EDITORIAL: San Juan County Council approved a revised contract with Cascadia Consulting for the update to the Parks Plan at its Tuesday, December 15, 2015 meeting. The original contract included Jennifer Thomas, the wife of county Manager Mike Thomas as the San Juan Island liaison. She would have been paid $115 an hour. She has been removed from the project. Her replacement and their hourly rate is yet to be determined.
The liaison's from Orcas, Lopez and Shaw Islands are being paid either $40 or $65 an hour.
Because of the "remote interest" the county Manager had, the contract came before the Council for approval. Both Council member Jaimie Stephens and Manager Mike Thomas downplayed the conflict since the total amount of money Jennifer Thomas would receive was less than 1 percent of the $43,000 contract.
The outrageousness of having county taxpayers pay $115 an hour to one liaison who happened to be the manager's wife - more than double the hourly rate of the others - didn't seem to resonate with either Thomas or Stephens. Perhaps the economic reality most working islanders deal with is too far removed from their's for them to understand. For example, the county Council gave Thomas an 11 percent raise in his first year of employment with the county.
Since the bill for the Public Records debacle that stemmed from a "walk-by" wetland determination made by "J.T." is now at $32,000 and rising, it's surprising that Thomas wouldn't err on the side of caution. The county paid $22,000 to settle the lawsuit about the release of public records plus an additional $10,000 deductible to the Risk Pool. Still to be determined is the dollar amount for attorney fees and court costs.
Taxpayers would be better served if instead of being dismissive, Thomas and Stephens reconsidered their attitudes.