Spokane Valley City Council Member Ben Wick found himself with a little less on his plate after being dropped from two board assignments at the July 3 council meeting.
Mayor Rod Higgins announced he was removing Wick from the Spokane Regional Transportation Council board along with the city finance committee. The action wasn’t advertised on the city’s agenda and occurred toward the end of the meeting prior to the July Fourth holiday.
Wick seemed surprised by the decision.
“As the one being removed from the two committees, I guess I wish I’d had a little bit more of an understanding of what was happening to cause my removal,” Wick said.
Higgins only offered that when setting up committee assignments earlier this year, he had been “attempting to set up a system whereby we would work more smoothly and be more cooperative, and that hasn’t worked that way.”
Council Member Brandi Peetz then attempted to have the matter come forward at a later meeting, but her motion failed.
“I really don’t understand this,” she said.
Committee assignments are up to the discretion of the mayor, Council Member Arne Woodard said, “so he doesn’t really have to give reasons – he has the right to do that and we get to affirm or not affirm.”
Wick said he has served well on the SRTC board and would soon be chairman to represent the community.
“Just thinking at it from a city perspective, not so much for myself,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of background in transportation that would help our city. I’m sorry if I’ve done something that makes it seem like I’m not a team player.”
“I find this embarrassing,” added Council Member Linda Thompson. “I feel like something egregious should have happened…I’m disappointed in this move.”
The council then affirmed the action in a 4-3 vote, with Higgins, Deputy Mayor Pam Halley and Council Members Arne Woodard and Sam Wood all in favor.
Wick recently earned his Advanced Certificate of Municipal Leadership from the Association of Washington Cities. He is the only council member to achieve that accomplishment.
At this Tuesday’s meeting, the community had their chance to respond, with over two dozen greeting Wick and council members – with chants of “What have we lost? Leadership!” -- prior to the meetings start.
Once the meeting started, Higgins, citing a long agenda, said he would limit public comment to two half-hour increments. In that time, many approached the podium to express their displeasure on how the matter was dealt with the week before.
“I thought we were beyond this,” said resident Tim Lake. “There was not sufficient notice for the citizens of Spokane Valley to comment on this.”
Sally Jackson – a longtime community activist who at times has sought the disincorporation of Spokane Valley – chastised council members as “a bunch of old codgers who don’t understand the art of compromise.”
“Instead of welcoming (Wick), you’ve cut him out,” she said. “This is a representative form of government…if you don’t understand it, you shouldn’t be on this council.”
There was some support for the mayor’s decision, notably from former Council Member Ed Pace – whom Wick defeated in last November’s general election.
“The appointment to the committees is the mayor’s job,” he said. “Everything you did was good.”