POULSBO — Looking outwardly pained, city council member Mike Regis admitted wrongdoing and was publicly censured by his peers last week.
The censure, which passed unanimously including an “aye” vote from Regis, was the second such action taken against the councilman. The vote was the third time the council has considered a censure against Regis.
In a statement read at the Jan. 15 Poulsbo City Council meeting, Regis admitted to having violated the governing rules regarding executive sessions on three separate occasions: during an issue regarding utility taxes; during ongoing union negotiations; and with an interjection into an ongoing investigation.
“My actions were not permitted because the information I received was in executive session,” Regis continued. “I make no excuse. I accept the responsibility that I have stepped out of that trust, thereby putting the city in jeopardy.”
According to the Open Public Meetings Act, the council is allowed to call for an executive session during any regular or special meeting. The council must have an approved reason to discuss matters in these sessions that are closed to the public and must also break for a specified amount of time. Executive sessions are most often taken to discuss matters of personnel performance and potential litigation.
No decisions may be made in such meetings and specific discussion should not be shared outside the executive session.
Violation of the Open Public Meetings Act is not a criminal offense, however, the council could have decided to take the matter to court.
Regis was first publicly rebuked in July 2001. The action resulted in the addition to the city’s “code of conduct,” which allows the council to censure any of its members. The new protocol was said to have been undertaken as a way to dissuade violations of executive session protocol, of which Regis had been accused.
Though Regis supported the new code, he is said to have had further discussions with Poulsbo Police Department Members during contract negotiations with the city that led to his November 2001 censure vote.
Poulsbo is the focus of an ongoing investigation by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department regarding a municipal court employee who was fired Dec. 27 for embezzlement. Even so, the city would not elaborate on the topic of the “ongoing investigation” over which Regis was censured Jan. 15.
The only public comments made on the censure during the Jan. 15 meeting were from Regis. Before making the motion to have himself censured, Regis apologized to the public, the mayor and city council for his actions.
Fighting his emotions, Regis also specifically thanked Mayor Donna Jean Bruce for correcting him and for advising him on the public steps to take to admit his error.
“I have been very distraught about this over the last week and (Donna Jean Bruce) didn’t talk to me as an elected official, she talked to me as a friend,” Regis commented.
For more information about the Public Meetings Act:
Municipal Research and Service Center — www.mrsc.org
Washington State Attorney General’s Office — www.wa.gov/ago
Poulsbo rules of procedure — call City Clerk at (360) 779-3901