Park District drama continues

The drama known as the monthly North Whidbey Park and Recreation District commissioners’ meeting continued to unfold Tuesday night.

In a surprise move, Commissioner Tom Johnson motioned to remove Commissioner Janet Sabalausky from her position as chairwoman during the new business portion of the meeting. The motion, supported only by Commissioner Harvey Prosser, failed after Commissioner Fred Henninger abstained and Commissioner Brien Lilquist voted no.

Johnson said he brought the motion to the table because he felt Sabalausky was preventing the board from moving away from its current two-thirds majority voting policy. The policy requires four of the five commissioners agree for a motion to pass and has held up business since the bylaw was rediscovered in April. Three out of five would only be 60 percent, which is nearly seven points less than two-thirds.

“Why must this board enforce the two-third vote?” Johnson asked of Sabalausky, during open discussion. “We are the only elected body of government officials that use a two-thirds vote requirement for all business rather than a simple majority.”

Defending herself, Sabalausky stated it was not in her control to change what the district’s bylaws require to pass a motion.

“I’m not saying that it’s my position that we have a 4-to-1 vote,” she said. “I’m only explaining the way it’s been explained to me. We’ve got to follow the bylaws.”

Henninger, who abstained in voting for the direct removal of Sabalausky from the chair position, followed Johnson’s failed attempt with a motion to vote no confidence in Sabalausky. Nobody seconded his attempt.

Henninger later explained he made his motion because he wasn’t happy with the late arrival of agendas and the difficulty reaching the chairwoman by telephone. He also stated that a simple majority would provide a “much faster and smoother operation” and he said Johnson’s efforts to get that passed have been “thwarted” by the chair.

Again, Sabalausky defended herself.

“It is not I who wrote the bylaws, it is not I who interpret the bylaws as a two-thirds majority,” she said. “That came from the lawyer and the state auditor.”

Ironically, before the conflict, Sabalausky voted for a motion requested by Prosser, to have the Park District lawyer, Bill Hawkins, attend next month’s meeting to clear up any haze about the two-thirds voting policy. The motion requests his attendance whether he provides pro bono services or comes at a fee.

There was discussion of motioning to change the district’s bylaws on Tuesday, but it’s required to have a 10-day written notice before that move can be made. More than likely a motion for a bylaw change will be made at next month’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 21 at the City of Oak Harbor Public Works Shop, 1400 NE 16th, Ave.

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