The Homer City Council is maintaining its plan to provide water and sewer services to a low-income housing project in Kachemak City. The council considered rescinding the ordinance Monday after learning that Homer Mayor Ken Castner knowingly withheld a letter from Kachemak City asking the council to provide utilities to other properties.
Castner apologized on Monday for intentionally withholding a letter from Kachemak City Mayor Bill Overway asking Homer council members to provide water utilities to all properties along an existing water line on East End Road rather than just the low-income housing project. Homer council members had asked for such input at their last meeting in March, but Castner said Monday that he didn’t believe the letter would have made a difference in the council’s deliberations.
“The city manager asked me if I wanted to put it in the packet, and I said no, it would just muddy the conversation, and the negotiating stance that they took really had nothing to do with the matter that was at hand,” he said.
Castner did share the letter with council members two days after he cast his tie-breaking vote in favor of passing the measure. He also wrote a letter to Kachemak City Mayor Overway asking him to withdraw his initial letter and write a new letter of support for the ordinance. The Kachemak City Council did not formally withdraw its correspondence, but did pen a new letter supporting Homer’s plan.
Still, Castner said Monday that he should be held accountable for withholding information.
“I apologize to all of you,” he said. “It's really important because we have really some important stuff to do this year, that we work together. I was the guy that was supposed to kind of bring us together and force you guys to make decisions together without breaking ties. And I don’t want to loose that momentum because for five months we’ve done that.”
Council Member Donna Aderhold called for the council to rescind the ordinance, claiming it violated city code and state law because Kachemak City did not pass a companion measure. She also claimed that the mayor violated one of the city’s ethical codes when he implied that Kachemak City did not pen a letter on the ordinance before the council voted.
“Even if the mayor did not think the letter from Kachemak City pertained to the ordinance under consideration, this was not his determination to make,” she said. “The letter was addressed to the city of Homer. Transparency, prudence, and respect for the council would dictate that he present the letter for public discussion while we address the ordinance.”
Aderhold also claimed Castner’s letter back to Kachemak City violated Homer’s code stating that no city official should use the authority of the office “for the purposes of unduly influencing the decisions of others.”
“The mayor then used city of Homer letterhead to coerce the governing body of Kachemak City to do what he personally wanted them to do,” Aderhold said.
However, council members or members of the public would need to file an ethics complaint with the city clerk’s office in order for action to potentially be taken against Castner.
Council member Shelly Erickson disagreed with Aderhold’s assessment.
“I have enough relationship with the people on Kachemak city’s (council), the mayor and the people on the board, that I know where they stood and how they were thinking and going back and forth, but that we were ultimately going to be getting the letter of support.”
Others like council member Heath Smith did agree with Aderhold that Castner should have released the letter, but he said the ordinance should be kept in place.
“What we've done is legal,” he said. “And it may not be appreciated by some and the idea that we can continue to mull over defeat and find other ways to object-- I think is just bad form.”
The council ultimately wound up in a 3-3 tie on whether to rescind the ordinance. Mayor Castner abstained from voting, preventing the move from reaching the four necessary votes needed to pass.