Council weighed options after board ruled Sean Kelly was disqualified to serve

Embattled councilmember waited until his election was certified to inform the city
By Dan Aznoff | Nov 29, 2017

Members of the Mill Creek City Council emerged from an abbreviated executive session Tuesday night after discussing possible options to deal with the controversy that has plagued their colleague Sean Kelly.

Kelly did not attend the first council meeting since a Snohomish County Canvassing Board (SCCB) ruling that invalidated his voter registration, which disqualified him from representing residents of Mill Creek. At the hearing, Kelly admitted he has not lived in Mill Creek since the end of July.

The embattled councilmember informed City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto of his intention to resign on the same day the county officially certified his election to a second four-year term. He also indicated his intention to reimburse the city for any salary he had received since August.

Kelly captured 72 percent of the vote over challenger Carmen Fisher in the election that was held on Nov. 7.

A spokesperson for the city said the council was aware of Kelly’s status, but made the decision not to pursue an investigation or take action until the “lawful process” had run its course.

“The City Council does not have legal authority to investigate or dismiss a councilmember,” Joni Kirk told The Beacon. “Without information disclosed by Kelly, the council could not take action. There is a lawful process that must take place.”

Members of the council cautioned against taking any action on Kelly until after any appeals have been ruled on.

“What is there to rule on?” Councilmember Donna Michelson asked her colleagues. “Sean admitted to the board that he had moved. And that he had moved three months ago.”

City law pertaining to elections and filling vacancies on the City Council allow the council to appoint a successor for a member who is unable to fulfill his or her term, according to City Attorney Scott Missall, but no legal course to have a member removed. Missall did tell the council that a resignation would be the easiest way to solve the matter.

Based on the timing of Kelly’s resignation and his presentation to the council Tuesday night, Missall may have been aware of the solution when he made his comments.

State law requires that a candidate be a resident of the jurisdiction he or she hopes to represent for 12 months prior to the election date.

The challenge to Kelly’s voter registration was filed by Fisher on Oct. 27 to force the councilmember to address the question of his official residence. Kelly had repeatedly ignored text messages, phone calls and face-to-face attempts to clarify the issue from The Beacon.

Fisher said she is proud of her actions.

“Residency is an important requirement for an elected official, and one that should not be ignored,” Fisher said. “I did not file my challenge to intentionally hurt anyone. I truly believe that Sean thought he was OK as long as he continued to own property in Mill Creek.

“He deliberately hid the fact that he had moved to Snohomish.”

Fisher said she plans to follow through with her plan to file an affidavit to challenge the results of the election with the Snohomish County Superior Court to disqualify any votes cast for Kelly.

“I believe the council showed more respect to me (Tuesday night) than in the past based on my challenge,” she said. “If I am not named the winner of the election by the court, I will definitely put my name into consideration when the council selects a replacement.”

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