EVERETT — Sid Logan will serve as president of the board of commissioners for Snohomish County’s public utility for the third consecutive year despite one commissioner’s assertion it’s unethical to deviate from a pattern of rotating board positions annually.
“The erosion of norms chips away at democratic process,” commissioner Rebecca Wolfe said in a statement she prepared for a Tuesday board meeting.
Wolfe, who began her six-year term in January of 2019, said she was next in line to serve as president. But commissioners Logan and Tanya Olson said in the Tuesday meeting they believe Wolfe isn’t prepared for the position.
According to commissioners Logan and Olson, Wolfe’s treatment of staff, lack of understanding of PUD operations, and a habit of straying off topic in meetings deem her unqualified for the role. Wolfe refuted the claims, saying the best way to learn and grow is by doing.
The board president is responsible for running meetings and representing the PUD at various public events.
There is no hard and fast rule that requires commissioners to rotate roles within the board. But prior to Logan’s appointment as president, the positions typically switched annually.
“Every board is allowed to choose their officers as they see fit,” Logan said.
The board voted 2-1 on Dec. 1, with Wolfe casting the vote against, to maintain their current positions with Logan as president, Wolfe as vice president and Olson as secretary. At the next commission meeting on Dec. 15, Wolfe put forward a motion to “establish the regular order of things,” with herself as president, Olson as vice president and Logan as secretary
Her motion was voted down 2-1.
Logan told Wolfe his decision to carry the current structure into next year “… was not about myself, it was really about you,” he said. “And this is hard to say, but I would ask that you listen to recordings of our past meetings and reflect upon your treatment of staff presenting to us and also your straying off topic during our meetings.”
Olson also spelled out her reasoning for choosing Logan as president.
“This board is facing challenges that I have never experienced in almost 40 years with a utility due to unprecedented pressures externally,” she said.
Considering budget shortfalls and other COVID-19 challenges, she said the board needed to draw upon Logan’s depth of experience and solid understanding of utility operations.
Olson said she hasn’t seen those qualities in Wolfe’s tenure so far.
“In discussions over the past 24 months, I have not seen growth in terms of (Wolfe’s) grasp of basic utility operations,” she said.
Wolfe argued that the best way to get better at something is to practice.
“I think there are enough guardrails and safeguards on us as a board that we’re not going to be in danger with my leadership,” she said.
A handful of ratepayers gave public comment, expressing concern over Logan’s appointment and requesting a return to annual position rotation. Some suggested collusion between Olson and Logan.
The lack of rotation weakens district representation, Everett resident Tom Crisp said.
“It casts a shadow on the commission’s representation and brings doubt that some commissioners are engaging in fair play,” he said.
In a call with the Herald, Wolfe said she believes she’s prepared to serve as the board president. In 2016, she went back to school for a master’s degree in environmental law and policy.
“The president of the board gets to interact with a lot of people in many different situations,” she said. “And I’m really hungry for that new learning and to get to know new people.”
She said she’s trying not to dwell on the comments about her readiness for the role of president.
“I will be the best vice president that I can for another year,” she said, “And just try to prove that I am not what they tried to create me to be.”