Admitting she made a mistake when calling an illegal executive session, Donna Sue Holly resigned last week as chairwoman of the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District board.
“I regret that any actions I took could be construed as purposeful negation of the Open Public Meetings Act,” Holly said. “I am a big fan of the law and think we have bent over backward to ensure we do follow that law over the last three years.”
Holly maintains the executive session she called on Sept. 28 was for the correct purpose — to discuss complaints against a public servant — but that she failed to notify Commissioner Shane Hoffmire that he was the subject of that meeting and give him the opportunity make the discussion public.
The subject of the meeting was to confront Hoffmire on what she deemed inappropriate and disruptive behavior.
Holly specifically cites a May meeting when discussion over pulling support for the North Whidbey Aquatic Club got heated.
During that meeting, Hoffmire told fellow commissioner Wendy Shingleton she was “a horrible person” and “hated children.”
Hoffmire was asked to leave the meeting. After he refused, Holly called for a recess and summoned police. She reported to police that a board member was refusing to “shut up and leave.”
“In my defense, this was the first time I found it necessary to discuss the offense of disrupting a meeting with a fellow commissioner,” Holly said. “Initially, I thought to do it in public since the offense was very public, but with time to reflect I remembered a lesson learned as a junior officer in the Navy: you praise in public and criticize in private.
“I had to make sure it didn’t happen again. But I also sought to save the commissioner from public embarrassment. My bad. I won’t make that mistake again. I did make a mistake — not the first, not the last.”
“I’m not perfect,” Holly said. “I am not a politician or a parliamentarian.”
Holly’s statement, which was several minutes long, also blasted Hoffmire for “immature” behavior and claims he was abusive and attempted to sway board members to change their opinions through “physical dominance.”
Hoffmire said those allegations are untrue.
During the May meeting, Hoffmire said he stood up and was going to leave because he was disgusted with the other members of the board. And, just as he decided to sit back down, Hoffmire said Holly started yelling at him to leave.
“They were making a motion to disband the swim team and it wasn’t on the agenda,” Hoffmire said. “I tried everything to prevent that from happening for the sake of public transparency.”
When a police officer arrived, Hoffmire said he was told he had a legal right to attend the meeting.
“I wasn’t told by the responding officer that I was doing anything wrong either,” he said.
Holly said that she was also wrong in concluding a majority of the board could vote someone out under Robert’s Rules of Order.
“The U.S. Senate can expel its members; it’s in the Constitution,” she said.
“I have to admit, it did not occur to me that the state of Washington would not allow the expulsion of board members who cannot behave themselves.”
Holly said her goal is to serve the community to the best of her ability.
“I spent 30 years as a Naval officer dealing with mature, responsible, intelligent 18-year-olds,” she said. “I do not know nor do I care to learn how to deal with spoiled tantrum-throwing 3-year-olds. I’m done.”
“I will not do it anymore.”
While she is keeping her seat on the board, Holly resigned her position as chairwoman effective the end of Thursday’s meeting.
The board then voted to elect Hoffmire chairman.
Hoffmire said that, while he thought Holly had definitely put thought and time into her prepared resignation statement, it was also reflective of his relationship with her over the last two years.
“I think her comments are indicative of her treatment of me and the public,” Hoffmire said. “For two years she’s been talking very badly to me and I’ve never taken it personally.
“She’s entitled to her opinion and as long as it’s done legally, I don’t have a problem with it.”
Hoffmire’s position is up for reelection, as are seats currently held by Richard Fort and Michael Fraasch.
Only Hoffmire is seeking reelection. He is challenged by John Chargualaf and Mukunda-Krishna Tyson.
While Holly and Hoffmire will still be working together, Hoffmire said he has hope for the future board.