The Bothell City Council voted to implement an ethics code late last year as well as created the position of Ethics Officer to investigate complaints.
At a recent City Council meeting Wayne Tanaka of Ogden, Murphy and Wallace was selected to fill that position.
“I’m hoping to be able to fulfill the duties of the Ethics Officer, and so I intend to follow the guidelines and the law and to reach a conclusion as best I can based on the facts I have in front of me,” Tanaka said.
The Ethics Officer position and ethics code was passed late last year and stemmed from Council dissatisfaction with an investigation they had commissioned in response to allegations of improper conduct related to former Mayor Joshua Freed’s actions concerning the Wayne Golf Course purchase.
Freed was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing by the investigation conducted by the city’s insurance pool.
Tanaka is an independent investigator who is contracted by the city for a minimum of one year.
Current Mayor Andy Rheaume said having an Ethics Officer from outside the city is important for transparency.
“There’s some separation there from city staff and city government which I think is a positive thing, so the person has free reign,” he said. “It’s an independent review.”
Council member Del Spivey, who recently filed an ethics complaint against four other members of the Council, echoed Rheaume’s sentiments.
He has full confidence in Tanaka to investigate the complaints, he said.
“I think having someone independent and outside is always a good thing,” he said. “If you’re gonna have an ethics policy and officer, it shouldn’t be somebody within the city.”
Another ethics complaint filed against the city deals with similar issues as Spivey’s, concerning allegations of a breach of open meetings laws prohibiting City Council members from discussing or deciding on city issues outside of public meetings or executive sessions.
In particular, they allege four or five Council members decided to fire former city manager Bob Stowe as early as January, without discussing it publicly.
Neither Rheaume, who was named in both complaints, or Spivey would discuss the ethics complaints saying they were waiting on Tanaka to investigate them.
Tanaka said the respondents have up to 20 days to submit a reply to the ethics complaints, after which Tanaka has ten days to make a decision. He said a response has already been filed for one of the complaints.
Rheaume said he wishes the council had approved an Ethics Officer before the ethics complaints had been filed so as to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest in approving the Tanaka while there were active complaints.
A ruling on the first ethics complaint will be made within the next two weeks, and the complaint filed by Spivey will be addressed later.