Yakima City Councilwoman Kay Funk should have been given an opportunity to consult private legal counsel before being stripped of her committee assignments by the Council.
Much has been made about the theory that “she committed no crime,” (had no 6th amendment rights), and “no rights were being taken away,” (no whistle-blower retaliation as an elected official; nothing to see here, move along).
Thus, she had no need to consult an independent professional in order to determine what her rights actually were and what to look for at that April 2 meeting in which she was censured, right?
No rights whatsoever, according to the City Attorney, who at that moment when Ms. Funk asked for independent, unbiased counsel, now had two clients with conflicting interests.
Professional responsibility of attorneys requires that we do not advise clients with directly opposing interests, with very few and very specific exceptions. Ms. Funk should have been handed a lifeline to an attorney, aka, a cell phone and a few minutes of privacy, before being forced into a room closed to the public.
In addition to defending herself, perhaps Ms. Funk was concerned that the city might be violating the Open Public Meetings Act — once again.
Much has been made of the theory that this dramatic unfolding of events was just a procedural Robert’s Rules move, and that removing someone from a City commission is just censure, not a government action worth of discussion in the public view. (Again, nothing to see here, move along, folks.)
It’s interesting that the Yakima Municipal Code actually contains a provision for removal of members of city boards and commissions. It can be done without cause, at any time, but only by the City Council. That suggests the writers of that ordinance contemplated removal of any individual from a commission to be done in an open public forum, removal of City Councilors being no exception to the rule.
Maybe Ms. Funk wanted to consult an attorney to save not just herself, but the City and the taxpayers from another unnecessary OPMA violation. This council should be erring on the side of transparency, not closed-door decision-making.
A councilor who requests that a meeting be recorded does not strike me as someone who has anything to hide. The City Council should be spending less time behind closed doors in-fighting with each other and more time training on Open Government, and how to work with people with whom they disagree, especially when they are outspoken and intelligent trailblazers like Ms. Funk.
It’s unlikely that any woman who went to medical school and completed a residency during her era got through that grueling male-dominated experience by just “sitting there and looking pretty.”
• Elizabeth Hallock, a Yakima resident, has announced her candidacy for a Yakima City Council seat.