Winlock City Council sits illegal city councilmembers

By Lynnette Hoffman

Winlock City Council has not one alleged illegal city councilmember, but three! Winlock City Councilmember Jodie Curtis has not been sworn in by the City of Winlock. She was re-appointed on March 19, but the city failed to give Curtis her oath of office within 90 days of her re-appointment. Due to the city failing to keep an eye on the basic requirements of a city council member, it will be up to the Lewis County Board of County Commissioners to re-appoint Curtis again. She is not the only alleged illegal councilmember, Winlock is not the primary residence for Trig and Barbara Pedersen. This is a requirement to serve on the Winlock City Council.

In March Curtis was declared illegal by the Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer due to a procedural error and was then re-appointed by the Lewis County Board of County Commissioners. After the re-appointment, the city failed to swear her in, making her re-appointment illegal. Ninety days have passed since her second appointment. Curtis's votes have not been legally valid during the entire time she has served on the Winlock City Council. Even after she was declared illegal by Meyer, Curtis continued to vote even though she was illegally seated.

RCW 35.23.181 states that, "The city council and mayor shall meet in January next succeeding the date of each general municipal election, and shall take the oath of office, and shall hold regular meetings at least once during each month but not to exceed one regular meeting in each week, at such times as may be fixed by ordinance." The City of Winlock failed to give Curtis her Oath of Office, thereby never making her position legal for 1 1/2 years.

During the re-appointment, Mayor Bradshaw claimed, to the Lewis County Board of County Commissioners, that Curtis was not a tie breaker on any votes taken. In-fact, there were five such occurrences from December 2018 to February 2019. The major issues were the budget, public gifting of funds, and the Mayor Pro Tem position.

It is now up to the Lewis County Board of County Commissioners to re-appoint the position again. During her tenure Curtis has not deliberated on a single issue, always choosing to vote in favor of the Mayor's agenda.

Councilmembers Trig and Barbara Pedersen may also be illegal, as they are not at their home in Winlock enough to qualify as a primary residence. The law is clear, primary residence requirements are that Pedersens must live the majority of time in Winlock The evidence appears that they are not. Several members in the community had heard that Barbara Pedersen is living at her home in Long Beach, Washington while working part time at Home Depot in Warrenton, Oregon.

The Town Crier reached out to Barbara Pedersen at work in Warrenton and was threatened with harassment for calling her at her place of employment. That was the verification needed to continue to keep an eye on the residence by citizens in the community.

RCW 29A04.151 states, "residence for the purpose of registering and voting means a person's permanent address where he or she physically resides and maintains his or her abode."

Members of the community feel it is wrong and have provided the Town Crier with dates beginning in April and into June, with Barbara Pedersen not living in Winlock more than 1 day a week, at the most. Some weeks she has not returned home. Trig Pedersen's average time spent at home in Winlock is 2 days a week. According to the information provided to the Town Crier, neither Trig or Barbara Pedersen are qualified residents to be on Winlock City Council.

The Town Crier has contacted Ms. Pedersen about her primary residence and she stated "Winlock is my primary residence." The Town Crier has approximately 2 months worth of records per day, that show Winlock is not their primary residence. Living in a small community that is ripe with city issues, caused residents to reach out to the Town Crier providing dates as to when they were at home.

Mayor Bradshaw and City Clerk Theda Curry are aware that the Pedersens are not living in Winlock the majority of the time and they appear to be covering it up. Mayor Bradshaw does not want to lose the Pedersens as he would lose the majority vote that approves every agenda item without deliberation.

Mayor Bradshaw has chosen every member except one elected official. Mayor Bradshaw knew at the time of Trig Pedersen's appointment that they were not living in Winlock, even City Council members knew and chose to appoint him anyway.