Incumbent may remain on hospital district board

If an elected official doesn’t take her oath by Jan. 1, the incumbent commissioner may keep his seat on the San Juan County Public Hospital District 1 Board.

“This is a really unique situation,” said Pamela Hutchins, superintendent for the hospital district. “It’s highly likely to happen, but not for sure.”

The elected official, Peg LeBlanc, ran unopposed for current Commissioner Michael Edwards’ seat in the 2017 election and won. Before the vote, LeBlanc told the Journal she had dropped out of the race, but her name had already been printed on election ballots. Hutchins has not received confirmation from LeBlanc on whether she will be sworn in.

Previously, Hutchins told the Journal that, if LeBlanc did not want the position, a replacement would be appointed by the remaining commissioners after public interviews.

In Hutchins’ month-long absence due to medical leave, her stand-in, Nathan Butler, researched options for the district. Officials at the Municipal Research and Services Center found a legal precedent that said the incumbent can remain in the seat. The center’s website, states the organization is a “nonprofit…that helps local governments across Washington.” Hutchins said the district’s legal counsel agrees with the precedent.

She said this information was sent to San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord, but she has yet to hear back if the precedent will stand.

Camolyn Armstrong, the elections supervisor for the county, said her office is not involved in the decision.

“As far election office is concerned, our job is done,” she said.

Hutchins said Edwards would serve two years of the seat’s six-year term and the position would go to the ballots in 2019, for the elected commissioner to start serving the following year.

Hutchins said Anna Lisa Lindstrom’s six-year term, which replaced Commissioner Barbara Sharp in the 2017 elections, will begin on Jan. 1.

Check the Journal for updates.