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Pacific hires 3 staff members, prepares for possible disincorporation

Pacific City Council President Leanne Guier - Reporter file photo
Pacific City Council President Leanne Guier
— image credit: Reporter file photo

They call it "Plan B."

The Pacific City Council gathered at a special meeting on Monday to hash out plans for the possible disincorporation of the 103-year-old city.

Although councilmembers said they hoped it wouldn't come to that, it needed to be prepared should the worst-case-scenario come true on Dec. 31 – the loss of the City's insurance.

"This is uncharted territory," City Council President Leanne Guier said. "Nobody can give us an answer on what happens when you run out of insurance."

In July, the City was warned by its insurance carrier that its policy would be cancelled on Dec. 31 if "swift, concrete and verifiable deeds" were not made to fill several key vacant positions in City Hall, including city clerk, public works director and finance director.

Since controversial Mayor Cy Sun took office in January, every City department head has either quit or been fired. Several have filed charges against the City for workplace discrimination.

Last month a Pierce County Superior Court judge ordered Sun to carry out his duties as mayor and begin the hiring processes for the vacant positions.

At Monday's meeting, the City Council voted to approve the hiring of three new department heads recommended by Sun, including: Patty Kirkpatrick as city clerk; Betty Garrison as finance director; and Sheryl Finwall as community services director.

One potential hire, Ken Barnett as public works director, was unable to attend the meeting but will appear at the Nov. 12 council gathering.

City officials hope that hiring for the vacant positions will be enough to convince the insurance carriers not to cancel the City's policy. But City officials are looking at the possibility of disincorporating to stave off liability issues just in case.

"That breaks my heart," Guier said. "I do not want to see that happen, but we have to protect ourselves. We need to find a way to protect the citizens of Pacific."

Without insurance, City employees, police officers and council members could face liability in any suits brought against Pacific.

Draft plans

The City Council plans to draft a resolution and vote on it at the Nov. 12 meeting. The resolution to disincorporate must be approved 90 days before an election, which would place the vote to dissolve the City before residents on the Feb. 12, 2013 special election ballot at the earliest.

The City would then have a Dec. 28 deadline to decide whether to move forward with a disincorporation vote.

In addition to Monday's special meeting, the City Council hosted a special meeting on Thursday to approve a letter asking Gov. Chris Gregoire and several state, federal and local officials to help solve the City's insurance woes.

"It is, frankly, a desperate call for help, which I think we're in desperate need of," Councilmember James McMahan said.

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