Pacific prepares for the worst, hopes for the best
By SHAWN SKAGER
Auburn Reporter Sports Reporter
November 7, 2012 · Updated 5:11 PM
With a Dec. 31 deadline for cancellation of Pacific’s insurance rapidly approaching, City officials are scrambling to find ways to stave off the City’s possible disincorporation.
If the City cannot comply with the requests of its insurance carrier – which demanded in a July letter that critical vacant City Hall positions be filled – then it will be forced to operate without insurance beginning Jan. 1.
“The truth is, none of us knows for sure (what will happen),” said City Councilmember Joshua Putnam. “The City will still exist if it doesn’t have insurance and it will still have employees, tax revenues, bills to pay, programs to run, etc. But without insurance, employees and officials could be personally liable for City actions.
“Today, if the police department has an accident, or public works accidentally damages someone’s property, the City’s insurance takes care of things,” Putnam said. “If we don’t have insurance, the workers could find themselves sued for the damages. I don’t really know how many employees would show up for work under those circumstances, or how many councilmembers would continue to serve with that potential liability.”
Ultimately, city officials hope to conform to the insurance carrier’s demands and continue to operate with insurance or find an alternate carrier.
“We’re not throwing in the towel on insurance yet,” Putnam said. “There’s some chance that filling the rest of the critical City Hall vacancies and maintaining a professional environment for City employees could get our current coverage extended. And just because we haven’t yet found coverage elsewhere doesn’t mean it might not be possible to get enough liability coverage to limp along until the situation is more stable.”
Despite the recent hiring for several key vacancies – including city clerk, finance director and community services director – the issue of disincorporation is still on the table. Mayor Cy Sun has fired many key personnel since taking office in January.
“The Council has formed a committee to explore these issues and look into how we might provide for continuation of essential services like the water utility if the City could no longer function,” Putnam said. “But the answers aren’t clear, one of the first things we hear everywhere we go is that nobody has seen a situation like this before - we’re in uncharted territory.”
Additionally, the council recently passed a resolution to seek aid from any government agencies – including federal, state and local – that may be able to chip in.
“I don’t know what will come of that, but I have to think the broader we cast our net, the more likely we are to find someone who has a workable solution,” Putnam said.
In the event that disincorporation becomes the only option, the City Council would have a Dec. 28 deadline to decide whether to put the matter before residents in a special election, likely on Feb. 12, 2012.
“It’s incredibly frustrating and depressing (as a resident),” Putnam said. “What’s been going on this year doesn’t represent the Pacific I’ve known, and I’m sure the vast majority of residents don’t want the City to fail.”
The Pacific City Council is expected to draft a disincorporation resolution and present it at the Nov. 12 regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall.
ALSO: The City Council voted unanimously during a special meeting on Monday to disapprove the appointment of Ken Barnett as the city’s new public works director. All councilmembers, except Clint Steiger, were present at the meeting. … The Committee to Recall Cy Sun is facing the prospect of having to raise another $20,000 to continue their fight to put a recall of the controversial mayor of Pacific before voters next year. The committee needs the money to pay the retainer for its attorneys, who will have to appear before the Washington State Supreme Court in order to get the okay to collect signatures to put the recall on a ballot. Sun has appealed the King County Supreme Court’s decision that there was sufficient reason to put a recall in the hands of voters.
Contact Auburn Reporter Sports Reporter Shawn Skager at email@example.com or (253) 833-0218, ext. 5054.