Here's the text of an email to the new Council from a constituent (see below). If you've been following recent events regarding the Marine Resources Committee (MRC), you will have noted that they seem to have a problem with authority, specifically the Council's authority. Back in November, Linda Lyshall of the MRC sat in front of the Council and told them that the MRC reported to the Northwest Straits Commission, not the County Council. Then, in the past week, we find out the MRC has been corresponding with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) about fish window closures*, and then cc'ing the Council after the fact.
Business as usual for the MRC.
I apologize for my recent barrage of comments, but given that the Council is addressing the committees issue, I wanted to raise a few more points about the MRC that have troubled me, as a lawyer, for some time.* note the original post said that the letter concerned closures on the west side, whereas the letter actually deals with extending the work window closures in marine areas to protect juvenile salmon. A copy of the letter is available from the linked article in the Island Guardian.
First, is it true that one of the tribes paid for the MRC coordinator’s salary for 6 months, and if so, isn’t that a conflict of interest, given that the tribes have repeatedly threatened to sue the County if they are not happy with the “all shoreline is critical” and sea level rise provisions that Council enacts?
Second, has the MRC figured out where the $17,000 came from? This money is almost certainly grant funds provided to the County (although I understand that a few dollars may be contributions, which fact raises its own issues—is the MRC authorized to solicit, accept and spend donations?). Grant funds come with obligations that the state and federal governments take seriously, and the County is almost certainly on the hook for them. In my experience, grant funds are tightly supervised and an accounting rendered quarterly or annually, depending on the program.
Third, I did not understand why the MRC sought and why the prior Council granted the MRC $10,000 out of County “rainy day” funds for a coordinator. The MRC is legally authorized to perform two functions, so far as my legal research has gotten: advise Council on marine matters and advise Council on which projects should be funded through the salmon recovery program. The “Lead Entity” coordinator seems to be the natural coordinator for the second responsibility. The MRC members are supposed to be experts in the relevant areas, with the exception of the general citizen member. That being the case, it is a bit puzzling why the MRC would need additional staff support. They already have a third County staffer preparing minutes, which is something else that is puzzling. Based on PRA documents that I have reviewed, I believe that the current MRC coordinator has even undertaken to revise and amplify the “contractual requirements” demanded of the County beyond those originally proposed by the NWSC/Ecology, to include more “work.” Negotiating against the County, as it were. Given the fact that NWSC funding (and most other state and federal funding) is drying up, that does not seem wise, even if allowing a County employee to write his or her own position description ever made sense.
Fourth, the County allocated $10,000 to the MRC conditionally in the 2013 budget, based on what was unearthed about the MRC “mystery” funds recently brought to light. I believe that a decision whether to charge those costs against the MRC mystery funds instead should be teed up before the end of the current 6-month obligation.
Finally, I assume that Council and the Prosecuting Attorney will be conferring on the committee issues. I have raised several and the PA has agreed that, in the two specific cases, the committees had exceeded their authority.