"Endresen, Angel call for five-member county commission"

"Two county commissioners, one Republican and one Democrat, were in agreement about how best to reform county government at a work study session of the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders Saturday, March 10, in Kingston.Both Chris Endresen and Jan Angel want more colleagues, and they want them to be non-partisan.First-term GOP Commissioner Angel and second-term Democrat Endresen agreed on a number of proposed reforms, including that commissioners not be required to identify with political parties. Both also supported replacing the current three-member county commission with a five-member county board, retaining the system of electing commissioners county-wide and keeping the appointed county administrator position now occupied by Malcolm Fleming.Their primary beef with current county government structure was that it limited commissioners' ability to have informal conversations with one another. The state Open Meetings Act bars two commissioners from discussing policy unless the public and the press have the opportunity to listen in.When you can't talk to another commissioners - and I can't even talk to one without it being a quorum - that makes things really difficult, Angel said.I think adding to the commissioners is my suggestion, Endresen said. I don't have any complications or difficulties in my job with respect to the structure of county government except for my inability to talk with Jan or Tim (Botkin, county commissioner for Central Kitsap).Fleming, who also attended Saturday's meeting, said he sometimes uses shuttle diplomacy among the commissioners to explore potential policy ideas on an informal basis without violating the state's sunshine laws.All three high-ranking county officials also supported retaining the appointed administrator. Some have called for a new county charter which would create an elected county executive, like King County's Ron Sims. Fleming, who has experience with both systems, said an elected executive has the potential to spark conflicts with the commission and reduce professionalism within the organization when it comes to hiring county employees.Fleming also said an elected executive has the potential to be more costly, since the executive and commissioners almost certainly would want separate staffs.It becomes a trust issue, said Fleming, admitting a bias on this matter. They (commissioners) can't rely on the chief executive's staff for information, so they set up their own staff.On the other side, I'm a non-elected bureaucrat, and some people are never going to get over that.In other issues:* Both commissioners said they would support taking the politics - or at least the political parties - out of county government. Very, very, very few party issues come up when you're making decisions about local government, Endresen said. When you're making decisions about county government, it's not about party.We know it will come up, Angel added. When we're knocking on someone's door, they're going to want to know what our party is. (But) every issue comes down to taking care of our citizens, regardless of political affiliation.* Endresen said that electing commissioners solely by district would encourage parochial decision-making and more clustering. Currently, commissioner primary elections are conducted in district only - so, for example, only North Kitsap voters decided whom to nominate for the general election in last fall's commissioner race. The general election, however, is county-wide. When I make a decision, Angel said, it effects the whole county, not just my district. * Angel and Endresen said the people should have the right to choose independently elected county executive branch officials, such as county clerk, auditor, assessor and treasurer.Citing the county's recent difficulties with Ted Zink, Endresen said coroner might be one position the freeholders could make appointed. Beyond that, though, the commissioners recommended leaving well enough alone.I think the people need to choose those people, Angel said. That would make them directly accountable to the voters.Botkin will get the chance to have his say during the freeholders' next study session, scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue station No. 41, 7600 Old Military Road. Also scheduled to appear at that meeting are representatives of the county's law and justice apparatus, including Clerk Dean Logan, Sheriff Steve Boyer, Coroner Greg Sandstrom, Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge and officials from district and superior courts. County Auditor Karen Flynn, Treasurer Sharon Shrader and Assessor Jim Avery also will discuss their jobs. Shrader and Avery both are members of the Board of Freeholders. "

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