Whidbey News-Times, October 13, 2012
October 13, 2012 edition of the Whidbey News-Times
News-Times Whidbey SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2012 | Vol. 113, No. 82 | www.whidbeynewstimes.com | 75¢ LIVING: Marti Malloy’s parents discuss Games. A13 City looks at sewer plant site next to Dillard’s The $93.5-million treatment plant could end up by waterfront homes By JESSIE STENSLAND Staff reporter Justin Burnett / The Whidbey News-Times Jill Johnson, a candidate for Island County Commissioner, speaks during a forum in Freeland Thursday. The event got heated during the last few minutes as incumbent Angie Homola accused Johnson of dirty politics. Accusations fly at voter forum Homola accuses challenger Johnson of ‘slandering’ her husband By JUSTIN BURNETT Staff reporter The origins of a U.S. Navy investigation centered on the spouse of incumbent Island County Commissioner Angie Homola sparked a firestorm of debate at a political forum in Freeland Thursday. During the last few minutes of the event, Homola charged her Republican challenger, Jill Johnson, with participating in accusations that her husband had abused his military position for the benefit of her campaign. “Pictures were provided by my opponent to try and slander my husband,” Homola said. “I’m very discouraged about that.” She also voiced dismay over Johnson’s closing statements. Johnson had expressed gratitude toward Homola and her family, saying that this has been a clean campaign and was an example of how people can disagree and still remain respectful during an election. “I don’t know how to respond to being thanked for something when I’m being stabbed in the back,” Homola said. Johnson quickly denied the charge, but the forum moderator did not allow her to elaborate and closed the forum. The end of the event marked the beginning of the debate, however, as the exchange caused an uproar among Republicans and Democrats alike. Members of both parties collected in small groups to discuss the issue. Johnson supporters were especially inflamed. A Whidbey News-Times reporter was quickly surrounded by those crying foul, claiming that Homola had broken forum rules with a personal attack. Some were also adamant that the charges were false, saying Johnson was a victim of partisan politics at its worst. The truth, however, is nuanced. Photos prompted inquiry In a later interview, Johnson admitted she sent photos of Homola’s husband, Cmdr. Jerry Homola, to the Navy, but she claims it was more than two years ago when the county was seeking a levy lid lift, commonly referred to as Proposition 1. The photographs were of him in uniform at an Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce forum regarding the county’s tax proposal. Homola was not running for office at the time. Johnson, the chamber director, said she sent the pictures to Navy officials because some attendees believed his attendance in uniform was a breach of military protocol regarding members of the Armed Forces engaging in politics. The pictures, however, resurfaced several months ago, just before the pri- mary election, and were posted on the website, Island Politics. Johnson adamantly denies sending the pictures to the group. “They have popped up again but they didn’t come from me,” Johnson said. Homola questioned the story in an interview Friday, saying she sincerely doubts Navy officials made copies of the pictures and forwarded them to the conservative online forum. But she said she would accept Johnson’s claim. “If my opponent believes the photos were submitted innocently, I will accept that position,” Homola said. “In any case, I am putting this behind me now and am moving on. I look forward to completing the 2012 campaign in a clean race.” Bill Strowbridge, a co-founder of Island Politics, said the group has had the photos since the chamber forum two years ago. Though he doesn’t recall who provided them, he said they came from a Coupeville man, not Johnson. “Maybe she sent them to the guy in Coupeville but I don’t know,” Strowbridge said. However the photos got there, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station spokeswoman Kimberly Martin confirmed this past August that a formal investigation had been launched. See FORUM, A8 City leaders may consider a site for the new, $93.5-million sewage treatment plant that was never seriously examined before. The difficult and long-standing issue of siting the treatment plant seemed to have been resolved in August when City Council members voted to build it in the vicinity of Windjammer Park. They were focused on the Pioneer Way property where the Pioneer Automotive Services building is located. But Mayor Scott Dudley said he then received a call from Carl Freund, who suggested that his property off Beeksma Drive, on the other side of the park, would be an optimal site. Dudley quickly agreed that it should be looked at. “I don’t know why it was never considered before,” Dudley said, “but this is the largest and most expensive project the city has ever done, so we need to get it right.” The City Council will consider amending a contract with Carollo, the firm leading the project, at the Tuesday, Oct. 16 meeting. The proposed amendment would allow the company to do topographical and geotechnical work on several sites within the area of Windjammer Park, including the Freund property. Dudley said this property appears to have everything city leaders were looking for and has the potential of saving a lot of money. The parcel is near the discharge site, large, undeveloped and on the market. In addition, he said the council members are in agreement that the property should be examined. The council recently held an executive session on the issue of land acquisition. Councilwoman Beth Munns said Friday that she agrees the site should be considered. “I think it all needs to be looked at so we are as absolutely sure as we can be,” she said. “It’s an expensive project and we need to be diligent.” But there are potential pitfalls. The property is adjacent to the waterfront neighborhood known as Dillard’s Addition. Freund said in an interview this week that he was told by city officials the property was taken out of consideration early in the process, possibly because it is located in a federal floodplain. He said that designation may make it harder for the city to get federal grants for the project, though the city wasn’t counting on anything from the federal government. He said much of the Windjammer area is in a federal floodplain, including the current sewer plant inside the park. The site is currently zoned residential. It’s located across the road from the current RV park and just south of the wetlands. Freund said he had planned to develop it when the market turns around, but is willing to sell it to the city.