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News-Times Whidbey


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SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 2014 | Vol. 115, No. 18 | WWW.WHIDBEYNEWSTIMES.COM | 75¢

Fired assistant nets $182,500 in settlement By JESSIE STENSLAND Staff reporter

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley’s former executive assistant settled a wrongful termination claim against the city this week for $182,500. Renee Recker is the third fired employee to win an employment-related claim against the city based on allegations against the mayor. All three of the former employees were represented by Oak Harbor attorney Chris Skinner. Timing of Recker’s termination and other evidence raised concerns about a possible violation of laws protecting ill or disabled employees, Skinner said. Recker is recovering from cancer. “The mayor acted out of frustration that she was

taking time off through the Family Medical Leave Act,” Skinner said. In an unusual twist, comments posted on a conservative Whidbey blog became evidence in the claim and inadvertently helped Recker’s case by revealing alleged bias. Skinner said the blogger, a Dudley supporter, claimed he spoke to the mayor and that Dudley questioned why Recker would be clocking into work if “she was less than 100 percent healthwise.” Recker was granted a year-long medical leave effective Oct. 5, 2012. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take time off intermittently as “medical leave.” Up to 12 weeks within a 12-month SEE SETTLEMENT, A3

Photo provided by Jeanette Springer

Raptor rock

Oak Harbor resident and Whidbey News-Times reader Jeanette Springer captured this photo of a mature eagle in Dugualla Bay Heights on Feb. 8. After hunting for breakfast that morning, Springer said this eagle and its mate landed on the beach. Once paired, bald eagles remain together until one dies.

Commissary cuts unlikely to alter local shopping habits By JANIS REID Staff reporter

Photo by Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

Lea Sprague and Logan Hyles, both active duty Navy, fill the trunk with commissary purchases.


Imminent cuts to commissary discounts likely won’t change military families’ spending habits because other local grocers are already competitive, say some North Whidbey residents. Stephanie Decker, whose husband is in the Navy, said she already shops at other grocery stores for good deals. Decker said a cut in discounts on base likely won’t change her shopping routine. “There are certain items you can get a better deal on (at the commissary)… like the baby stuff,” Decker said. “But Safeway is great at incentives.” Decker said she routinely goes to Safeway to fill her dieselfueled sedan and take advantage of the fuel discount. “It will affect budgeting depending on where people are at (financially),” Decker said. “If you’re not prepared for it, it will hit you hard.”

“There’s a lot of people who don’t live within their means.” Some military leadership expressed their concerns that a reduction in discounts might reduce patronage of the commissary. Commissary funding will be cut by $1 billion over the next three years, which will likely translate into a reduction of the 30 percent discount shoppers currently receive on food purchased at the on-base grocery store. Some estimates indicate the discount may drop to 10 percent — a $3,000 annual cost increase per household. The selection at local civilian groceries stores on the Island make them very competitive, said Ron Nelson, executive director of the Island County Economic Development Council. “When you look at the discounts at Saar’s, club prices at Safeway and specials at Albertson’s, they are very competitive.” Because the stores are forced to be competitive with the SEE CUTS, A16

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Whidbey News-Times, March 01, 2014  
Whidbey News-Times, March 01, 2014  

March 01, 2014 edition of the Whidbey News-Times