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Testimony tirade

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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County leaders: Leave personal issues out of public business

Leaders of a small north county water district left Shelton Tuesday with tails dragging after county commissioners admonished them for mixing a personal vendetta into public business.

The Board of Mason County Commissioners (BOCC) nixed the Belfair Water District (BWD) plans to annex two subdivisions atop Romance Hill with an exception for one lot owned by a previous political rival.

Phillips rammed a last-minute annexation vote through the board in December with two questionable votes that succeeded in cutting the Waggetts off from access to vote and participate in water district matters.

John Phillips, chair of BWD, offered "no comment" when asked if the water district would revise the resolution to include Lot 5 of Clifton Ridge.

The BOCC decision followed Phillips' testimony, which sublimated into a slanderous tirade against customer Greg Waggett, owner of Lot 5 Waggett is a "serial harasser" who is required to keep 200 feet from the district and its employees. Phillips proposed that Lot 5 be denied a place within the legal boundary because the owner is "guilty of stalking" and "guilty of terrorizing office help."

The irrelevant outburst drew ire from Commissioner Tim Sheldon, who considered Phillips' testimony "outrageous" in a public and civil forum.

Both subdivisions should be annexed whole, he said.

Public leaders often have to serve people they don't like, Sheldon said. Talking directly to Phillips, he said, "Our role is civil."

"It's a burden of public office, " said Commissioner Lynda Ring Erickson.

She couldn't vote for annexation as planned because it was based on personal and individual issues.

"It's a policy decision," she said. "Prejudice against one I cannot support."

Phillips defended his stance saying his attempt to keep the Waggett property out was not capricious.

"We want nothing to do with him [Waggett]."

Director of Community Development Barbara Ad-kins advised the BOCC to deny the December 21 water district annexation resolution for several reasons, but primarily that no legitimate cause or justification to leave the Waggett property out of the water district existed. To forward the annexation without the Waggett property fails state growth management laws that guide all city and urban planning goals, she said.

"The resolution as submitted fails to meet state and county code," Adkins said.

Waggett Tuesday said he felt somewhat slandered by Phillips' testimony. What Phillips described as harassment and terror was actually good questions seeking good answers and photographing water district employees bucking wood and hauling it with work vehicles during the work day for a board member, Waggett said.

"It's a personal vendetta," he said.

Tipton testified that the water district had a legal right to annex the neighborhoods whole or in part.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Monty Cobb agreed that Tipton's sole point was indeed true, in that singular context, but advised the BOCC that to exempt Lot 5 would fail much larger growth management laws mandated by the state.

"The board has never approved leapfrogging in the GMA," Cobb said.

Mason County Auditor Karen Herr further bolstered the BOCC decision by saying the annexation as planned is doable but would interfere with future water district elections with a complicated process that would create a "no man's land" of the Waggett property.

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Original Publication Date: February 4, 2010

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