Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, June 23, 2007

As Usual, April Is Right

Devon Felsted cannot run for the Ward 3 City Council seat being vacated by David Stiller and continue to hold his position as president and general manager of Pullman Disposal Service. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Felsted not presently able to run for council seat

Elected position would be considered conflict of interest for Pullman Disposal president

Devon Felsted decided at the last minute to file as a candidate for Position 3 on the Pullman City Council.

With incumbent David Stiller not competing for re-election, and seeing that no one else had filed by the June 8 deadline, Felsted figured he'd give it a shot.

"I was encouraged to run, and I thought it would be fun," he said.

Felsted said a small part of him thought his position as president of Pullman Disposal - a family-run business - might be considered a conflict of interest for a sitting councilman, but shrugged it off.

"It crossed my mind in a vague sort of fashion," he said. "I figured if there was a problem, someone would tell me."

Pullman Disposal is the only licensed solid waste disposal company for the city and its outlying area. City Attorney Laura McAloon said because the city is such a large customer of Pullman Disposal's, it is an apparent conflict of interest for Felsted to be elected to the council, even though the two agencies do not have a binding contract per se.

"The city is a customer of Pullman Disposal," she said, noting most larger cities have franchise agreements with disposal companies when there is more than one business to choose from. "We get a bill from them, and we pay it."

McAloon said a state code of ethics statute pertaining to municipal officers restricts a city from working or exchanging money with an elected official on a business level for more than $18,000 per year.

The city's trash bill with Pullman Disposal is about $45,000 per year.

McAloon said there are two options if Felsted wants to vie for a council seat: He can step down from his position at Pullman Disposal, or the city can work with another disposal service.

"He would have to completely divest himself in his interest in Pullman Disposal or the city could get its disposal (services) from another hauler," she said. "If he were elected, it would be a conflict of interest and would have to be addressed before he were sworn in."

Even if Felsted was to quit his position as president, it may continue to be a problem because of the business relationship the company has with the city.

"I can't say that Devon stepping down would avoid a conflict of interest," McAloon said, adding that to the best of her knowledge "he couldn't hold office while he had that beneficial interest."

Felsted said he doesn't view Pullman Disposal's dealings with the city as a contract.

"I guess it's not that different than (the relationship with) any other customer," he said. "I guess if you wanted to call that a contract ."

Still, if forced to choose between a potential council position and his job, Felsted said he would stick with his job.

"I won't be shedding any tears if I'm not able to run. Pullman Disposal is my priority," he said. "I can't really imagine myself (leaving Pullman Disposal). Even if I wasn't emotionally tied, you know, it's a family business. I don't think I could support the six kids on the City Council business."

McAloon said Felsted could run for City Council if the city's annual payment to Pullman Disposal was less than $18,000, although he would need to recuse himself from any matters pertaining to Pullman Disposal or the disposal industry.

"He would have to recuse himself from anything that would impact his business," she said.

According to the Washington Secretary of State's Web site, if a nonpartisan candidate who has filed dies or is disqualified, the elections officer is required to open a special three-day filing period.

It has yet to be determined when the refiling period will open

Felsted said he feels disappointed knowing he won't become a council member.

"It's, I guess, a minor disappointment, but I guess that's the way life goes," he said.
So I guess we're not done yet with Ward 3 and the spectre of The Trolley Conductor.


April E. Coggins said...

I have to disagree a little bit with Laura McAloon. These sections of the city code would make Devon Felsted's city council position illegal.

5.40.120 Collection and removal of solid waste. Failure--costs, lien.

(1) A person in charge of a premises is required to collect or cause to be collected solid waste from that premise and provide for its removal from the premise by a solid waste collector consistent with the provisions of Sections 5.40.030 and 5.40.040.

5.40.085 Recycling programs--Low-density residential, High-density residential
(f) The solid waste collector shall structure its tariffs so that,

(ii) all low-density residences are rate-paying participants in order to minimize the cost to all residents, regardless of whether they make use of the service. Use of the service is not required; however, such non-use shall not reduce or eliminate recyclable collection service rates.

Scotty said...

Does April live in that part of town? Also can anyone point me to a map somewhere with the Wards drawn out?

April E. Coggins said...

No, I don't live in Ward 3. I am well represented by Bill Paul in Ward 1. Here is an old post about city Ward maps.


Scotty said...

Thanks for the link.

Michael said...

I agree that it would certainly be inappropriate for a large contractor with the city to have a seat on the city council. What puzzles me is why it's okay for teachers (ie; union members) to run for superintendant of public instruction or doctors, nurses, or their spouses to run for the hospital board.