Letter: Council liaison practices too much influence


Do you know what the role of a Langley City Council liaison is? The Langley Municipal Code has no mention for council liaison. Chapter 2.34 Uniform Policies for Citizen Commissions describes a council contact role:

2.34.060 Selection of council contact. The council may approve a council member contact for each commission. The council contact will serve as a communication link between the commission and the council.

A communication link is not a participatory role from individual city council members to “their” commission/s. When individual council members actively participate in commission discussions, they influence.

City citizen commissions exist to bring a wide perspective to issues. When a council member participates, because they are “the council member,” they carry a high influence, yet that influence is not authorized by the council body. The individual city council member loses their duty of impartiality by participating in discussions. That impartiality is a required duty made clear from the Oath of Office, “I will faithfully and impartially perform and discharge the duties of the office of City of Langley City Council according to the law and the best of my ability.”

Again, I look to the city municipal code. Per the Langley municipal code, all commissions are created by the city council, as the legislative body and are not independent or autonomous to the council. This statement, to me, indicates that no individual council member, acting either as a council contact, or as a council liaison, may individually participate in or influence any commission. A council contact role is not participatory.

The more any of us participate in a group, the more natural human camaraderie develops. Camaraderie is an excellent thing, except when it is outside the legal scope of duties. Council members are supposed to remain impartial, and to remain objective for their duties within the full city council body. Council members cannot influence decisions outside council meetings, only within the full council body.

Over-participation by an elected official taints the work of any commission; yet it is something that is only tangible to the public if you attend these commission meetings, or listen to the audio recordings.

City meeting minutes state the actions of the meeting in a fairly summarized form, not the full discussions. If you’re curious about learning more, listen to the audio recordings, available 24/7 for all council meetings and commission meeting at langleywa.org

Langley now has at least 12 citizen commissions, many with active subcommittees. Most of the subcommittee discussions are being done without public access. In my view, Langley has far too many commissions, with approximately 60 citizen members. Many of these volunteers do not live, or work, in Langley.

The voters of Langley only voted for six people: one mayor and five city council members. That’s a 60:1 ratio. How do you voters feel about this?

There are several citizen volunteers who have served on several commissions, some for many years across several commissions, giving those individuals a much deeper individual influence than the elected people themselves, and deeper than your influence. Do you think that is a concern too?

Another thing that is an oddity to me — the only commission that struggles to find enough members to be able to hold legal meetings and advise the city council is the Ethics Commission. It seems to me that this commission is being rather ignored by the city council and mayor. A little unbalanced to my viewpoint.

All this influence and council liaison/commission “camaraderie” has gotten a little … thick, in my opinIon. I do think the council liaison role needs to halt, immediately. I invite the public to please come, in person, or via zoom, to the Langley city council meetings and observe for yourselves what is happening. Make your public comments as you see fit, it is your legal right to be able to make a public comment at any council or commission meeting where they are taking action. You’ll get three minutes to speak.

Leanne Finlay