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Search for new commish could include public input

Approval of the new North Kitsap commissioner hit a snag this week, when South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel advocated establishing public meetings as part of the process.

“This is for me, and it is also for the citizens,” Angel said. “We need to know who these people are and how they answer certain specific questions.”

Central Commissioner Josh Brown, however, has voiced his opposition to the meetings, saying they’re not necessary and are motivated by partisan politics.

On Wednesday, Angel proposed three public meetings, one in each commissioner district. She has since revised this to a single meeting in Silverdale before the end of July. She said Thursday she has instructed County Administrator Nancy Buonnono Grennan to investigate facility availability.

Following that meeting, Angel said she would decide which one of the three candidates — Hansville consultant Stephen Bauer, Kitsap County Planning Commissioner Tom Nevins and Kitsap County Spokesman Clarence Moriwaki — to support.

She said she will develop her preference based on the interaction of the candidates with the public as well as their ability to answer a range of questions.

Angel said the same questions could be asked in an interview, but added, “The interview format doesn’t work for me.”

She acknowledged having some interaction with all three candidates, but not the in-depth interview needed to judge qualifications about serving as commissioner.

“I need additional material,” she said. “This could involve background checks. I won’t be pushed or rushed.”

Of the three candidates, Bauer and Moriwaki said they would participate in a forum if both county commissioners favored the idea. Nevins declined to answer the question as to whether he would participate until the process was defined.

“I don’t think there is a need for a public forum,” he said, “This isn’t an election. This is an appointment. If the public doesn’t like the appointee, they will have the opportunity to elect a new commissioner in November of 2008.”

Brown said he doesn’t think forums are necessary. Assuming he doesn’t change his mind, no forum would take place, since Bauer and Moriwaki, who say they would only participate with Brown’s approval, would not take part.

“If Jan wants to hold up the appointment to play these nickel-and-dime games, then she should take some of the calls from the north end from people who need representation,” Brown said.

Angel acknowledged that if no candidates participate she will make her decision based on available material — but such a decision would not be as informed as one following a public meeting.

If the candidates decline to participate, she will then request their reason for doing so in writing and will release those statements to the public.

The idea of a forum, meanwhile, was made more complicated with the involvement of two independent groups, the Kitsap Alliance for Property Owners (KAPO) and the Kitsap Association of Realtors. Brown called both organizations “special-interest groups that want to delay the appointment process for partisan reasons.” 

“I can’t speak for others, but I can tell you that we do not have any interest in delaying the appointment process,” said the Realtors’ Association Executive Mike Eliason. “Attempting to delay the process will only lead to a pyrrhic victory. State law allows up to 60 days. As the seat has been vacant one day, we estimate using up to 10 or so of the 60 days.”

Eliason — himself a former Democratic Precinct Committee Officer — said, “We believe the public would be well-served by having one opportunity to attend a well-publicized event.”

Angel must come to a consensus with Brown by Aug. 24 or it the question will be decided by Gov. Christine Gregoire. Both commissioners have said repeatedly that they will be able to agree on a candidate without involving the governor.

At a celebration for outgoing North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen Wednesday night, three of Angel’s former colleagues said her actions were ill-advised. Former Central Kitsap Commissioner Tim Botkin, a Democrat, said Angel consistently needed more time to make up her mind about important issues. His successor, Republican Patty Lent, said that any excessive delay will take the choice out of Angel’s hands.

Endresen addressed the issue through a good-natured dig against Angel’s own predecessor Charlotte Garrido, asking, “What is it about the South Kitsap commissioner that they have to process everything?”

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