Much was made in the last election about conflict of interest and restoring trust in the Bothell City Council. But at the very first meeting of 2016 the new council majority ignored the advice of the city attorney and scheduled an emergency meeting to decide a legal case with less than one week’s notice to the public. The new council majority did so at the request and direction of a major campaign contributor who also happens to be a party in the case (with presumably a direct financial stake it in it).
Councilmembers who have taken money from those involved in this appeal should recuse themselves from voting on the matter, as Mayor [Andy] Rheaume appropriately did last year. The people on the other side of the city of Bothell in the Fitzgerald case have contributed $2,200 to the campaigns of Rheaume and Councilmembers [James] McNeal, [Davina] Duerr and [Tris] Samberg. At the final meeting of the year in 2015, Samberg personally attacked Bill Evans and said he was financially conflicted and shouldn’t vote on the Fitzgerald appeal. But Samberg has taken hundreds of dollars in funds from the people on the opposite side of the city in this case. She should follow her own advice and recuse herself from any votes on this land use appeal when she has taken money from the side she is voting to help.
In the event they chose not to recuse themselves they should vote to allow the appeal to be heard by a court of law. This case has important principles at stake for a city’s ability to govern its land use and take more protective environmental actions. Those against the city are desperately afraid that this decision will go to court, which is why they have poured so much money into city council races.
The lawyer for the city has already done most of the work for the hearing scheduled for next month. If they kill this appeal, it will literally waste over $100,000 of legal work already performed. Arguments allowing the court to rule will weaken environmental protections are nonsense, the council majority is free to keep the laws currently in place if they desire but they should not do so at the expense of allowing the city and its voters to decide its own destiny in land use matters.
At Monday night’s unprecedented meeting the new council majority has a chance to show that they are as concerned about conflict of interest when it comes to their friends as they are with their political adversaries. Bothell will be watching to see if the spirit of compromise and inclusion Rheaume spoke of is rhetoric or reality.
Kim Dill, Bothell