Assembly ousts Planning Commission Chair

In an attempt to restore public trust in the city’s Planning Commission, the Juneau Assembly decided Monday to remove the commission’s chair, Nicole Grewe. The decision came about three weeks after Grewe’s fellow commissioner Bill Peters accused her of having an undisclosed conflict of interest at a commission meeting.

City Attorney Amy Mead, who advises city officials on conflicts of interest, told the Assembly that she had met with Grewe about her potential conflict of interest and that “piece is closed.” Still, the Assembly voted without objection to remove Grewe, whom several Assembly members said had damaged the reputation of the commission.

“There was some real damage done,” Assembly member Loren Jones said. “I’m not sure that this action repairs it, but I’m not sure it can be repaired without this.”

The decision to remove Grewe wasn’t made easily, at least in part because she was sitting in the back of the room.

“This is difficult; this goes against my belief that you praise in public and criticize in private,” Assembly member Jerry Nankervis said before speaking in favor of removing Grewe. “I think what we’re getting to now is that the public trust and trust of the other commissioners has been broken, and it’s up to us to try and remedy that as uncomfortable as that might be.”

During deliberation, several Assembly members, including Maria Gladziszewski, mentioned that the Assembly hasn’t voted to remove a sitting board or commission members in quite some time. Gladziszewski, who spent 12 years on the Planning Commission and watched it for longer, said “it certainly hasn’t happened in my 15 years of watching the Planning Commission.”

City Clerk Laurie Sica and Deputy Clerk Beth McEwen, both of whom have been attending Assembly meetings since 2000, said Tuesday morning that the only Assembly-forced removals they’d seen were due to attendance issues.

Precedent aside, Assembly member Debbie White, who serves as liaison to the Planning Commission, said that the she and the Assembly had received several calls and complaints about Grewe after the Feb. 9 Planning Commission meeting at which she presided over an unruly public participation period.

“People that apply for conditional use permits don’t spend as much time talking as her husband spent talking,” Nankervis said, referring to Todd Boris’ 25-minute testimony.

Grewe declined to comment after the meeting. She was appointed to the Planning Commission in 2008, and she was reappointed in 2011 and 2014. Her term was set to expire in 2017. She had chaired the commission since January.

Assembly member Kate Troll was absent Monday night.

The Assembly also voted Monday to amend the city’s traffic code to make driving with a cancelled, suspended or revoked license a misdemeanor offense rather than a non-criminal infraction. This was necessary in order to make city code match state law, which is important because it will now be easier to enforce, Mead said.

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