City Council weighs options to fill vacancy

Action follows motion that would have eliminated the ability to name replacement
By Dan Aznoff | Jan 04, 2018
Courtesy of: Herbie Martin

Members of the Mill Creek City Council emerged from an executive session during their first meeting of the year with a request to City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto to develop an expedited process to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of a councilmember who moved out of the city.

Polizzotto is expected to present options to the council meeting scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

The council’s action came three days before a Snohomish County Superior Court judge was expected to rule on a motion filed by former council candidate Herbie Martin that would have given the county authority to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Sean Kelly.

Martin, who was defeated in his attempt to win a seat on the City Council four years ago, had planned to ask the court to rule that Sean Kelly vacated his seat on the council on July 31, which means the council forfeited the right to name his replacement because it did not act within the required 90 days.

Martin filed his motion on Dec. 21.

In a statement issued by the city, “The council has observed the ongoing legal proceedings since November awaiting judicial determination before making any appointment to the vacant seat.”

The statement outlined a 90-day timeline that began on Jan. 1 to fill the vacancy.

The latest filing is in addition to a motion filed by Kelly’s opponent, Carmen Fisher, to contest the results of the election. The challenger collected about 28 percent of the vote in the November general election.

“There was very little—or zero transparency—on the part of the city. Both by the council as well as the city manager and the city attorney,” Martin told The Beacon.

“If Carmen Fisher had not filed her motion to contest the election, Sean Kelly would be sitting on the council right now, voting on issues that impact every citizen of Mill Creek.”

Polizzotto said the city withheld issuing a statement on the situation until the city attorney has had an opportunity to review the court order.

Kelly admitted to the Elections Canvassing Board in December that he had moved out of the city and was living in Snohomish when he ran for re-election last fall.

Kelly’s resignation was backdated to July 31, according to Polizzotto. She added that he has returned all payments from the city between Aug. 1 and Dec. 1, 2017.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel issued a ruling on Dec. 15 that “Kelly is not a resident of the City of Mill Creek and therefore is not qualified to hold City of Mill Creek Council Position No. 1.”

The judge, however, stopped short of declaring Fisher the winner of the election. Both Fisher and Martin have indicated they will ask to be considered to fill the empty seat.

Fisher was realistic in her appraisal of the situation in a prepared statement delivered during the audience communication portion of the meeting.

The self-described attorney and entrepreneur asked the council to suspend the procedural application process and appoint her to the remainder of the four-year term.

“This election, through no one’s ill-intent, has been a fiasco,” Fisher told the council. “It was not transparent, and without transparency there cannot be fairness. Without fairness, our democratic process has failed.”

She admitted that appointing her to the council would be an unusual process. But she said the savings of resources and time would benefit the city. She stressed that she has been attending council meetings for more than a year to prepare to serve.

“It’s clear there are many issues that need to be resolved before a replacement can be considered,” Fisher said. “I have no doubt that a judge would rule in my favor if I had chosen to take this matter one step further, but that would not have been in the best interest of the city at this point.”

Jared Mead, who was sworn in as Mill Creek’s newest councilmember at the first meeting of the year, said he will be happy to see an end to the controversy that has hung over the city since last summer.

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