what we may have to do,’’ Medvigy said. “The people have a right to have all five councilors on board and the 5th District doesn’t have any representation. We should make it a high priority for county business to move this along.’’

Wednesday afternoon, Bowerman told Clark County Today she was still considering that and other options as well.

Medvigy described the strategy of Lentz and Olson to delay the process, “akin to a pocket veto.

“It’s a pocket veto,’’ he said. “We don’t want to select someone so let’s not make ourselves available to do it. Now all of a sudden no one is available. That’s ridiculous.’’

The actions of Lentz and Olson Wednesday seem to validate the comments of Quiring O’Brien in her official letter of resignation to Otto last week (Feb. 24).

“I have served in both the House and Senate in the Oregon State Legislature, therefore I come with some experience in the legislative process and decorum within committees and on the floor of both the House and Senate. I greatly enjoyed that experience and the civility among the members from both sides of the aisle,’’ she wrote. “With that said, the last several years of serving as Chair of the Council were made difficult by the uncollegial behavior of two of the Council members (Lentz and Olson) who apparently saw their positions as antagonists, and me as their enemy. This is not how a legislative body should work. 

“Differing views on policy issues should be discussed openly and civilly, not with hostility and disrespect,’’ Quiring O’Brien wrote. “Certainly, council members should not go to social media and openly bash their colleagues who disagree with their views. This greatly diminishes the ability to make good policy, recruit quality people to serve, and the joy of serving the public.’’

Candidate Peter Silliman took to social media Wednesday to express his disappointment in the delay. Silliman pointed out that in November Clark County voters approved an amendment to the county’s Home Rule Charter making the positions on the council non-partisan.

“This behavior is exactly what was expected,’’ Silliman said. “This is from those that supported this being called a ‘non-partisan’ position. I let you decide if this kind of action fits that description.’’


Article Source: Clark County Today