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Sherman ousted from Island County Planning Commission before he starts
In a two-to-one vote Monday, the Island County Board of Commissioners rescinded Dave Sherman's appointment to the District 2 Planning Commission position after a terse special meeting.
Commissioner John Dean seconded Commissioner Helen Price Johnson's motion to rescind the appointment for the position and to open the application process for two weeks. A District 1 position is also open. Applications can be submitted until Jan. 9 at 4:30.
The vote overturned the board's appointment of Sherman to the Planning Commission on Dec. 22. Sherman's name was submitted by outgoing Republican Mac McDowell, who has represented the Oak Harbor area for 16 years.
The incoming District 2 Commissioner, Democrat Angie Homola, raised concern over the decision because the Planning Commission seat will not be vacated until Jan. 2. She reasoned that the appointment should not be made during McDowell's term, which expires Dec. 31. Homola beat McDowell by 60 votes in the November election.
Homola did not attend the meeting, but eight members of the public, including and Oak Harbor Council member Beth Munns, did.
Postponing Sherman's appointment to the Planning Commission creates a gap in which the position will be vacant, Munns warned, which she said wastes time and money.
"Usually appointments are done ahead of time so you don't miss a beat," she said.
"If you wanted to change the decision, great. Do it. But don't do it afterwards."
When asked if she thought the move was partisan, Munns responded, "I sure do." For the first time in history three Democrats fill the county commissioner seats.
Mac McDowell expressed concern that the action may stain Dave Sherman's reputation. Sherman works in the construction industry and is a member of the Oak Harbor School Board. He also attended the meeting.
"That's really unusual to change the vote a week later," McDowell said of the other two commissioners' decision to rescind his Dec. 22 appointment.
"This has been the process for many years. You can't retroactively change the process."
Democrat Price Johnson, who took office in November, disagreed with McDowell's notion that the board's action will mar Sherman's record.
"I do not believe the citizens of Island County will see any stain on Mr. Sherman's record," she said.
Following Sherman's Dec. 22 appointment, Price Johnson checked into past board minutes and looked at other appointment patterns.
Sherman's appointment did not appear on the Dec. 22 agenda, causing confusion, she said, which spurred her to investigate past appointment procedures.
Price Johnson said she has a responsibility to respond to the new information she discovered.
While checking past minutes, and looking further into the appointment process, Price Johnson discovered that McDowell's term is over on Dec. 31 and the Planning Commission seat isn't open until Jan. 2, prompting the change in her position.
"I would like us to reconsider," she said. "We need to do the right thing ... even if it isn't very pleasant."
Munns said Price Johnson and John Dean should have abstained instead of approving the appointment if they did not feel they had enough information.
Dean suggested that future appointees be required to submit a resume or letter of interest for the other commissioners who may not be familiar with the appointee's background. And Price Johnson agreed.
"I would like it to be a more open process," she said.
The only information she received was what McDowell told her, that Sherman serves on the school board and is a respected person in the building community.
Audience member Jan Pickard expressed concern over the board's appointment policy.
"I was frankly shocked to learn that there is no process for bringing people onto board appointments," she said.
"I think we need to clean up our process ... to allow for more public awareness," Commissioner Dean said, adding that the positions are usually filled by people with whom the district commissioner is familiar.
"I apologize for not doing research to see when the term actually expired," Dean said of his uneducated vote to appoint Sherman to the Planning Commission.