Councilmember faces possible resignation after moving out of city

Sean Kelly undecided about his next move
By Paul Archipley | Sep 13, 2017
Councilmember Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. The first-term Mill Creek councilmember is seeking election to a second term in November.

Problem is, Kelly no longer lives in Mill Creek. Following Tuesday’s council meeting, he confirmed to the Beacon that he has moved to the city of Snohomish. County property records show he bought a home there in July.

He still owns a home on the 15000 block of 25th Court in Mill Creek where records show he and Delia Kelly are co-owners. His new home on the 12000 block of 60th Street SE in Snohomish is in his name only.

Kelly said he thought as long as he still owned the Mill Creek house, he could remain on the council.

Not so, said county Elections & Recording Manager Garth Fell. “To be on a city council, you need to live in the district, which in his case is the city of Mill Creek,” Fell said.

He said that residency is based on a voter’s registration, but a person – whether a candidate or just a voter – should be registered at his primary home address.

There are examples, such as with “snowbirds” who live the winter half of the year in warmer climes, in which residents are required to vote in the district of their primary address, Fell said. That prevents people who own two homes from voting twice.

On Thursday, Kelly appeared to be backtracking. Mayor Pam Pruitt said she talked to him, and he told her he had not “fully moved out” of Mill Creek.

She said he is trying to resolve “marital difficulties,” a situation that has occurred with other councilmembers in the past, she said, resulting in elected officials moving out of their primary residence while they try to work out their marital issues.

“If he says his primary residence is still in Mill Creek, then I’m confident he is a city resident,” the mayor said.

The county depends on people to update their voter registration when they move. If someone moves but fails to update his registration, Fell said someone can challenge whether the voter files are correct, and election officials will investigate.

Kelly now faces a decision. If he wants to remain on the council and continue to run for reelection, he has to “fully move” back into Mill Creek. If he continues to make Snohomish his new home, he has to resign from the council.

On Tuesday, Kelly wasn’t sure what he was going to do. “Now you’ve given me something else to worry about,” he told the Beacon.

Officials in Snohomish faced a similar situation in December 2016 when they learned that former Councilmember Zach Wilde had moved out of the city to Lake Stevens the previous spring. Wilde resigned on Dec. 13, 2016.

Among the questions that were raised were whether Wilde should pay back about $3,500 the city had paid him during that time he should not have been on the council, whether there were any 4-3 or 3-4 split votes that might have been affected by his council participation, and whether there were enough councilmembers at each meeting to have a quorum whether or not Wilde attended.

Officials learned about Wilde’s move when some citizens went to his Snohomish address to serve court papers on an unrelated matter, and a woman answered the door. She told them Wilde no longer lived there and was renting the house to her.

On Tuesday, Kelly said he also was thinking about renting out his Snohomish house, even though he said he currently lives there.

Staff at Mill Creek City Hall declined to comment about the potential legal issues. City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto, who is an attorney and perhaps could speak to the legal implications, did not return the Beacon’s calls.

Joni Kirk, director of Communications and Marketing, said they first became aware of the Kelly story from the Beacon. It was posted Wednesday at millcreekbeacon.com.

Consequently, because Kelly hasn’t talked to any City Hall staff about it, Kirk said, “Until he has made that disclosure, it’s a personal matter.”

Even if Kelly resigns and withdraws from the election, Fell said it’s too late to take Kelly’s name off the November ballot.

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