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December 6, 2019 | 10:18pm
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Council deals with ethics complaints during last night’s meeting

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FERNDALE, Wash. — Last night, Ferndale City Council members took up deciding what actions, if any, were needed after receiving the investigation reports on 3 ethics violation complaints. All the complaints were made by councilmember Keith Olson in August.

Olson accused Mayor Jon Mutchler of

  1. Violating RCW 42.17A.555 by displaying a campaign sign on his car while parked in the City Hall parking lot.
  2. Violating the Ferndale City Council Rules of Procedure & Ethics Handbook section on “Undue Influence” by his conduct in a meeting between a family member accused of a crime, the accuser and the accuser’s pastor and by misleading Ferndale Police personnel into believing he had retained Ferndale City Municipal Court Judge Mark Kaiman to represent him.

Olson accused councilmember Rebecca Xczar of

  1. Violating the Ferndale City Council Rules of Procedure & Ethics Handbook by writing a resolution containing hidden profanity unbeknownst to other councilmembers who voted to approve it.

Due to conflicts of interest with city staff and the city’s attorney, an outside attorney, Scott Snyder of Ogden, Murphy & Wallace in Seattle, was hired to conduct the investigation of the two complaints filed against Mayor Mutchler.

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The city’s attorney, Dannon Traxler, investigated the claim against Xczar.

According to city staff, “[Snyder] concluded that the complaint regarding an attempt to interfere in a police investigation was unfounded; however, there was a technical violation regarding the political signs complaint.”

Traxler determined two violations occurred in the complaint against Xczar but recommended the council take no disciplinary actions, “because of the actions already taken by Council in this matter, as well as the actions taken by Ms. Xczar on her own.”

At last night’s regular meeting of the City Council, a discussion of the complaints was on the agenda. The council was advised by Traxler that they were to discuss whether they want to take action against the mayor for the technical violation.

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Olson voiced his objections and concerns with Snyder’s findings in his report. He then made the motion that no political signs be allowed in any city parking lot. That failed to get a second. Councilmember Bishop moved, and Councilmember Jensen seconded, that the City’s sign code be discussed at the next Planning & Land Use Committee meeting.

Mutchler then read the following statement,

I am grateful for the report of attorney Scott Snyder, of Ogden Murphy and Wallace, who cleared me completely of any violation of our city’s Ethics Handbook regarding a police investigation and the mayor’s communication with our municipal court judge.

The unfounded attacks against me and my family had been unspeakably hurtful; namely, the spreading of one-sided twisted and second-hand accounts to fabricate a web of innuendo and lies. We learn that Mark Twain’s proverb is true. A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. It is not a coincidence that the timing of these lies coincided with my campaign to be reelected mayor of this great community.

I regret the complaint filed against me forced our city to spend $15,719 to hire Mister Snyder to gain expertise of an independent professional 3rd party with no connection to Ferndale. And I hope the City Council and Ferndale residents will consider the credibility of those who brought up these baseless allegations should they ever make similar charges again.

Addressing the problems noted by Mister Snyder regarding references to signage in our Ethics Handbook and municipal code, I trust that our City Council and staff will develop appropriate wording to improve that section of our city code.

Finally, I have always brought honesty transparency and integrity to this office. the Snyder report has confirmed that those values continue to be on display by this mayor.

Prior to closing the open session and entering into a closed executive session to discuss the reports and what actions might be taken, former mayor Yvonne Goldsmith took to the podium to complain the public was not given the opportunity to comment on the ethics complaints. Goldsmith began commenting on the complaint against Mutchler that was determined to be unfounded. Since that was not going to be discussed during the executive session, Goldsmith was declared to be out of order, the open session was closed and the council entered closed executive session.

Upon returning to open session, Mutchler asked the council if they wanted to take any action and got no response. The councilmembers then voted to adjourn the meeting.

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The following is the report submitted by Snyder detailing his investigation’s findings and recommendations.

ETHICS-REPORT-AND-RECOMMENDATION-POLICE

Traxler’s report detailing her investigation’s findings and recommendations regarding the charge against Xczar has not been made available.


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