It's mind-boggling how governance of the highly educated little community of Kensington has become so dysfunctional.
Voters can start fixing that Tuesday by electing retired teacher Jim Hausken and re-electing incumbent Cathie Kosel to the Police Protection and Community Services District board.
This community needs leaders who value openness and fiscal discipline. Currently, public information is withheld and the board has failed to control employee benefit costs.
Kensington police receive a pension equal to 3 percent of top salary for every year on the job. That would work out to 90 percent of salary for a 30-year veteran. In addition, those who work only five years receive free retiree health coverage for them and their dependents for life.
Consequently, for every dollar of salary, the district spends another 60 cents on pensions and retiree health care alone. Employees pay nothing. Board members proclaimed they wanted to change that. But after 18 months of negotiations, they settled on a deal in which officers still pay nothing.
Then there's the police chief. In this economy, many public employees receive no raises and often absorb givebacks. But the board majority last summer granted the chief a three-year retroactive increase of more than 3 percent annually and a 5 percent raise next year.
How could this happen? The meeting minutes reveal the systemic secrecy. The public and some board members received
At the meeting they received a one-page spreadsheet proposal prepared by the two-member board subcommittee that devised the deal. There was no written report. The salary survey used to justify the raises was crude at best.
The board majority rejected Kosel's motion to delay action and approved the raises. The actual contract was drawn up after the meeting and signed by the board president, Charles Toombs, before the public had a chance to see it.
Amazingly, Toombs insists he's running an open government. But he confuses letting people speak at meetings with providing them public information to which they're entitled. His attitude is part of the problem. He doesn't deserve another term.
As for Kosel, she raised legitimate issues about the process and about the magnitude of the raises. Kosel has been dismissed by the board majority as a troublemaker, but her concerns deserve serious consideration, and she deserves another term.
As for the other seat, we rule out attorney Patricia Gillette. She says the 2010 voter approval of a parcel tax increase demonstrates they wanted to keep officers competitively compensated. She should reread the ballot arguments. Voters were being warned that without a tax hike, the police force would be shrunk. That's why they approved it.
That leaves candidates Hausken and Kim Zvik, who serves on the county's separate Kensington Municipal Advisory Committee. After listening to both candidates, we found Hausken was better versed on the pension problem and had a more pragmatic approach for putting the government board back on track.
We hope this election leads to real change.