At the last council meeting, where her statements could conceivably be challenged, Mayor Crystal Dingler wouldn’t say a peep about writing a $690,000 check to the fire chief she fired (after losing the Bathke lawsuit). But, nine days later, she spent 10 minutes rattling on about it on her KOSW radio show, answering one question from the host — which was precisely one of the questions three council members wanted answered.
Ocean Shores City Council meeting July 12 minutes excerpt:
Recording #03:39:01- Councilmember Sprigg made a motion to add a public discussion of the Bathke settlement and where the funding will come from. Councilmember Conniry seconded the motion.
After Sprigg made the motion, Dingler quickly snapped, “Catherine we are not prepared to do that yet. You can vote on that, but I can’t talk about that….If you want to put that on a future agenda item that’s fine, but we can’t bring it forward until the time is right.”
Councilwoman Susan Conniry asked: “Is it something we can talk about in an executive session? We know the payment’s been made…”
Dingler: “Susan, you don’t even know the payment’s been made …You came out of executive session and you agreed to a settlement. And authorized me to go forward. That is as much as we’ve done publicly and all we can do publicly at this point.”
Councilwoman Lisa Scott added: “As soon as the city’s able to discuss it, I would assume that will be brought forward to us … and won’t need to be a future agenda item?”
The motion failed with 3 yes votes (Sprigg, Conniry and Eluden) and 4 no votes (Scott, Noble, Peterson and Martin).
Thirty-nine minutes into her July 21 KOSW radio show, Dingler launched a long monologue on the Blathke matter, filled with running commentary about how hard she and the city tried to do the right thing:
“I sent out a press release last week that we negotiated a settlement. That settlement saved the city, I don’t know, about $50,000 …when you do a settlement, the court accepts that. You’ve done a written agreement, you signed it.
“It’s still a lot, a lot of money, $690,000 from the city and $35,000 from our insurance company …
“We all have limitations on what we can do. It’s prudent for us to be done with that. We never want to pay money out on something like that, we don’t want to lose a lawsuit, but by the nature of a lawsuit one person wins one person loses.
“We had hired Bathke, he worked for us about 18 months, then the firemen did a vote of no confidence. A vote of no confidence in my mind is a way for firemen to say we are banding together and have no confidence in the leadership of this person. We want to do this as s group because, you know, we don’t want to do it individually…as a group, we are safer because there’s no finger pointing at particular people who are bringing complaints.
“So the vote of no confidence was, gosh, it’s been a while, and what I do when we have a vote of no confidence … what i do when we have anything at all that may result in a lawsuit, I go to our insurance company and say, ‘Here’s the situation we have which could lead to a lawsuit. Could you give us an attorney for free?” In what the insurance company calls pre defense. ….that is the insurance company working with us hand in hand to make sure we’re doing everything properly. That we’re not putting ourselves, our city in jeopardy.
“We went down that road…we had an attorney who had been assigned by our insurance company…”
After the insurance company had anything that would directly expose them tossed out, leaving only the city exposed on breach of contract, “they pulled out of that lawsuit. We retained the attorney who was assigned to us, who had worked with us throughout the process, who knew the case inside and out…”
The city agreed to a bench trial, and when the judge ruled in Bathke’s favor, “We were very very surprised to have the result we did. We thought we had done an adequate amount to not have that result…what we could have done was to appeal. The thing with an appeal is you don’t know where that’s going to go, and you end up spending more money on the attorney …
“So you know we did our best. We didn’t’ get the result we wanted. I certainly followed everything our attorney advised, I’m not saying she did anything wrong. We had no specific, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do if we have a vote of no confidence’ …We did our best to apply our complaint mechanism… What the firemen were doing was complaining. The judge didn’t think it was adequate so he ruled against us. And he split the baby right down the middle to the penny. Which I thought was interesting and appalling.”
When she asked the KOSW DJ if he had any questions, he asked if it was a lump sum payment or over time.
“It was paid off all at once,” Dingler said. “If we had paid it over time presumably we would have had to pay interest on the unpaid amount. …It was heavily weighted on their end but they had won the court case. We had really a small amount of negotiating space. But we’er glad to have it done. It took up a lot of our time and thought. It’s nice to have it over with, as expensive as it was.
“It came out of the general fund. Council may choose to change where it comes out of but that’s where it came from, to start out with, at least.”
As the Chief Executive and Administrator officer of the City, the Mayor is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the city, including the supervision, hiring, and firing of all appointed officers and employees, subject to civil laws. The Mayor also carries out the policies set by the council, seeing that local laws are enforced.
The Mayor, or the Mayor’s designee, may appoint citizens to serve on the city planning commission, the airport development and operating committee, civil service commission, library board of trustees, lodging tax advisory committee, park board, and board of directors of the city radio station, as well as other boards and commissions. Such boards and commissions must be confirmed by a majority of the whole City Council and serve in an advisory capacity to the City Council.
The mayor also has the authority to:
1. Enforce contracts.
2. Bring lawsuits, with Council approval.
3. Preside over Council meetings, exercise tie-breaking authority on some council votes, and exercise right of veto on ordinances.
4. Call special meetings of the Council.
5. Prepare a proposed budget.
6. Report to the Council on the financial and other affairs and needs of the City.
7. Perform as ceremonial head of the City.
8. Approve or disapprove all official bonds and contractor’s bonds.
Vision And Goals:
Provide accurate descriptions of approved projects and their status. Conduct clear, visual public briefings on the use of revenues.
Improve public relations through a better flow of information.