Winlock City Council member illegally appointed

Winlock City Council has a council member who was illegally appointed over a year ago and according to emails between a local businessman and city attorney Sam Satterfield, from Hillier, Scheibmeir and Kelly, PS. Inc. the City and the City Attorney have known the entire time. They have done nothing to correct the illegal appointment, absolutely nothing.

The Town Crier has verified this information via the minutes for the council meeting on February 12, 2018 and subsequent meetings, Lewis County Auditor's office, public records requests from Winlock City Hall and also via AVCapture which is an audio database for meetings.

Pursuant to RCW 35A.12.050, the process that must be followed to fill a vacant city council position is set forth under RCW 42.12.070. The statute states: "Where two or more positions are vacant and two or more members of the governing body remain in office, the remaining members of the governing body shall appoint a qualified person to fill one of the vacant positions, the remaining members of the governing body and the newly appointed person shall appoint another qualified person to fill another vacant position, and so on until each of the vacant positions is filled with each of the new appointees participating in each appointment that is made after his or her appointment."

On February 12, 2018, Barbara Pedersen and Jodie Curtis were appointed to the council and sworn-in together at the same time, in violation of RCW 42.12.070 rendering Curtis an illegal appointment.

The statute is clear. One day before Pedersen and Curtis were simultaneously illegally appointed, the City Clerk posted the statutes on FaceBook for all the world to see. Is it incompetence to not follow the process or to correct the appointment in the subsequent open council meeting or through the Lewis County Prosecutor's office and County Commissioners?

Winlock also recently fired Hillier, Scheibmeir and Kelly. But after the city could not find other legal representation locally willing to take on the mess in City Hall, Winlock hired them back on a vote of 3-1. Mayor Bradshaw has always been a big fan of this law firm and it is unclear if he pursued anyone outside of a 30 mile radius. The vote to return the law firm was 3-1, with Anne Randt being the only no vote.

The City Attorney and City Hall have known for a year the council appointment was illegal and chose to do nothing. This clearly shows a recurring pattern of blatant disregard for the law by both parties. Either way, perhaps Mayor Bradshaw and the City Attorney are a good match. And, as stated above, the City Clerk posted the correct statute to FaceBook, but also did nothing.

Because one of the council appointments was not made legally within 90 days of the vacancy occurring, the duty to appoint a person to the council is vested in the Lewis County Commissioners pursuant to RCW 42.12.040 "If a governing body fails to appoint a qualified person to fill a vacancy ninety days of the occurrence of the vacancy, the authority of the governing body to fill the vacancy shall cease and the county legislative authority of the county."

In a series of emails between a local businessman and the city attorney, it shows the city attorney was aware of the illegal appointment. The first email was dated February 15, 2018 where the businessman pointed out that Curtis was illegal. Then, in a subsequent email dated May 4, 2018, the city attorney states "it was remedied at the subsequent council meeting." Per the 20 minute recording on AVCapture of the subsequent council meeting, the illegal appointment was not corrected during the open council meeting. Then on May 10, the city attorney states "it does not reflect the correction in the minutes from the following meeting but it was addressed."

The illegal appointment should not have happened, but it did and the City did nothing to correct the illegality for a year.

Mayor Bradshaw's term for the past year has been riddled with negative publicity from The Chronicle, The Daily News and The Town Crier; from the $3M lawsuit that Sam Patrick filed against the city and Don and Susan Bradshaw personally, to breaking a businessman's civil rights. Mayor Bradshaw's hiring practices are questionable as he has never opened up an assistant clerk/community development position to any residents of Winlock. Hiring only friends of the office staff who were employed or on city council during Napavine's three illegal appointments. Upon the County Commissioners appointing a new majority, both resigned their positions.

Is it time to ask the Mayor to resign so the city can heal? The Town Crier has received far too many calls, emails and personal conversations with concerned citizens and local area residents to ignore this question.

Town Crier reached out for comments from Mayor Bradshaw and City Attorney Satterfield and there was no response at press time.