Law & justice tax refusal sparks turmoil among Island County leaders

The strained relationship between key law-and-justice figures and the Island County commissioners was evident at a charged meeting this past Wednesday that culminated when an administrative assistant was cut off while reading Commissioner Angie Homola’s letter to the board.

The strained relationship between key law-and-justice figures and the Island County commissioners was evident at a charged meeting this past Wednesday that culminated when an administrative assistant was cut off while reading Commissioner Angie Homola’s letter to the board.

“I don’t think it’s right for her to send a proxy in here to read a letter with the purpose of throwing the blame around,” Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said during the Law and Justice Council meeting.

Homola is a member of the council, but didn’t attend because of an out-of-town engagement. She sent an employee from the commissioners’ office to read a letter in her stead.

The quarreling continued after the meeting in email exchanges among Law and Justice Council members which were critical of Homola.

Some members of the county’s Law and Justice Council are frustrated that commissioners aren’t willing to place a measure on this year’s general election ballot to ask voters to raise sales tax to provide extra funding to police, courts, prosecutors and other criminal justice functions.

The issue became personal last week when Banks sent out an agenda for the Law and Justice Council including a statement decrying the “inflammatory remarks” made by a commissioner, as reported in the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record. Banks, a Democrat, didn’t name the commissioner, but he was clearly referring to Homola, also a Democrat.

During a board discussion about a proposed sales tax increase, Homola suggested that members of the council “have acted in a childish manner, and have been uncooperative,” according to Banks’ interpretation of her comments.

“I honestly do not know where that comes from. It seemed to me that we had an open and mature discussion, where opposing positions were presented, and a consensus by overwhelming majority was achieved on a recommendation,” he wrote. “Perhaps it is just politics triumphing over problem-solving in an election year.”

Wednesday, the Law and Justice Council was scheduled to discuss the next step after the commissioners rejected placing the tax increase on this year’s ballot. But the discussion was derailed when the administrative assistant got up to read the letter from Homola.

The letter states that Homola took the council’s letter to the commissioners seriously, but she urges a collaborative approach to find a funding solution that will help all the struggling county departments. The council voted to send a letter to the commissioners requesting that they place a measure on the ballot to raise sales tax for the sole purpose of funding criminal justice departments.

Homola stressed that budget problems are facing the entire county. She wrote that she “takes exception” with the prosecutor’s and sheriff’s comments that the commissioners are doing nothing about the situation; she outlined the many steps she’s taken to deal with the situation.

“This dire situation is not a surprise. After I took office, I shared the forecasts with the sheriff over three years ago and asked that he please look out several years which he was not willing to do,” the letter states.

As this was said, Banks interrupted the letter reading and argued it wasn’t appropriate for the discussion, especially since Homola wasn’t present.

“I don’t think it’s right to criticize the sheriff by letter,” he said.

Sheriff Mark Brown said he wasn’t offended by the letter and he welcomes tough discussions, but he said it should be done face to face.

Commissioner Kelly Emerson, who’s not a member of the council but watched the meeting via video from the Camano Annex, offered to explain her reasons for opposing the ballot measure, but the members urged her to write a letter instead.

In the end, the council voted to table a resolution expressing regret that no action was taken on the sales tax proposal and urging that some action be taken at the earliest possible time. The resolution will be discussed at the next meeting, after the members have read Homola’s letter and the letter that Emerson promised.

After the meeting, Banks sent out an email to council members with links to a recording of the board of commissioners’ work session at which they discussed and rejected the proposed ballot measure.

In a separate email, he questioned Homola’s claim that the board has been working to find a way to garner widespread support for a ballot measure. He wrote that he’s not aware of any such discussions.

“If those efforts were undertaken privately by Commissioner Homola, they were not made known to me,” he wrote.

Friday, Brown sent Homola an unusually harsh email and copied it to members of the Law and Justice Council.

“Might I suggest you spend less time attacking the prosecutor and myself as being ‘divisive’ and use your energy to work with your fellow commissioners to decide if what we say has merit or not,” he wrote.

 

More in News

Historical society to lead presentation about Gabelein family history

Pick up a local phone book. Thumb to the page with the… Continue reading

South End getting first drug treatment center

Freeland will soon be home to the first medicaid-funded substance use disorder… Continue reading

Langley man airlifted after rollover crash

A Langley resident was airlifted for treatment after rolling his 1995 Ford… Continue reading

Knox Shannon, 8, looks out the window of his new bedroom in the house built by Habitat for Humanity. Island County is set to implement fee changes that would result in savings for the organization, and other developers, in the plan review stage of receiving building permits. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/ Whidbey News-Times
New building permit fees should reduce costs in county

The Board of Island County Commissioners is set to vote on building… Continue reading

Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group
                                The Kettles trails were acquired by Island County in 1996 using funds from the conservation futures program. The county is now accepting applications for the 2018 award cycle, but a low fund balance may limit the acceptance of new projects.
No guarantees for awarding of conservation futures funds

The Island County Conservation Futures Program is now accepting applications from eligible… Continue reading

No injuries in pair of crashes

Two car crashes on Wednesday in Clinton did not result in any… Continue reading

Firefighter stops chicken coop fire, helps save Langley home

A quick response by a local firefighter may have helped save a… Continue reading

Photo provided
                                A evidence photo taken by police shows a deputy’s AR-15 rifle that was involved in a police-related shooting on North Whidbey in September.
Review: Deputy justified in fatal shooting

A deputy was justified in fatally shooting Navy sailor Nicholas K. Perkins… Continue reading

Planning Commission member Tracy Gilroy speaks during a meeting on Monday. The commission voted to approve amendments made in response to a settlement agreement between Island County and the Whidbey Island Environmental Action Network. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times
Forest practices changes heading to board

Island County Planning Commission voted Monday to amend code related to forest… Continue reading

Most Read