Union Gap City Council Officially Censors Julie Schilling After Code of Conduct Violations | Local

On October 11, Union Gap city council formally censored Julie Schilling, citing violations of the code of conduct.

The council found that Schilling violated the council’s code of conduct in his interactions with staff after reviewing letters submitted by city manager Arlene Fisher and other city employees.

Mayor John Hodkinson, Deputy Mayor Roger Wentz and council members James Murr and Jack Galloway voted to censor Schilling, who voted against the resolution. Council members David Hansen and Sandy Dailey abstained.

The resolution removes Schilling from all boards and committees to which she has been appointed by the board. She can participate in council meetings.

Schilling’s attorney Bill Pickett said it is not clear whether Schilling will be barred from attending committee meetings or whether she can attend but not attend. She still has authority as a board member, he said.

“It’s really hard to become informed and influential at the policy-making stage at the committee level if you’re away,” Pickett said.

Schilling directed all questions to his lawyer.

Fisher and Hodkinson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Offenses

The Union Gap City Council Code of Conduct requires council members to direct questions about city operations to the city manager. Communications with city staff should be brief, the code says, and council members should avoid making inquiries of staff who are busy carrying out their duties.

Comments submitted by city employees said Schilling contacted city staff instead of the city manager on several occasions, sometimes while they were busy with their duties.

Pickett said you can’t expect a person to know what someone else is doing when they make a call. He also said state laws allow members to speak directly to staff with questions or inquiries.

Fisher and Police Chief Gregory Cobb said Schilling contacted Cobb directly to ask about an ongoing homicide investigation at Valley Mall. He was responding to the incident at the time of the call, he said.

Pickett said Schilling called Fisher first, and when she didn’t answer, Schilling called Cobb.

City clerk Karen Clifton said Schilling contacted her directly instead of the city manager. Several times the calls came when the office was understaffed or when the city manager was away, depending on the resolution.

Comments submitted by city employees also detailed the confrontations with Schilling. The code of conduct states that board members should treat staff like professionals.

Schilling spoke out against Fisher after the Valley Mall homicide, according to the resolution. Schilling pointed his finger and yelled at Fisher about his post-homicide communication, according to the resolution.

Schilling also pointed his finger and shouted after a board meeting in 2019, according to the resolution. Fisher said Schilling touched her chest as she tried to pull back during the confrontation, he said.

Schilling denies any physical confrontation, Pickett said.

As for Schilling’s high voice, Pickett said she wasn’t trying to offend anyone. He said the incidents were conversations.

Schilling apologized to staff members at the October 11 meeting.

“Regarding our staff, I apologize if there was anything that was said. I was in a rush a couple of times, trying to get things done, ”Schilling said at the meeting.

Public debate

The board first discussed Schilling’s violations at its September 13 meeting. The agenda indicated that the council would discuss the complaints in an executive session closed to the public. The council discussed the complaints in open session.

Although council discussed the matter in open session, it did not hold a public hearing on the matter, which Pickett requested. Pickett said Schilling was entitled to a public hearing, where members of the community could comment.

“You can’t get around basic due process by trying to take something out of the executive session at the 11th hour, at the last minute, and then throw that up on the flagpole in public,” Pickett said.

City attorney Bronson Brown said at the Oct. 11 meeting that the public discussion where the public could observe but not comment did not violate the open town hall law. Schilling’s legal advisor requested a public hearing, but a public hearing was not required because the board never entered an executive session, Brown said at the meeting.

Brown did not respond to requests for comment.


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