The council also agreed to schedule listening sessions on systemic racism
CLARK COUNTY — Two ethics complaints were filed this week against Clark County Chair Eileen Quiring over her recent comments on systemic racism.
The first was received by Clark County Interim Manager Kathleen Otto on July 2 from Bridget McLeman, a frequent critic of the council.
A second complaint was filed by Cheryl Aichele on July 3.
McLeman’s complaint alleges that Quiring violated the county’s Code of Ethics and Rules of Procedure several times in the past few weeks, starting during a June 24 Council Time meeting in which the chair stated “I do not agree that we have systemic racism in our county. Period.”
The comment came as Quiring protested a letter submitted by Councilor Temple Lentz supporting Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins’ decision to remove Thin Blue Line flag decals from department property. Quiring was the only councilor who didn’t sign the letter.
In her complaint, McLeman alleges Quiring “repeatedly interrupted Councilor Lentz and failed to maintain proper decorum.”
The complaint also alleges that Quiring’s position at that meeting was in opposition to her vote on June 16 supporting a resolution which stated “systemic racism has existed in our country for far too long,” and “the Clark County Council condemns racism in any form.”
McLeman alleges Quiring’s response to the resulting criticism over her remarks, which included calling demands for her resignation “knee jerk” meant she had “failed to achieve an ethical balance between the dictates of individual conscience and the commitment to the public interest.”
After meeting for nearly an hour behind closed doors, the council voted to appoint Councilors Julie Olson and Gary Medvigy to an ad-hoc committee. They will be responsible for choosing a citizen as a third member, who will then chair the committee and determine whether the complaint should be dismissed or upheld.
The council declined to pass the complaint from Aichele to the committee, since it centered around Quiring’s position on the Board of Trustees for the Clark County Law Library, and not her direct role on the County Council.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Quiring said she believes the complaint “has no merit.”
“But the ad hoc committee will determine that,” she concluded.
Listening sessions to be scheduled
At Wednesday’s Council Time meeting, the tone was much different, with members of the Vancouver NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), YWCA, and the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program (CCVLP) joining to advocate for listening sessions on systemic racism.
“We want to make it clear that our invitation to a listening session on systemic racism in Clark County is not an organized effort to arrange for someone’s resignation,” said Elizabeth Fitzgerald, executive director of CCVLP. “And though our call for a listening session is directly in response to a comment that was made … it frankly is a different conversation than weighing the merits of any one council member.”
“I want to tell you how much I appreciate the tone of the meeting today,” Quiring said after the guests had made their comments. “Sometimes some things are written and they don’t sound as nice as when they’re stated.”
Quiring joined the other council members in supporting the idea of a listening session, potentially with one being open to the public and one private, similar to the way the city of Vancouver conducted theirs.
A time for those sessions was not set, though all sides agreed to work on a time in the near future.