Conflictof interest charge dropped

Published on Thu, Feb 2, 2006
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Conflict of interest charge dropped

By Meg Olson

Local attorney and Blaine hearing examiner Roger Ellingson, the first of four members of city government named in a conflict of interest case to go before the judge, said he is pleased superior court judge Charles Snyder dismissed his case.

“I’m not certain I was really intended to be a party,” Ellingson said after the January 27 decision. “I’m glad the court agreed.”

Ellingson chose not to ask the city of Blaine to represent him in responding to the complaint, filed in Whatcom Superior Court by former city council member David White on December 13.

In it, White names planning commissioners Brad O’Neill and Sue Sturgill, city council member Bruce Wolf, and hearing examiner Roger Ellingson. White is alleging O’Neill and Wolf acted improperly by participating in decisions regarding the Blaine boardwalk project when they owned properties that could be affected by the project.

White is claiming their actions violate a state law, which prohibits municipal office holders from being “beneficially interested, directly or indirectly” by any contracts made through or by their office. Sturgill, misidentified in the complaint as a city council member, is named in connection to her husband’s volunteer involvement with the Plover ferry. Ellingson was simply named as being the city hearing examiner and a member of the city’s boardwalk committee but the complaint does not specify the perceived conflict.

“His cause of action required the person involved be involved in a contract and Mr. Ellingson is not in a contractual role with respect to the boardwalk,” said Ellingson’s attorney Dennis Murphy, explaining Snyder’s basis for dismissing the case. White was not in the courtroom, he added.

The other defendants in the case have city council approval to be represented by the city’s legal staff and city attorney Jon Sitkin’s office indicated they would also file a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim later this week.