At the 1959 Geneva Conference of World War II's Big Four, a protracted dispute finally was resolved when representatives from the United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France agreed to sit at a round table while the East and West Germans sat at separate small, square tables precisely six pencil widths from the main table.
When the seven members of the Sequim City Council gather at noon Friday, Jan. 23, in the John Wayne Marina's meeting room for a "team-building session," the size and shape of the tables shouldn't be an issue.
What other issues could arise during the afternoon are anybody's guess.
In the November 2007 election, Sequim voters elected four new councilors to the seven-member city council: Laura Dubois, Erik Erichsen, Ken Hays and Susan Lorenzen.
They joined longtime councilors Walt Schubert, who was succeeded as mayor by Dubois, plus Paul McHugh and Bill Huizinga.
The division produced a parade of 4-3 votes as the two sides clashed openly regarding both policy and personalities.
The mayor's gavel became more than just a symbol as Dubois often wielded it to end heated exchanges among councilors.
Then-Interim City Manager Robert Spinks recommended
the team-building and goal-
setting sessions and development of a work plan at the council's Nov. 24 meeting as part of an overall city manager search strategy.
The city council voted 6-1 at its Dec. 8 meeting to approve a contract that included a fee of $2,000 per half day to have Waldron & Company of Seattle lead the council in the team-building sessions.
It was part of a larger contract with Waldron to search for a city manager and public works director. City Councilor Susan Lorenzen was the lone "no" vote.
Waldron vice president Dick Cushing, city manager of Olympia for 17 years, told the council in December that the sessions would lay the groundwork for a positive start for the new manager, such as ground rules for interaction between staff and council.
Cushing said last week he expected the Jan. 23 session to begin at noon with lunch and take most if not all of the afternoon.
At the day's end, he and councilors will decide on the next steps, he said.
Dispute resolution often begins with getting the sides to agree on something, no matter how small or insignificant, such as the size of the meeting tables.
If Cushing knows yet what approach he will take with the council during Friday's session, he wasn't saying.
"I'm still working on the details. Essentially I'm going to focus on how the council can work together for the good of the Sequim community.
"I'm going to work with the council to focus on the future and keep it positive," Cushing said.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the session will be closed to the public because it is not a meeting as defined by the state's Open Public Meetings Act.
The law defines a meeting as a gathering at which action is taken regarding the official business of the city, he said.
If the council is conducting a team-building exercise to deal with personalities, that is not the official transaction of the business of the city, Ritchie said.
It may be peripherally related to how they do their jobs but generally it is not regarded as a meeting, he said.
Brian Gawley can be reached at email@example.com.
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