The Woodinville City Council met on June 5th. Following the amended agenda approval and a presentation about the future of King County Metro on the Eastside by Grace Carlson, Eastside Service Planner, the council heard public comment.
Local residents Phyllis Keller and Penelope Jupiter Zela both spoke out against the current Civic Campus proposal and urged the council to consider other options before finalizing the current plan.
Then Consent Calendar was approved and Business Items were addressed. It was then that Mayor Bernie Talmas made an announcement that shook some of the members of the council. Talmas said, “Before we do our next agenda, I have two announcements to make. First, I will be stepping down as mayor in a moment, so we will have to select a new mayor. Second, I’ll be selling my house and moving outside the city boundary so under state law I will resign my council seat, which I will do reluctantly, as soon as we select a new mayor.” He continued, “It’s been a true privilege and honor to serve the citizens of Woodinville the last 8 ½ years, both on the council and as mayor. I’m proud of what we have accomplished in this time.”
Talmas followed his heartfelt words with those that urged action when he said, “Looking to the future, the city and the community face some challenges. There are two I want to mention tonight. First, is getting qualified people to run for office.” Talmas asked, “Where are the corporate executives, the economists, the CPAs, the lawyers?” He followed, “Woodinville has all of them but the community needs to convince them to run for office.”
The second challenge he mentioned was that of the council having complete and accurate information before decisions are made. That statement was made following Talmas reviewing the reported versus actual property value of the Civic Campus. He added that Council should not be a rubber stamp for [City of Woodinville] staff.
Talmas ended his announcement when he regaled the Council Members and attendees with a trip he took to Washington D.C. where he had set out to see the Founding Father’s original documents that shaped our nation. He said that he had come across, engraved in stone, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” a quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson though historians often argue. Talmas continued, “And that is certainly true at the local level. The citizens of Woodinville must pay attention to what is going on at City Hall, and let their Council Members know their views on local matters.”
With that, Talmas stepped down as mayor and the council about electing a new mayor immediately. (Mayoral candidates in the city are elected by the seven-person city council.)
This caused quite the kerfuffle among Council Members. The Woodinville Weekly, in reviewing the tape of the meeting, noticed that some members of the council seemed at ease and ready to jump in and elect a new mayor while others seemed to be completely surprised by the announcement and struggling to determine the best next steps.
City Attorney Jeff Ganson was asked to confirm the election procedure for the mayor. He referenced Municipal Code and said, “In the event the mayor is unable to serve the remainder of his term, a new mayor shall be elected at the next regular meeting.” He added that this was not a statutory requirement but a provision. It was also confirmed that the City Clerk chairs the process.
Talmas spoke up again saying that he is stepping down now and that the council members need to go to their assigned seats because the voting should take place in order.
Note: Each council member has a seat 1-7 and they vote in that order with 1 being first and 7 last. As a council member and not the mayor, Talmas is in seat 7 or the last vote.
Ganson agreed that council could in fact elect a new mayor immediately, but it is not mandated and he added, “We have a Deputy Mayor [Elaine Cook] that in the absence of the mayor, can chair the remainder of the meeting.”
Talmas again said, “I’m stepping down as mayor so a new mayor can be elected….but we should select a new mayor now.”
City Manager Brandon Buchanan concurred with Ganson and said that the code doesn’t require the Council to elect a new mayor but it can certainly do so.
Talmas seemed to push reiterating again that the council should take action, and at that point both City Council Members Paula Waters and Les Rubstello spoke up and in near unison that perhaps a vote is in order.
Ganson suggested that the council should amend the agenda to include a vote for a new mayor if that is what they wanted to do.
At that point, Council Member James Evans made the motion, and Talmas seconded it.
Rubstello noted that Talmas was still mayor at that point and needed to resign first. At that time, Talmas turned the gavel over to Deputy Mayor Cook. Then Talmas reiterated that he has resigned as the Mayor but he is still on the council.
Discussion for the motion on the table to amend the agenda to elect a new mayor followed.
Council Member Al Taylor commented that his argument would be to get this settled before a busy two weeks.
Rubstello commented that the next meeting is packed but since this was just dropped on them out of the blue he said, “We need a week to sit on this before we elect a new mayor.”
Talmas said that his reasoning was practical and felt that he could be the tiebreaker vote and it is important to have a mayor.
Council Member Susan Boundy-Sanders agreed with Rubstello that it would be nice to sit on it but referred to the drama of the last mayoral election and thought in a sense that it might be better to get it done and move on. She added her concern; “I must say that I’m uncomfortable with this sudden resignation combined with the request for us to revert to our original seats so that the guy [Talmas] resigning gets to cast the last vote. It’s certainly clever but seems a little disingenuous. As wise as you are Council Member Talmas, I’m not entirely happy with that.”
Waters offered, “Our Deputy Mayor [Elaine Cook] can serve perfectly well as a mayor in the time between now and our next meeting. I have no doubt of that.”
Cook said, “We have stuff to do… this city has business to do and business to take care of in a timely fashion.” Suggesting that things move as quickly as possible, so the Council could return from this news and get back to serving Woodinville. She finished, “I’m committed to the greater community.”
Cook then called for the vote on the amended agenda was five yes and two no (Waters and Rubstello).
The Council then went through the motions to elect a new mayor. Three nominees arose: Council Members Evans (nominated by Talmas), Cook (nominated by Rubstello), and Boundy-Sanders (nominated by Waters).
The City Clerk performed the role call for the vote. Waters for Boundy-Sanders, Rubstello for Cook, Cook for Evans, Talmas for Evans, Evans for Evans, Boundy-Sanders for Boundy-Sanders, and Taylor for Evans.
Voila … and just like that we welcome Mayor James Evans!
A short recess then occurred.
It should be noted that following the recess, Talmas did not return to the meeting. The Woodinville Weekly understood this to mean that Talmas had officially resigned his seat on the city council as well although he is still listed on the website in position 7.
We asked Council Member Cook about this and she said, “He [Talmas] has not resigned. Only announced his intention to do so. He is currently a council member.“
Mayor Evans then took Council through the rest of the meeting. He began by moving to the review of Resolution No. 522 – Woodinville Civic Campus Purchase and Sale Agreement and Development Agreement. This continued discussion of the property further detailed WCCP’s adjustments to their plan in accordance with Council’s requests. While there was no vote on this agreement this meeting, a vote is scheduled to occur during the June 19 meeting. All community members are encouraged to attend.
The Woodinville City Council meeting on June 12 has been canceled.
Needless to say, the events during the meeting have left us with questions but a request for additional information from Talmas went unanswered. The Woodinville Weekly encourages you to get involved and attend the meetings or watch them online to stay informed. http://www.ci.woodinville.wa.us/CityHall/Council.asp