Shelter Bay town hall voices Kontos recall pros and cons
April 5, 2023
Since COVID-19, the Zoom communications platform has been the next best thing to being there.
And for Shelter Bay residents, it was even better than that Sunday night.
Over 200 of the community’s homeowners logged onto a one-hour Zoom-only town hall addressing the April 12 recall election of Shelter Bay Board Director Judy Kontos.
The start was delayed about 15 minutes to accommodate increased participant capacity, which drew more than twice the number of people who regularly attend monthly in-person meetings at the Shelter Bay clubhouse.
It also made possible Weekly News off-screen coverage of the much-anticipated meeting. Staff were granted audio access to the virtual town hall by Shelter Bay residents who felt it merited exposure.
Board leadership denies the media entry to its town hall meetings.
“As I’ve said before, Shelter Bay is a private community and our town hall meetings are for community members only,” Shelter Bay board president Wendy Poulton said in a Sunday email to Weekly News Publisher Ken Stern. “The presence of a reporter from the local press can change some people’s willingness to participate and that is not fair or helpful to the members.”
“Your decision,” Stern responded, “is disappointing, of course.”
A community-wide email to residents Saturday explained that threats of disrupting the meeting necessitated the change
“We were contacted last week by a board member letting us know the meeting may be subject to disruption and wanted us to be aware of a possible response being needed during the meeting,” Swinomish Tribal Police Chief Earl Cowan confirmed Monday.
Board member Joe Hurley apologized for the change in format when he opened the Zoom meeting, but said it was “made out of an abundance of caution.”
The agenda allowed Kontos, accused of four code of conduct violations – each of which she vehemently denies – to deliver a 10-minute statement.
“I was hoping,” said Kontos, elected to the board last May on a reform platform, “to see everyone face-to-face.”
She offered a point-by-point defense of her actions, specifically denying having released any confidential information or being a party to litigation last year against five board members.
Kontos, who brought four decades of experience in finance to the board, said she was elected to the governing panel on the pledge of providing fiscal expertise and greater transparency.
“I’ve been raising questions with the board since my seating,” she said.
“This is a valuable seat,” Kontos added. “Please make sure I continue to hold it, so we don’t have another appointed director.” Four of the nine members are board appointed.
In closing remarks, Kontos noted that she has worked cooperatively with colleagues in the business world her entire career and during her time on the board has refrained from posting views on social media, frequently seen as a contentious venue.
“Let’s be fully informed before we vote,” she implored.
Board members were given the opportunity to speak, as were community members, who alternated between those in favor of recalling Kontos and those supporting her retention.
Board members Gary Ladd and Monte Hicks presented opposing views.
Ladd, past moderator of in-person town halls, endorsed Kontos.
“I continue to believe that Judy Kontos is a valuable member of this community and a valued member of this board,” he said.
Hicks, the board’s secretary, insisted that Kontos must be removed from the board. He referred to her at one point as a “litigation bully” who hides her identity behind others, most notably attorneys who have brought complaints against Shelter Bay leadership.
Those who volunteered to speak were often referred to by only their first names.
One speaker said he had voted for Kontos last year but would now support the recall. Another who will vote to recall Kontos alluded to Shelter Bay’s “need to get back to normalcy,” and said that the community’s staff and officials have been helpful and forthcoming in responding to his requests for information.
Yet another resident supporting the recall said Kontos had promoted divisiveness and taken “a hostile stance against the board.”
Kontos supporters rallied to her side by praising her willingness to ask tough questions while simultaneously trying to tone down turmoil in the community dating to 2020’s unauthorized cutting of trees at Rainbow Park by former board member Steve Swigert, resulting in $92,000 in penalties and fines imposed by the Swinomish Planning Department.
One speaker admitted to not knowing if she was for or against the recall. Someone else provided what likely was the one consensus statement that emerged.
“It’s all absolutely exhausting,” she said.