Tonasket mayor almost resigns

Residents Brenda Jones, Windy Dorgan and Lisa McCoy (standing) observe City Attorney Mick Howe and Clerk-Treasurer Alice Attwood at the Tuesday, Jan. 22 Tonasket City Council meeting, which several audience members recorded with cameras and cellphones

TONASKET — Dennis Brown threw his ink pen down and appeared to be close to stepping down from his post as mayor, but ultimately disregarded a unanimous vote of no-confidence by the city council Tuesday, Jan. 22.

“So, you want me to step down? Well it’s all yours,” said the mayor as he threw his pen down and started to push his chair back.

City Attorney Mick Howe intervened, noting the council does not have the authority to order the mayor to step down but were asking the mayor to resign on a voluntary basis.

“Well, I don’t volunteer,” said Brown.

Brown has recently been under public scrutiny for his handling and disbandment of the city’s police department.

The mayor’s decision not to resign followed a unanimous vote of no confidence. Councilwoman Jill Ritter reiterated her vote of no confidence in Brown, as she did during the Jan. 8 meeting.

“For the last year this council has been patiently working with you on learning about parliamentary procedure as well as educating yourself of the responsibilities as the mayor,” Ritter said. “You have not shown improvement in any aspects of your duties in the last year.”

“During the past six months you have not handled the issues with the police department in a professional manner. Your answers to questions from this council and the public have not been consistent or truthful at times,” Ritter said. “I will not allow your lies to drag me and the city council down and reflect poorly on all of us.”

Ritter said Brown’s decisions have “created liability for the city,” and if he was unsure of how to approach an issue, he “should have at least educated yourself as to where to go, where the inform is or who to ask.

“You have signed documents without thoroughly reading them that has created even more liability for the city,” Ritter said. “You have allowed your personal relationships with city employees to impede your ability to lead them effectively in a business. This has also created a liability for the city.

“Your decisions have been made on emotion, which has caused more harm than good. And learning of your behavior in asking Jose Perez to refer to himself as Joseph is appalling,” she said. “I do not feel that the city can afford any more liability than what we’ve already experienced and it is not fair to ask the tax payers of this community to keep paying the cost of liability for your preventable mistakes.

“I would not be asking you to step down as our mayor if you had shown me over the last year you are making an effort to educate yourself on the duties you have been given by the voters of this community,” she said. “Or that you take your position seriously enough to put the effort in. It is for all these reasons that I am casting my vote of no confidence in you as our mayor.”

Ritter then made a motion of a vote of no confidence in the mayor, with all council members voting in favor, except for council member Maria Moreno, who was excused absent.

City council member Christa “Teagan” Levine reported responding to residents asking if other cities could provide police coverage for Tonasket by approaching both the City of Omak and Oroville. Levine said both cities declined, due largely to response time and liability issues.

Former Tonasket Police officer Jose Perez stood up and said he made a public records request to the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s office for the current list of officers on the Brady list. Perez said of the 57 officers listed, he was not one of them.

“My name has never been on the Brady list,” said Perez, adding that when the mayor came into the police station Jan. 6, the day he disbanded the police department, he allegedly told Perez, “Prove to me you are not on the Brady list, and I will put you on that contract.”

The mayor was referring to the contract for law enforcement services with the Okanogan Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff hires his own deputies and the mayor has no authority in that regard.

The city still has not signed a contract with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.

The mayor allegedly told Perez and former Chief Darin Odegaard on Jan. 6 the contract had already been “signed and sent.”

Perez also alleged both Howe and Ritter said he was on the Brady list. When an audience member asked Howe where he heard Perez was on the Brady list, Howe said it was “confidential.”

Former officer John Cruz also addressed the council, stating there had been some “obvious underhanded and gross misconducts” on the part of the city attorney and certain personalities.

He said the mayor was not a racist, but “needs to quit taking bad advice.”

The mayor, council members, city attorney and Clerk-Treasurer Alice Attwood went into closed-door executive session, and returned with the decision not to pay the backlog of stand-by or on-call time for the chief and officers as requested by Odegaard.

In other city business, the council:

• Approved a request from resident Julie Pratt to post a directional sign pointing to the two churches located a block up from Highway 97.

• Heard a report from City Planner Kurt Danison, who said he recently met with the planning commission, and if anyone had any land use concerns, this would be a good time to bring them forward.

• Approved an amendment to the engineering contract with Varela and Associates for Parry’s Acres.

• Approved an agreement with the state Department of Ecology for the stormwater plan. The project will cost $87,131, with DOE’s share at $74,0161 and the city taking a loan of $13,070 for its share.

• Approved a contract with A1 Asbestos Environmental Services for $5,030 to replace wet and moldy insulation in the ceiling above the city library.

• Approved an ordinance excluding the civil service commission from another ordinance, which was passed Jan. 2, 2019, repealing Municipal Code 2.12.050 which establishes the police department and civil service commission.

The amendment will allow the civil service to remain in place.

• Voted Ritter as mayor pro tempore for another year.

Approved an agreement with the state Transportation Improvement Board with funding of $355,458 for repairs to Highway 97 from the start of Whitcomb Avenue to Third Street.

• Learned that Brown appointed Patti Hill to join Jerry Anderson and Phil Christy on the civil service commission. Hill recently retired from the position of compliance manager with North Valley Hospital.

• Heard from several local residents during public comment.

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