Kenmore City Council conduct ordinance already a hot topic
January 17, 2011 · Updated 12:56 PM
The measure hasn’t even been formally introduced, but an ordinance adopting what’s advertised as rules of conduct for Kenmore City Council already is drawing flak from some quarters.
The ordinance was on the original agenda of the Jan. 10 Kenmore Council session, but was pulled off for revisions, according to Mayor David Baker.
Baker denied what seemed to be the assumption of several observers, that the ordinance was an attempt to muzzle Councilman John Hendrickson, an often outspoken critic of his fellow councilmembers.
Speaking during the public comment portion of the Jan. 10 meeting, resident Janet Hays described the measure as “knee-jerk” and “absolutely” targeting one person, namely Hendrickson. Hays felt the legislation not only could hurt the ability of councilmembers to speak their minds, but possibly the public, as well.
Among other measures, the long ordinance allows for the removal of councilmembers from office if they are censured by the rest of council on three occasions. In July, council took a couple of steps against Hendrickson, including a formal censure “for gross misrepresentation of the council.”
At the same time, council authorized City Manager Frederick Stouder to “take legal action against... Hendrickson for libel and slander.”
No suit ever was filed, but commenting after the recent council meeting, Hendrickson said the proposed legislation amounted to another threat against him, just as was, in his opinion, the potential law suit.
“They’re just trying to stop the truth about our finances from being told,” said Hendrickson, who repeatedly has clashed with Baker and the rest of the council over differing versions of the state of Kenmore’s bottom line. The censure and the potential lawsuit both related back, mostly, to budget disagreements. In July, Baker argued Hendrickson had crossed the line from questioning the city budget into accusing city officials of possibly committing illegalities.
Essentially, regarding the city’s books, Baker and others argue the city is sound financially, while Hendrickson states Kenmore is headed for serious money problems, including a major deficit. In his recent comments, Hendrickson said Kenmore already is spending its savings to keep up with day-to-day operating expenses.
For his part, Baker said the conduct legislation grew out of suggestions made at council retreats over the past two years.
“This is not aimed at anyone,” he said. “This is for all councilmembers.”
Baker described the current rules governing council behavior as a “hodgepodge of stuff... written in different formats.” He said questions have arisen about the rules in the past and he wants to be able to point to a rule quickly if such questions arise in the future.
Hendrickson said passage of the legislation would not affect his behavior, saying he has a duty to tell the public what he sees as the truth, especially about the city’s finances.
“We can test the First Amendment if they want to,” Hendrickson said, referring to the rest of council.
In a sign of things that might come in the future, with his term in office expiring at the end of this year, Hendrickson said he definitely plans to run for re-election. He also said he may challenge for the seat held by Baker.
Hendrickson said someone needs to tell the truth about Kenmore’s books and protect freedom of speech.