Sumner councilman files complaint against city
SARA SCHILLING; Staff writer
A Sumner city councilman has filed a complaint with the state alleging city officials broke the law by allowing public comments at council meetings that were defamatory and directed at him personally to help his opponent in a state legislative race.
Councilman Matt Richardson filed the complaint Monday with the state Public Disclosure Commission. It names Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow, Deputy Mayor Steve Allsop and City Attorney Brett Vinson.
Richardson said he filed the complaint because he has a duty as an elected leader to uphold the law.
“To not say anything would be to be party to illegal activity,” he said in an interview.
He later announced at the end of the evening City Council meeting that he had filed the complaint. No other council members responded.
Carmen Palmer, city spokeswoman, said Monday that the city hadn’t yet seen the complaint and couldn’t comment.
Enslow said after the meeting that he didn’t think any laws were broken. “Do you really want to shut off public comment? This is a public forum,” said Enslow, who won re-election to the mayor post last year against Richardson.
Allsop also disputed the latest claims, saying Richardson has a history of threatening to sue or file complaints in order to keep his actions out of the public eye.
“Do I think (the complaint) is factually accurate? Absolutely not. Do I think this will result in any action from the PDC? Absolutely not,” Allsop said.
Richardson, 44, a seven-year veteran of the council, mounted an unsuccessful bid for Sen. Pam Roach’s 31st Legislative District seat in November’s election.
The bruising campaign saw accusations fly back and forth, with Richardson’s legal and employment history becoming issues. Last month, he filed a separate complaint with the PDC alleging Roach and her campaign ran “knowingly false” and “malicious” attack ads.
That complaint is under investigation, said Lori Anderson, PDC spokeswoman.
In the new complaint, Richardson alleges that Sumner officials violated state law and city rules at the Aug. 16, Sept. 20, Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 council meetings by allowing “defamatory and directed statements” from the public to help Roach get re-elected.
Richardson cited a state law that bars elected officials and public employees from using public facilities to campaign, and city rules that say public comments must be directed at the council as a whole, not at individual members.
He also says that officials knew they were wrong because comments from the Aug. 16 meeting were edited before TV broadcast.
News accounts from some meetings this summer and fall describe tense confrontations between Richardson, fellow council members and his public accusers.
At the Oct. 18 meeting, for example, Richardson repeatedly objected while Roach supporter Chris Clifford leveled allegations about Richardson’s past. Enslow said Clifford had a right to keep speaking, and a majority of the council – all but Richardson – agreed.
Anderson confirmed Monday that the PDC had received the complaint. Staff will review it over the next few days and decide whether to investigate, she said.
It could lead to a filing of administrative charges, a hearing and a maximum fine of $4,200, she said.
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058 firstname.lastname@example.org