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Crisis averted: Pacific acquires insurance

Pacific City Council President Leanne Guier. - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Pacific City Council President Leanne Guier.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

Citizens of beleaguered Pacific got a New Year’s Eve reprieve when the City Council voted unanimously to approve payment for a new insurance policy.

The City will pay more than $227,000 in 2013 for the policy through the Lexington and Landmark insurance companies. The new policy provides the City with $5 million of coverage.

“I am very relieved that we’re able to keep the City intact and move forward,” Council President Leanne Guier said. “It’s going to cost us some money, but it will get us through.”

With Pacific’s old insurance policy set to expire at midnight Dec. 31, the City was facing the possibility of heading into the new year without liability insurance. Without it, City workers, police and elected officials would be personally liable while on the job, effectively halting City services.

“Personally, if we would not have had insurance, I would have resigned tonight,” Councilman Joshua Putnam said after the meeting.

In addition, the council was considering such drastic long-term measures as disincorporation or annexing into neighboring Auburn. Resolutions regarding those possibilities have been tabled permanently.

Pacific’s new insurance costs the City about $80,000 more than the previous policy and provides about half the liability coverage.

“It’s not something we want to have long term, but realistically it’s the best we can get in our current situation,” Putnam said.

The City’s previous insurance policy through the Cities Insurance Association of Washington (CIAW) was cancelled effective midnight on Dec. 31.

On July 2, the CIAW provided the City with a letter canceling its membership in the CIAW effective at the end of 2012, “due to the instability of Pacific’s government operations,” CIAW Chairman Wes Crago wrote.

“In that letter the board stated that it would reconsider its decision if ‘swift, concrete and verifiable deeds’ evidenced a more stable and professional environment with the City of Pacific,” Crago wrote. “One indicated example was the board’s desire to see key staff positions filled by Pacific.”

At the time of the July letter, every department head in the City had either resigned or been fired by Mayor Cy Sun.

And although Sun eventually began filling positions at City Hall – including being mandated by a civil service commission to reinstate Public Safety Director John Calkins and hiring a city clerk – it was simply too little, too late, according to Crago’s statement.

“No personnel were hired until Oct. 28, 2012, and only then following a court order,” he wrote.

Sun is facing possible recall, with the State Supreme Court set to make a decision on whether to put a vote in front of residents this spring.

Despite the controversy swirling around Sun, however, Guier said the council was committed to working with him.

“He has told us that he realizes that he has made some mistakes and that he wants to do it differently,” Guier said. “I’m hoping that he sticks with that, but we’ve heard that before.”

“It’s going to require cooperation between the mayor and the council, whether it’s the current mayor or a new one,” Putnam said. “It’s going to require a functional city government. We cannot have one branch totally disconnected from another branch.”

Despite the recall campaign and calls for his resignation, Sun was upbeat about the City’s future on Monday.

“My message for the people of Pacific is not to worry at all,” Sun said. “We’ve got a bang-up team going.”

 

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