Sumner City Councilman Matt Richardson is out of a job.
Richardson, part of a heated state Senate race last fall that spilled into Council Chambers at times, missed three consecutive council meetings this month, and his fellow council members voted 4-1 Monday to not excuse the absences, meaning his seat becomes vacant under state law.
“I feel like Mr. Richardson has pretty much abandoned his seat,” said Councilman Steve Allsop.
He said the council gave Richardson the benefit of the doubt by not voting on the absences before Monday night.
Councilman Randy Hynek, the sole no vote, said he was frustrated by Richardson’s absence, but “I didn’t vote him into office. I’m not comfortable voting him out.”
Later in the meeting, he said Richardson made contributions to the city.
“It’s unfortunate things had to end as they did,” he said.
The final months of Richardson’s tenure were controversial.
Last fall, he challenged state Sen. Pam Roach for her 31st Legislative District seat. In November, he filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission alleging city officials broke the law by allowing public comments at City Council meetings meant to help Roach win re-election.
In January, the PDC said it didn’t find evidence of a violation.
The News Tribune couldn’t reach Richardson on Monday. He missed the March 7 council meeting, the March 14 study session and Monday night’s meeting.
In a Feb. 26 letter to City Administrator Diane Supler, he said he planned to take a six-week leave of absence. But he didn’t provide details about why he’d be gone, mentioning only “personal and unavoidable circumstances.”
City officials said they’ve received no additional explanation from Richardson or his family.
Under state law, a seat becomes vacant if the council member misses three consecutive regular meetings without being excused by the council. Study sessions count toward that total, city officials said.
Supler said the city sent Richardson a letter last fall – when he’d missed two meetings in a row – laying that out. He didn’t miss a third meeting at that time.
Richardson was first elected in 2003; his current term expires this year.
Carmen Palmer, city spokeswoman, said she’s not aware of any other Sumner council members losing their seats because of unexcused absences. Other members have missed meetings and have been excused for reasons from vacations to illness, she said.
In the past, Richardson missed meetings while teaching aboard a Navy ship, she said. In that case, he provided a specific reason for his absence and was excused, she said. Unlike some local governments, the city doesn’t have a procedure in place for attending meetings via telephone.
Sumner council members are paid $750 a month. Supler said it wasn’t yet clear how much Richardson would be paid for March.
The council is expected to discuss the procedure for filling his seat at next week’s study session.
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/street