A Tacoma City Council candidate was removed from an elected seat on the Pierce County Charter Review Commission over a decade ago because she had been convicted in a military court-martial of using cocaine, according to court records.
In an unrelated case, Janis Clark also faced 31 charges, including money laundering and theft, in Pierce County Superior Court in 2007, court records show. She was found not guilty on nine of those counts, and the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on the other 22. Prosecutors decided not to re-try her.
Clark’s past legal entanglements were obscured by her decision to change her last name twice since she first sought public office in Tacoma in the early 2000s.
At the time of the court-martial and Pierce County charges, her last name was Gall-Martin. Since then, she has run for office under the name Janis Gbalah and in 2015 was elected under the name Janis Clark to the Pierce County Charter Review Commission for a second time.
The News Tribune editorial board initially endorsed her and candidate Chris Beale to advance past the primary in the five-person race for City Council District 5, which covers Tacoma’s South End. She didn’t mention her legal troubles during the board’s interview process. The board rescinded its endorsement of her when that information came to light.
Clark hung up earlier this week when a reporter called to ask her about her military court-martial and numerous name changes. She declined to comment when reached again Wednesday.
Known for being a longtime Hilltop activist and advocate for female veterans, Clark also has run for the state Legislature twice, in 2010 and 2012, under the last name Gbalah.
She also has been an unsuccessful City Council candidate in the past. And this year, when an at-large seat came open on the council because Victoria Woodards resigned to run for mayor, she applied for that position. The City Council appointed Lauren Walker Lee to the seat.
In her application packet, Clark said she was given an honorable discharge from the Army at the rank of captain.
An Army spokesman said this week that, due to privacy laws, he could not release information about whether Clark’s discharge was honorable or something less than that. He could only say that she was “dismissed” from the service.
“Capt. Janis Gall-Martin was found guilty of one specification of wrongful use of cocaine under Article 112(a), UCMJ,” said Joseph Piek, public affairs officer for Joint Base Lewis McChord. “On Dec. 1, 2005, she was sentenced to a dismissal from the service. Her case was then sent to the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals because an officer’s dismissal must be approved by the Secretary of the Army.”
Piek said she permanently was dismissed from the service in January 2010.
In 2005, Clark was a member of the Pierce County Charter Review Commission, which periodically studies what is essentially the constitution of county government and sends proposed amendments to voters.
She was removed from that group after then-Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy revoked Clark’s voter registration because of her military conviction. People with felony convictions were prohibited from serving on the commission.
After being off the voter rolls for several years, Clark registered to vote again in February 2008, this time under the name Janis Gall.
That registration went through without issues, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said this week. A voter ID number sticks with the person and doesn’t change based on their last name, Anderson said. At that time, Clark was not flagged as a felon.
According to the Washington Secretary of State’s office, following a felony conviction in a Washington State court, the right to vote is restored when the person is no longer in prison or on community custody. Following a felony conviction in a federal or out-of-state court, the right to vote is restored automatically when the person is no longer incarcerated.