Nearly half of Thorne Bay’s city council is facing a recall election on Tuesday. Proponents of recalling three of seven elected officials in the Prince of Wales Island community accuse city leaders of improprieties stemming from the ousting of the city administrator.
Days before his contract was set to lapse at the end of February, then-Thorne Bay City Administrator Wayne Benner was suspended by the acting mayor, Eric Rhodes.
“There were numerous reasons as given in the written notice,” Rhodes said in a phone interview Sunday.
Rhodes says Benner failed to properly file for a multimillion-dollar road-building grant and pointed to friction between Benner and city staff. Benner submitted his resignation soon after he was suspended, according to Rhodes.
Benner is not listed in the phone directory and could not be reached for comment.
Recall proponents reached for this story wouldn’t speak on tape. But Thorne Bay residents David Egleston and Gregory Kerkof circulated a mailer to Thorne Bay voters saying the city administrator’s suspension was improper. They pointed to a section of the municipal code that says only the city council can fire or suspend the city’s top manager.
Both proponents say the mayor violated the state’s Open Meetings Act, which prohibits a quorum of elected officials from talking about official business. Egleston is a city employee, and he says that in a staff meeting after the suspension, “Rhodes indicated that some of the council members ‘got together,’ that the majority of the city council from the south side had determined the city administrator should be suspended.”
Three members in all are alleged to have improperly discussed the ouster and are now facing recall — Roger Longbotham, Roslyn Hert and Rhodes.
Rhodes denies doing anything improper.
“There never was a meeting outside of the Open Meetings Act, and the actions of suspension are legal,” he said.
Hert and Longbotham each say they never participated in a non-public meeting.
Voters head to the polls in Thorne Bay Tuesday, June 30.