Smaller crowd expected to interview for council vacancy

Diversity remains at the center of controversy before the selection process begins
By Dan Aznoff | Feb 01, 2019

With only a few days remaining before the first round of scheduled interviews to fill the vacancy on the Mill Creek City Council, only four residents have submitted the required paperwork to the city clerk.

The council has scheduled the first round of interviews for Tuesday, Feb. 5, during the regular council meeting at 6 p.m.

The filing period to be considered to fill the vacancy created by the election of first-term Councilmember Jared Mead to serve in the state Legislature ended Thursday, Jan. 31.

Several members of the community were expected to throw their hat into the ring before the Friday deadline, including recently named Parks and Recreation Commissioner Stephanie Vignal.

Carmen Fisher, who failed to unseat incumbent Sean Kelly in 2017, is expected to be front-and-center when the council begins interviews on Tuesday. Fisher told The Beacon that she will run for one of the five positions on the ballot in November, whether of not she is appointed to the council this month.

Community activist Herbie Martin said he will follow through on his long-anticipated lawsuit against the city for discrimination, but will not take part in the “flawed interview process.”

In a letter submitted to The Beacon, Martin pointed out that three of the current members of the council were appointed to their positions, and that all three were white males.

“In the past few years the candidates were drawn from a population of almost 25 percent diversity; however the outcome was still the same,” wrote Martin. “We are watching, and we are wondering if the councilmembers will keep traveling down the wrong way by turning deaf ears, disregard and denied access to diverse candidates.

“Actions speak louder than words.”

Martin filed his first charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity against the City of Mill Creek in 2015 when he was not appointed to fill a vacancy on the City Council. The Federal District Court denied his action, he said, because it was filed within 90 days.

The disgruntled resident claims the City Council refused to address the issue again in 2018 when he wrote a letter demanding that he be given a seat on he council. He claims the council refused his demand because of the lawsuit he had pending against the city.

“My only choice at that point was to file a lawsuit with (the) Western Washington District Court,” he told The Beacon.

Martin told The Beacon that he will not “subject himself to a flawed interview process” he believes has been predetermined to appoint Mark Harmsworth, who was defeated by Mead in November in his bid to be re-elected to the state Legislature. Harmsworth served on the Mill Creek council for four years before elected to represent the 44th Legislative District in Olympia.

Harmsworth did not respond to emails or phone calls for his side of the story. Martin did say he will file to run for a seat on the Mill Creek City Council in May. The primary election is scheduled in August, followed by the general election in November.

Veteran Councilmember Mike Todd, who has served on the council since he was appointed in 2005, responded to Martin’s claims with his own Letter to the Editor, stating that the council is diverse.

Todd’s definition of diversity was that current members of the council represent a range of industries and interests, as well as many of the communities within Mill Creek.

Todd has not announced whether or not he will seek an addition term this year.

The last open seat on the council inspired more than 15 residents to be interviewed by the council a year ago. Businessman and 22-year-resident John Steckler survived the elimination process to be invited to join the council, and was sworn in the same night.

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