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Mayor rebukes councilman for casting vote

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley took a council member to task at the close of Tuesday’s meeting, but the scolding may have been unwarranted.

Dudley accused a council member, whom he did not identify by name, of misconduct for failing to recuse himself from an earlier vote concerning city employees and their pay.

The mayor then encouraged the council to be more cautious about conflicts of interest in the future and examine their roles and duties before casting votes.

Councilman Bob Severns was the target of Dudley’s assertions.

Severns is the only member of the council married to a city employee.

It turns out the last-minute charge may have been a faux pas.

Dudley delivered the accusation and was set to adjourn the meeting without giving Severns a chance to respond. The mayor relented in response to a motion by another councilman to allow Severns to speak.

Severns calmly explained that he and his wife have a “premarital agreement” to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

That means, Severns said, that he did not participate in a vote benefiting him financially.

“You should be aware of that before you start making a comment about this sort of thing,” Severns said.

Dudley said his comment directed at Severns still stands, adding he was not aware of a premarital agreement, and neither was the public.

“I don’t know what agreement you have; what I’m saying is the appearance,” said Dudley.

Councilman Jim Campbell, one of Dudley’s more vocal supporters, then attempted to close the meeting, but other council members wanted to speak out on the mayor’s remarks.

“It seems like the comment of the mayor is chastising the council for not getting all the information that we need,” Councilman Danny Paggao said. “I did research on this and also talked to Mr. Severns, and, based on the information I have received, there is no conflict of interest.”

Councilman Joel Servatius supported Severns.

Servatius said he suspects Dudley’s motives for making the allegations will be clear to the viewing public, though he did not elaborate.

“I think the viewing public, as they are made aware of the comments made tonight, will be very aware of why those comments were made,” Servatius said.

Servatius added that he believes it is “incredibly inappropriate to discuss a dollar amount that any staff or employee of the city receives.”

Earlier in the meeting, the council voted on a proposal to delay the  implementation date of a 2 percent cost of living increase and the termination of an “opt-out” provision for non-represented employees.

A majority of council members, including Severns, said they had heard from city workers worried about the financial ramifications.

Campbell said that some employees told him they would have to move or find second jobs.

The council agreed unanimously — Councilwoman Beth Munns was not present — to delay implementing the proposal until January 2014.

The intent, council members said, is to examine the financial impacts of the proposal more in depth and look for alternatives.

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