Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District President Paula DeMoss appeared at a public hearing at the Pierce County Auditor’s Office in July, following a “Voter Registration Challenge” filed by local resident Mike Salatino.
Salatino said he became concerned about the current residency of Paula DeMoss after learning from a previous article that she had moved and no current address for her could be located. He said DeMoss’ general reluctance to provide information prompted him to investigate her whereabouts. Acting on information from an unnamed source, he set out to discover if she still lived within the district. Her Peninsula Light bill was sent to a Gig Harbor address, and he observed her car at that address, so he assumed she must live there, in direct violation of residency requirements of the KPMPD.
When a registered voter moves from one residence to another, according to Pierce County Elections Manager Lori Augino, he or she has a responsibility to notify the county so voter records can be updated. Elected officials required to live in the districts they represent are held to the same standard, with potential recall consequences attached if they move out of their districts.
At a video-taped KPMPD meeting on July 10 preceding the voter registration challenge, during the time allotted for citizen comment, Salatino made two requests. He wanted the alternate resolution he and Ben Thompson had submitted a month earlier regarding commissioner compensation waivers to be considered, saying, “We have not heard from any of the commissioners and would like that resolution considered.” DeMoss said she would address the resolution in her president’s report to follow.
Second, he said, “It has been brought to our attention that your president does not live in the confines of the boundaries of the Key Peninsula, and without going into details, we feel it is inappropriate that she remain as president.” DeMoss replied she did live on the Peninsula and that according to state law she was not required to own property. She stated her husband and children lived at the Gig Harbor residence and that “my personal situation is not a public issue nor does it affect my ability to be a member of this board.” She indicated she was living in her trailer on a friend’s land, and asked if he was inferring if that meant she could not be on the board. He said he had not been given that information.
Salatino’s “Voter Registration Challenge” affidavit regarding DeMoss’ residency, filed the next day, was then followed by a letter from the auditor’s office, addressed to DeMoss at the Gig Harbor address, with copies to Salatino and the prosecuting attorney. The letter was notification of a challenge hearing set for July 19, and offered an alternative: an enclosed blank declaration form to simply update her voter registration.
On July 19 at 10 a.m., DeMoss, Commissioner Ross Bischoff, KPMPD Director Scott Gallacher, Salatino, Thompson, and Peninsula Light CEO Rob Orton met in a public hearing at the Pierce County Auditor’s office in Tacoma. During the hearing, DeMoss said she had acquired a post office box on the Key Peninsula after the sale of her home, assuming that would suffice, since her trailer could be moved at will.
“It was not an intentional mistake,” she said. Recently, the person on whose land she had been parked asked her to relocate after reports of Salatino “looking for me,” she said. Some concern exists that DeMoss’ privacy had been compromised by Peninsula Light disclosures of her Gig Harbor address. Orton asked Salatino if he would name the person who gave that information. Salatino refused, saying, “No. No need to.” In a later telephone interview with the KP News, Salatino stated his information had not come from Peninsula Light.
Orton concurred in an interview that, after having attending the hearing and viewing the KPMPD meeting video, he could not conclude the address leak came from the utility. He noted that Salatino did not, at either meeting, say he obtained the information from them. Orton said that accusation has come from other sources, and if it proves to be true, he will “deal with it.” Peninsula Light is currently treating the issue “as a complaint from DeMoss” and at press time was waiting to hear from her. With public concern over identity theft and privacy, Orton said the stewardship of the shareholders’ trust is of primary concern.
At the hearing, Thompson suggested the entire issue of residency could be resolved if DeMoss simply signed an affidavit under risk of perjury that she lived in the district. Auditor Pat McCarthy replied the county takes voter registration information at face value. “We have no investigative powers,” she said, referring to DeMoss’s declaration of current address. According to her statement, and a statement in writing submitted by Bischoff, DeMoss is living in her trailer on his land in Lakebay.
Regarding Salatino’s request at the parks meeting for consideration on the compensation issue, in her president’s report, DeMoss said, in part, “The resolution (regarding commissioner compensation) will stay as stands… The formation committee of KPMPD directly stated the commissioners would not exercise their rights to compensation. By Washington state law, commissioners elected to a metropolitan park district have this right… The formation committee may have effectively failed to inform the community or the community failed to understand the rights and legal choices that the commissioners have.”
Commissioner Jerry Schick, who was a member of the previous park board, originally introduced the compensation resolution, and at the meeting defended his decision to retain the choice to receive payment. He stated he made a pre-campaign promise to waive compensation, but has discovered the commissioner workload to be substantial, and having an impact on his personal life. He said he felt the commissioners were justified in taking compensation for the work they did; it was a personal issue. He apologized to his constituents if they felt betrayed. “It’s a very small (controlled) compensation (about 30 percent of the allowable amount),” he said.
Bischoff, also a member of the previous park board, pointed out that during the pre-election, none of the candidates adhered to any time limit on the compensation issue. He noted those in objection, Salatino and Thompson specifically, were not the only ones who put time, effort or money into the formation of the KPMPD.
Commissioner Kip Clinton, unofficial secretary of the former park board, said, “Metro (KPMPD) is a level above KPPRD (the old parks board), in regard to legal obligations. It does require more work than the old park district did.” In an earlier interview, prior to introduction of the compensation resolution, Clinton suggested that perhaps the community would eventually need to be asked to authorize additional funding, as the district matured. She and DeMoss are the only two commissioners who chose to formally waive their right to compensation.