Council rejects Emery’s committee application

The councilmember wanted to write against changing form of government
By Brandon Gustafson | Jul 17, 2019

With a measure on the November ballot for potentially changing Mukilteo’s form of government to a council-manager form, some logistics need to be in place prior to sending the appropriate paperwork to the Snohomish County Elections Office.

The council voted to send the measure to the voters on May 20. If the change is approved, an unelected city manager would be the chief executive of the City rather than an elected mayor. The city manager would be hired by the council, and would then be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the City, such as hiring and firing employees.

One of the necessary steps before submitting paperwork to the County is finding citizens to serve on pro and con committees regarding the ballot measure. The committees are responsible for writing statements for or against the measure, as well as writing a rebuttal to the opposing side.

The City received five applications to serve on the committees: two for the pro committee and three for the con committee.

Former City planner Glen Pickus – who has been vocal in recent months in supporting a change in government – and fellow Mukilteo resident William Owen, applied for the pro committee. The council unanimously approved the duo at the July 15 meeting.

Then things got a little tricky.

Mukilteo residents Mario Lotmore and Brian Kirk were two of the three con committee applicants. The third is current Mukilteo City Councilmember Richard Emery, who is running to stay on the council this year, and who has vocally opposed changing the form of government both at council meetings, as well as in discussions with The Beacon.

Councilmember Scott Whelpley, who is facing Emery in the election for Position 4, made a motion to appoint Lotmore and Kirk, but not Emery.

Emery, who was not present at the meeting but was on the phone, naturally wanted to know why Whelpley did not want him on the committee.

“First of all, because there’s three (applicants) on the con (committee) and two on the pro (committee), that’s number one,” Whelpley said. “Number two is regardless of what you’re going to represent yourself as in this situation, you still have the title of councilman, and it sends a negative message to the voters that the council is against (the ballot measure).”

The City attorney told the council that councilmembers can serve on a committee, but can’t state that they’re a councilmember on the voter guide, or use public facilities to aid or oppose a political candidate or ballot measure. He did say, however, that the council could hold a public meeting where they could collectively vote to support or oppose the ballot measure.

Council Vice President Anna Rohrbough sided with Whelpley, and said even if Emery’s title as a councilmember isn’t on the voter guide, his name alone carries weight in Mukilteo.

“You’re known around the city,” she said. “We carry this with us every second of the day that we are councilmembers of this city.”

Whelpley’s motion ultimately passed 5-1, with Emery the only one voting against it. Councilmember Bob Champion was not present at the meeting.

During a public comment session towards the end of the meeting, Lotmore told the council he felt this was, in his opinion, another example of the council overstepping its boundaries.

“I’m very concerned with the overall health of our council and the ramifications that it’s having on our city,” he said.

The Beacon talked with Emery on Tuesday. He said he was having trouble hearing the discussion from the phone, which he will revisit when he returns home. He also said he sees how it may be questionable for a councilmember to be on a committee, and that he respects councilmembers who are for the government change not applying for the pro committee.

The issue he said he has is that he feels it’s no secret which members of the council are for and against the change based on prior votes.

He also said he is continually asked for his opinion on the measure when out in public.

“I’ve been clear in the number of settings that it’s not a good idea to me,” he said.

During the council discussion, some councilmembers said they didn’t want to publicly say which side they are on, but Emery said it’s apparent where everyone lies.

“I can’t believe them saying they’re not going to comment on it.”

The measure will be on the Nov. 5, 2019 general election ballot. If the measure passes, the new form of government will go into effect on Nov. 26 when the election results are certified.

 

 

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