In another dramatic and confrontational meeting, the Bellevue City Council approved Aaron Laing's appointment to the Planning Commission on Monday night.

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In another dramatic and confrontational meeting, the Bellevue City Council approved Aaron Laing’s appointment to the Planning Commission on Monday night.

Laing, who narrowly lost election to a City Council seat in November, will join the commission as it hammers out new shoreline regulations.

John Stokes, who defeated Laing by 51 votes in a hand recount, supported the appointment.

“I campaigned with him. It was a good campaign, and I welcome him into public service, and I will vote for him, and I look forward to his serving well,” Stokes said before the 5-2 vote. Stokes said he was concerned about the process leading to the appointment but not about the land-use attorney’s qualifications.

“To me the best part of the process so far was to see Councilmember Stokes really put into practice the principles that he campaigned on — which is making pragmatic decisions to move the city forward,” Laing said after the vote.

Councilmembers Claudia Balducci and John Chelminiak voted against the appointment, saying Kevin Wallace failed to follow established procedures for interviewing candidates and choosing a nominee. Wallace’s role as council liaison to the Planning Commission includes responsibility for recommending appointees.

Chelminiak and Balducci said the selection of Laing violated city policies because Wallace interviewed the three candidates by phone, other council members weren’t invited to attend interviews and weren’t provided candidates’ applications, and Wallace asked the council to approve Laing before the originally published deadline for applications.

Appointments to boards and commissions usually are noncontroversial, but Wallace also ran into criticism from Balducci and Chelminiak last May, when he chose former GOP gubernatorial candidate John Carlson and former state GOP Chairwoman Diane Tebelius for the Planning Commission.

When Chelminiak referred to the Republican ties of Carlson, Tebelius and Laing on Monday, Mayor Conrad Lee declared his comments out of order, saying, “I believe that’s enough, Mr. Chelminiak.”

“It’s politics, Mr. Lee,” Chelminiak shot back. “Pure politics, pure power politics. Nothing else here.”

During Monday night’s political spectacle, three of the six planning commissioners asked the council to shelve Laing’s appointment and bring back former Commissioner Doug Mathews on a temporary basis until a new shoreline-management plan is completed.

Commission Chair Kevin Turner disagreed, saying Laing is knowledgeable about land-use issues, including shorelines, “and this is an opportunity to get him on immediately so we can get moving forward.”

Wallace called Laing “a great fit” for the Planning Commission. “You all know he’s competent, you all know what a great communicator he is, what a great leader he is. And he has experience on the shoreline issues that are up for debate,” he said.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or