Spokane County Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn said Tuesday she supports a proposal to swell the ranks of the three-member board by two members.
“I’ve been on the fence about it in the past,” O’Quinn said at an afternoon meeting of the commission. “I’m not on the fence anymore.”
O’Quinn said after the meeting she was swayed by “multiple factors,” including the number of boards and commissions she and her colleagues are required to sit on and the size of the county’s population.
She did not specifically mention the complaint about personal cellphone use to conduct county business leveled against her and Commissioner Todd Mielke by Commissioner Al French. But she did say it’s difficult for commissioners to communicate in a three-member system.
“All three of us are very sensitive” to the Open Public Meetings Act, O’Quinn said. That law requires public notice if county business is being discussed by a quorum of a public agency, which in the case of the Spokane County Commission is two members.
In February, O’Quinn said she wanted supporters to collect signatures before supporting a ballot measure to increase the size of the currently all-Republican commission. But she signaled Tuesday she would support putting it on the ballot without requiring signatures.
Karen Kearney, who has briefed the commission about an initiative to make the commission five members, said Tuesday she was moving forward with plans to collect signatures. The measure would need about 16,000 signatures from residents around Spokane County, according to an estimate by Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton.
Kearney said she was unaware of O’Quinn’s new position on her proposal. To put the question on the ballot, O’Quinn would have to persuade Mielke or French to support a vote. Kearney hopes to have enough signatures and support that the measure would be put before voters next year, if the Spokane County Commission doesn’t vote to put it on the ballot themselves.
O’Quinn asked that commissioners take up the issue at a public hearing in June. That would allow a November vote on the issue by the public. The deadline to propose a ballot measure for the Nov. 3 general election is Aug. 4.
In 1994 and again in 2007, there were efforts to move the county to a charter form of government that would allow lawmakers and voters to decide how many county commissioners they wanted. The efforts failed both times, and Spokane County government remains structured as outlined in state law, with three county commissioners serving a population of about 480,000 people.
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