Puyallup city politics get nasty over state Public Disclosure appointment

It turns out that in politics, doing the Puyallup isn't real friendly. A deputy mayor reaches out to try to block a former election foe.
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It turns out that in politics, doing the Puyallup isn't real friendly. A deputy mayor reaches out to try to block a former election foe.

Puyallup's current mayor and deputy mayor are opposing confirmation of the appointment of former Mayor Kathy Turner to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

Bad blood from Puyallup's city politics showed up at the last minute Tuesday morning at a Senate Government Operations Committee public hearing on whether to confirm new PDC members appointed by former Gov. Chris Gregoire. The appointees are former Puyallup mayor and city council member Turner, appointed last November, and former Bellevue mayor and city council member Grant Degginger, picked in July 2012.

Nothing controversial was said at the hearing on the tentative appointments until committee chairwoman Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, entered at the last minute — she had been at another committee hearing testifying on one of her bills. The often-unconventional Roach distributed copies of four emails opposing Turner's appointment and then ended the hearing.

Turner said she is willing to answer any follow-up questions from committee members. The committee will address at a later date whether to confirm the two candidates.

Puyallup Deputy Mayor John Knutsen sent his email Monday evening, and Mayor Rick Hansen and two others sent their emails early Tuesday morning.

Knutsen's email contended: "The appointment of Mrs. Turner would cause the Public Disclosure Commission to lose credibility in the eyes of our community." His email said Turner fought against televising city council meetings for years, opposed voter referendums, supported locking council members out of city hall with the exception of the council chambers and tried to stop council members and citizens from making critical remarks during pubic comment periods.

He also said Turner supported the city administration in blocking him and others from obtaining information from the city.

Hansen's email said: "I observed her make many decisions that were anything but transparent while at Puyallup council meetings." Emails from area residents Tim Shirts and Michael Stanzel echoed that theme.

On Tuesday afternoon, Turner said the city council was at a soon-to-be-vacated site when televising the council meetings was brought up. She opposed televising the meetings in the old city hall because design and construction of the new city hall were in the works and cited budget concerns. She also said she had nothing to do with the city administration locking people and council members out of four of the five floors of the new city hall. She said key cards were issued, but that the council members' key cards only worked on the top floor, where the council chamber and some administrative offices are.

Turner said she disagrees on philosophical grounds with a city council using referendums.

In 2008 and 2009, Knutsen legally clashed with Puyallup's city manager and city attorney over how much access to city records he was entitled to under the state public records act, according to The News Tribune of Tacoma. A Pierce County Superior Court judge dismissed part of Knutsen's lawsuit against the city, and the two sides reached a settlement on the rest. He tallied a $47,000 legal bill, while the city accumulated a $100,000 bill for legal fees and complying with Knutsen's information requests, The News Tribune reported.

In 2010, Turner was on the losing side of a 4-3 council vote rejecting a measure to ban derogatory, slanderous and impertinent remarks in city council meetings, The News Tribune reported. Opponents, who won the vote, cited censorship concerns, including the fuzziness of where democratic criticism crosses over into derogatory remarks.

"We had some pretty nasty threats directed to the council and the staff," Turner said Tuesday. And sometimes, council meetings would get boisterous. "I would gavel people out of order," Turner said.

Regarding Hansen's email about a lack of transparency at the Puyallup council meetings, Turner said: "I have no idea what that means." 

Turner stepped down from the council in December 2011 after 18 years due to a new term limits law. She had been on opposite sides from Knutsen and Hansen on several issues. She defeated Hansen by nine votes in the 2007 election, and Hansen was appointed to the council in 2008. 

In 2012, Hansen apologized after a city woman employee said he made her uncomfortable when he touched her on the shoulder and on the hip on separate occasions, The News Tribune reported.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8