City Manager Ben Yacizi made a hard, but correct decision when he halted the City’s recent review of the shoreline ordinary high water mark regulations.
An outgrowth of the flawed Shoreline Master Plan update, this separate city-citizen review came to a halt when it was revealed by a Lake Sammamish homeowner not involved in the process that the lead city employee, Eric La France, was friends with a key official of the City’s outside consultant, and had socialized with him shortly before the contract was award.
I’ve written about conflicts of interest in Sammamish previously. Yacizi himself withdrew from a proposed annexation matter because he was socially involved with a property owner who was identified as the leading proponent of the annexation. Yacizi believed that the appearance of fairness demanded he recuse himself.
On the same issue, Council Member Michele Petitti recused herself when the matter came before the City Council because the same property owner had made a $2,000 campaign contribution to her reelection.
As I wrote at the time, Yacizi did the honorable thing and Petitti set a fine example for the City Council, even though campaign contributions are not grounds for recusal. To Petitti, the mere appearance of fairness demanded that she recuse herself. (It’s too bad not all council members follow her example.)
As a member of the Planning Commission for 5 1/2 years, I interacted with Eric La France on many occasions and on some key environmental issues. He and I clashed over the early Low Impact Development approach pursued by the City (which to this day I believe was too timid and largely unworkable). Eric became a strong advocate for LID as part of the Town Center plan, which will go a long way toward protecting Ebright Creek and the kokanee salmon that inhabit it; and general water quality conservation and protection through LID in the Town Center.
Eric is an honorable person who tries to do the right thing. It’s unfortunate that he is at the center of this event.