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Council proposes timeline for replacing Hyer

OLYMPIA - The Olympia City Council is expected to complete a timeline for replacing former Councilman Joe Hyer at next Tuesday's meeting.

City Communications Manager Cathie Butler proposed a schedule Tuesday that called for the council to make an appointment by June 8.

Butler proposes posting the open position on the city’s Web site April 23 and giving people until 5 p.m. May 10 to apply. Interviews would be held May 18 or May 19 and May 25-26.

Council members generally agreed with the timeline but didn’t take formal action Tuesday.

A majority of the six remaining council members must agree on a candidate, and their even number sets up the possibility of a 3-3 tie.

Hyer resigned from office Saturday, nearly two months after he was arrested, then charged with three felonies for allegedly dealing marijuana. He initially pleaded not guilty, but attorneys filed paperwork Monday indicating that he would plead guilty to one felony charge April 26.

If no appointment has been made 90 days after the resignation, the Thurston County commissioners would choose the new council member, according to state law. If the county commissioners are unable to a decision, it would fall to Gov. Chris Gregoire.

County commissioners Sandra Romero and Cathy Wolfe were unable to select a third council member when they were asked to appoint one in late 2008 and early 2009. Gregoire interviewed then-Tumwater City Councilwoman Karen Valenzuela; Susan Bogni, Macleod’s assistant; and Walt Jorgensen, a former Tumwater city councilman. She selected Valenzuela.

State law seems to be at odds with a provision in the city’s municipal code that allows the mayor to appoint a council member if the council can’t agree on one. But City Attorney Tom Morrill said he thinks state law takes precedence.

The salary for council members, with the exception of the mayor and mayor pro tem, is $16,639.99. The mayor’s salary is $19,968.01, and the mayor pro tem’s is $18,303.95.

Mayor Doug Mah has said the city wants to clarify how long the appointed person will serve, but it is his understanding that it will be until the next council election, in November 2011.

The council has appointed council members when vacancies arose in the past.

The last time it happened was when Mah vacated his council seat to become mayor in 2008. The council asked for applications, and eight people applied. The full council interviewed each candidate in a public forum. Council members appointed Joan Machlis, who served the remainder of Mah’s term until she was defeated by Jeannine Roe in an election last year. Roe took office after the election results were certified in November.

The council appointed Hyer in 2004 to fill the term of Jeanette Hawkins, who had stepped down for a private-sector job. Hyer was elected in 2005 and again last year to four-year terms.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

Council members responded to a recall request that was filed with the Thurston County Auditor’s office Monday. In it, Olympia resident Steven McKnight asks that all six remaining City Council members be recalled because, he alleges, they took formal action to accept Hyer’s resignation while not in a public meeting.

McKnight earlier filed a recall request for Hyer, an issue that is moot because of Hyer’s resignation.

City Attorney Tom Morrill said the council didn’t discuss the issue of Hyer’s recall before Tuesday’s meeting. He added that state law does not require a resignation to be “accepted” and that “it just needs to be submitted.”

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869

mbatcheldor@theolympian.com

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