Port Angeles City Council steps into Downtown Association fray
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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The review comes in the wake of a July 3 decision by the group’s board of directors to remove downtown businessman Kevin Tracy from the panel — a decision that was then reversed.
“After reflecting on the July 3 board meeting and the action to remove Mr. Tracy from the board, the board has determined that it did not duly serve the membership’s decision that elected him to the position,” board President Jack Harmon, head of Expeditions NW, Arrow Launch and Arrow Marine, said in a July 10 email.
The City Council stepped into the fray a week later.
On July 17, council members directed interim City Manager Dan McKeen to review information on the organization and the city’s role in its operations.
Harmon would not comment on the board’s vote to remove Tracy.
The downtown association, which has 190 business members, manages downtown parking lots and sponsors events.
Members pay an assessment of $160 to $400 a year, depending on square footage, for shared parking in a parking and business improvement area “so that every business can have free parking for their customers,” Executive Director Barb Frederick said.
The group also gets about $20,000 annually in economic development funds that go toward the Main Street economic development program, city Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West said at the council meeting.
Eleven members of the group’s 13-person board voted to remove Tracy, owner of Tracy Wealth Management, at a special meeting of the board that was held July 3.
According to the minutes: “A motion was made and seconded to remove Kevin Tracy from the 2012 Port Angeles Downtown Association Board of Directors. The motion passed with a vote of 11-0.”
Tracy said last week he was not present at the meeting and did not know that he was on the agenda.
“They didn’t even give me a chance to defend myself,” he said.
The 11 board members explained their decision in a July 5 email to downtown association members.
“The PADA board feels strongly that the most fundamental right of each citizen of the United States is freedom of speech,” the email said.
“Further, that when engaged as a member of a body or board, the code of ethics of that board is paramount, and that the board members individual right of freedom of speech becomes secondary.
“To that end, Mr. Tracy has the individual right to freedom of speech but has violated the PADA code of ethics,” the email said.
The code is two sentences long.
“The PADA strives to conduct our business activities with honesty, integrity, fairness, openness and in accordance with the highest ethical standards,” it says. “Employees and volunteers are expected to represent the PADA in a courteous, efficient and professional manner.”
Nothing in the bylaws allows the board to remove a board member for violating the PADA code of conduct, Board Secretary Drew Schwab said.
“It would most likely go to the membership at large,” Schwab said.
The board’s action caused Tracy’s reputation to be “damaged in the community,” Tracy said.
“They singled me out,” he said. “I’ve been the outspoken one, the lone wolf, the person who has always called them to account to be more open, more transparent, to be more effective.”
Tracy resigned from the board in February 2011 over disagreements with the organization.
Later that year, he and Don Zeller, owner of Zeller’s Antiques, organized a no-confidence petition that requested a city audit of the downtown association, asserting it was out of touch with membership.
The group was found in compliance with its contract, which requires it to participate in the Main Street Program, improve the area’s appearance and maintain parking lots, but city staff recommended it reach out more to membership.
In December, Tracy was among seven board candidates who supported a pledge to “restore accountability and transparency.”
At the time, Harmon told Peninsula Daily News the board has “a totally open process” with PADA members.
Tracy said he invited City Council member sand McKeen to the PADA board’s regular July 9 meeting.
Those meetings are open to the public.
McKeen, Mayor Cherie Kidd, Councilman Max Mania and Councilwoman Sissi Bruch attended.
Tracy said he was told at the board meeting that the July 3 vote was “advisory” and that he was still a board member.
“The minutes clearly state that a motion was made, and I was voted off,” Tracy said.
Harmon said last week the vote was “an advisory vote.”
Schwab, owner of Anime Kat, agreed. The board “felt that Tracy was no longer working cohesively with the board,” Schwab said.
On July 10, after the City Council members attended the PADA meeting, Harmon sent an email to PADA members notifying them Tracy will continue as a board member “unless he chooses to resign or the membership acts to remove him,” Harmon said.
The board will take “an alternative course of action,” he said.
“A bylaw committee will craft an amendment to the bylaws that will address board of director conduct and submit the proposal to the membership for review and approval.”
Eight days after Kidd, Mania and Bruch attended the PADA meeting, the full council considered scheduling a work session on the organization.
Instead, McKeen was directed to gather information.
Councilman Patrick Downie tied the need for action to the favorable comments he’s received about the city’s upcoming waterfront improvement project.
“We’ve got to be cautious about nosing around in this business,” he said. “On the other hand, it has reached a level of discord that it puts in jeopardy what we are doing down there.”
Harmon said Friday he disagrees with Downie’s statement about discord, calling it “vague.”
“I don’t know what Councilman Downie was alluding to,” Harmon said. “I don’t know the whole context of the [council] discussion.”
Mania supported having a work session on the PADA “at some point in the very near future,” he said.
“There’s obviously a lot of dissatisfaction, a lot of dysfunction,” he added. “Some of us witnessed that at the last meeting.”
Harmon said he disagreed with Mania’s characterization.
“There were three people at that meeting that were frustrated,” Harmon said. “That’s not the entire membership.”
Frederick would not comment on the council’s review or the board’s actions toward Tracy.
She will give a second-quarter report on the downtown association at the City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.
The next downtown association board meeting is at 6:15 p.m. Aug. 13 at the PADA office at 208 N. Laurel St.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: August 05. 2012 6:07PM