By Ken Stern 

Right or wrong in Shelter Bay


March 29, 2023

Finding out who slew the Slough Swindler, the La Conner Chamber of Commerce’s participatory mystery theatre event last Saturday, was relatively easy. Several people figured it out and the winner was chosen by lot. He got a grand prize package of La Conner tourist goodies. Everyone went home happy.

Solving the problems the Shelter Bay Community faces will not be nearly so easy, may not end at a prescribed time and the outcome is not certain. This is a drama still playing out. It may be dramatic but it is certainly a mess. The five executive committee members of the Shelter Bay board – or their insurance company paid attorney – have a Friday Skagit County Superior Court hearing to win the argument and quash a complaint that seeks to bar them from “any involvement in the financial, administrative or legal dealings of SBC Inc., or taking any action under color of authority from SBC Inc.”

There’s more. If the judge allows the case to proceed, Shelter Bay leaseholder and resident Jan Henrie, the sole plaintiff, is going after “damages incurred,” a figure that is in the millions of dollars if her lawyer’s calculations are right that “hundreds of thousands of dollars every month in unauthorized and unexplained fee increases” have been cumulatively lost to residents because their annual budget for this year was improperly ratified.

Is this summation of the case old news, a continued piling on and criticizing a board that has been under fire from various members of the 1,800 person community at least since Steve Swigert got away with cutting down trees in Rainbow Park in 2020? Well, two lawsuits in five months alleging the same charge of breaches of statutory fiduciary duty and malfeasance ought to gain the local newspaper’s attention. Otherwise its editor ought to be accused of misfeasance.

The November complaint Roberta Fontenot filed was dismissed without prejudice. The judge left the door open for a subsequent suit based on the same grounds. Henrie is making many of the same claims now.

The board has sanctioned two of its board members and asked residents to recall one, removing Judy Kontos from office. A Sunday town hall will have folks either discuss the merits of the board’s case or offer an evening of folks yelling at and over each other. The Weekly News may be allowed to be present and report on it, or it may be told to leave, as it has been before.

Kontos has taken to the streets with her faction of supporters. They are knocking on doors, petitioning to recall the five board members who are the voting block and defendants in the court complaints. Signatures from 25% of members brings a special meeting where a motion to remove each board member petitioned against can be raised a vote to recall them held.

Is this board block being falsely accused? Or are they swindlers on the west side of the slough? Getting to the bottom of the case and solving the mystery will be in everyone’s best interest.

Ticking in both the near and far distance are Shelter Bay’s 10 year lease adjustment and the 50 year master lease, both with the land’s owner, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

To get to better governance – clearing the air on accusations, allegations and claims – ought to be everyone’s goal. Anyone, or those collectively, who are, as is said of Kontos, in “straight forward violations of the Shelter Bay Bylaws, Rules, and Code of Conduct,” needs to have the facts presented to a candid world and have the evidence brought fairly against them and have a fair chance to defend herself or themselves.

This is not a merry-go-round. It is way past time for facts, truth and transparency to prevail.


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