Open discussion on council candidates ‘isn’t necessary’

The Federal Way City Council. Pictured left to right: Jim Ferrell, Susan Honda, Bob Celski, Jeanne Burbidge, Skip Priest, Dini Duclos, Roger Freeman, Linda Kochmar. - Courtesy of the City of Federal Way
The Federal Way City Council. Pictured left to right: Jim Ferrell, Susan Honda, Bob Celski, Jeanne Burbidge, Skip Priest, Dini Duclos, Roger Freeman, Linda Kochmar.
— image credit: Courtesy of the City of Federal Way

Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell addressed both The Mirror’s and Federal Way resident Norma Blanchard’s concerns about the city council appointment process set to take place Jan. 19.

Because of the departures of Linda Kochmar and Roger Freeman to the Legislature, the council needs to appoint two citizens to fill these positions for the remainder of their terms. Part of this process involves executive sessions to weigh the pros and cons of the candidates, a move that The Mirror and Blanchard feel should be done in the open.

“At first I thought, ‘I could see that,’” Ferrell said, referencing The Mirror’s Jan. 11 editorial. “Any reasonable person would say ‘Why not?’ But I remember (something) my father said, (and that) was always be careful to guard a man’s dignity. And I think the dignity of the process, and the dignity of the candidates…We’re going to have some very candid discussions, and I don’t think it’s necessary to discuss someone’s shortcomings or their qualities, in relation to other people, that may not only hurt their feelings, but affect their standing in the community or anything like that.”

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he added.

State law allows the council to hold an executive session to evaluate the qualifications of candidates for appointment. There is no legal requirement to go into executive session, and the council can choose to forgo executive session.

The other issue Ferrell saw in the idea of having the council’s deliberations on applicants being open to the public was that it could potentially have a restrictive effect on the council’s speech regarding applicants.

“If we’re up here, and we’re having a candid discussion, some of us would probably hold our tongue, to a degree,” he said. “I think I would be very circumspect about someone’s shortcomings, and while not personal, could cause hard feelings. My feeling is, this law is in place for a reason, we’re going to take advantage of it and I think it’s wise.”

Outside of those remarks, Ferrell said he feels the process has been as open as it can possibly be so far.

“I think we’ve had a very transparent process. At these public meetings we have gone far and wide and made sure that everybody knows about these vacancies,” he said. “And quite frankly, I think all of us here were almost amazed at the number of applicants we received. 22 applicants, and we’re now down to 20. And that’s going to be an all-day process.”

The deputy mayor indicated that the initial response, which was 26 applicants, led to a discussion of whether that number should be pared down somehow. Ferrell said that after he and council colleagues conferred, they decided they were willing to give every applicant a chance to state their case before the council.

“Now we’re going to set aside a Saturday and dedicate it to the proposition that we’re going to get the best possible people we can get, and devote an entire day to it,” he said. “We’ve got a situation now which we’re going to make sure everybody has access to the questions that have been put out, and the responses. So everybody knows where we’re at.”

The council will meet Jan. 19 to fill the vacancies. Doors open at 7:30 a.m., at the council chambers in City Hall, and the interview process is anticipated to begin at 8:15 a.m. According to the tentative agenda, the council hopes to finish the interviews and appoint the two new council members by 4 p.m. that day.


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