Island County commissioners split over extended appointment

Commissioners appointed a new member of the Law and Justice Council for an unusually long term despite opposition from Commissioner Helen Price Johnson.

Gerald Betts was appointed to the Council last week for a term that begins immediately and runs through February 2017, a two-year and six- month appointment.

The appointments are typically two years.

The position was vacated by Aubrey Vaughan, a Republican, when he was selected to serve as interim Island County commissioner.

Instead of nominating Betts to simply serve out the remainder of his vacated seat through February, Vaughan made a motion to extend the appointment for an additional full term. Commissioner Jill Johnson, also a Republican, quickly seconded his motion.

“It’s so close to the time … it would be February anyway,” said Vaughan, who served on the Council for a year and a half. “Continuity is very important.”

Price Johnson appeared surprised by the move.

“If it had been the intent to extend the term, it would have been nice to hear that in work session,” said Price Johnson, a Democrat.

Democratic candidate Karla Jacks pulled nearly half the votes in the Aug. 5 primary for Vaughan’s District 3 seat and is a top contender to take over the position in November.

Price Johnson said she was disappointed with the board’s decision, saying that the reason the appointments are staggered is so that newly elected commissioners can weigh in on the appointments.

“What the board has done is circumvent what we don’t know yet will be the will of the voters,” Price Johnson said.

Price Johnson said that typically someone is appointed to the unexpired term, and then another appointment is considered at the two-year mark.

“Given there’s an election coming up, it seems inappropriate to change that practice,” Price Johnson said. “I have a philosophical issue with that.”

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