|Mayor calls out colleague on residency|
|Written by Don Mann|
|Monday, 18 February 2013 14:07|
As soon as the clock struck 7 p.m. and moments before even the roll call and the pledge of allegiance were taken at last week’s Woodinville City Council meeting, Mayor Bernie Talmas, with no warm-up whatsoever, took the mic and delivered a high, hard one: “It’s been brought to my attention that Councilmember (Scott) Hageman no longer lives in the city of Woodinville and therefore is no longer qualified to be a council member.”
Talmas then quoted, chapter and verse, the pertinent RCW, before continuing from a prepared statement.
“In August 2012 Mr. Hageman purchased as a primary residence a house in the city of Kirkland for $899,000 and he lives there now. Someone else … is living in Mr. Hageman’s house in Woodinville and is registered to vote at that address.”
After citing more code, Talmas continued: “Since Mr. Hageman’s actual permanent address is in the city of Kirkland, he is no longer a legally registered voter in the city of Woodinville and his council seat shall be vacant.”
The mayor then turned to his stunned colleague: “Mr. Hageman?”
At that point Deputy Mayor Liz Aspen requested a point of order.
“Why are we discussing this before even doing roll call? We haven’t convened our meeting yet.”
Said Talmas: “If we convene the meeting before doing roll call Mr. Hageman may not be a council member. He may choose to resign. I don’t know. I raise this because I’m an elected official. It’s my responsibility to support the laws in the state of Washington and I’m responsible for bringing it to the public and the council members … Mr. Hageman?”
Hageman, a 16-year council member and former two-term mayor, appeared nonplussed.
“Yes … what can I do for you?” he asked Talmas.
“What’s your response to that? It appears you’re a legal resident of the city of Kirkland which means you can’t be on our council.”
Painstakingly, Hageman said there had been some personal matters within his family he preferred not to share with the general public. He said neither he nor his wife presently live in his longtime home on Woodinville-Duvall Road, and that he’s leased a place not far from where he used to live, which is his principle residence.
“I can produce a lease but I didn’t bring it with me tonight,” he said. “I had no idea this would be on the agenda.”
Talmas continued on the offensive: “Apparently the loan documents with Bank of America indicate your primary residence is in the city of Kirkland. So either it is or it isn’t.”
Hageman straightened in his chair.
“I would say it is not my primary residence — however we define primary residence … But the principle purpose for that house was for my wife and son, not for me …At this point we are still married.”
And a stony silence fell upon the room until Talmas said: “I can’t speak for you, Mr. Hageman. But it was reported to me that someone saw you at that residence late at night. Again, not my business to pry but either you’re a resident of Kirkland or not. If you are you can’t be on the council. If you’re saying you’re a resident of Woodinville, that’s a different matter.”
Said Hageman: “I do not consider myself a resident of Kirkland at this time.”
Councilmember Paulette Bauman then broke the ice by asking for some guidance from the city attorney and suggested an executive session as the issue seemed “personal in nature” and a “very sensitive topic.”
City Attorney Greg Rubstello said Hageman’s principle place of residence may be a mixed question of fact and law.
“If somebody has facts (he) may believe would disqualify Mr. Hageman of sitting in office …and he was contesting that … this isn’t the place to decide it.”
There is a judicial forum, he said, most likely generated by a county prosecuting attorney, if it went that way.
He allowed that an executive session was council’s prerogative to discuss the situation, but offered a caveat: “It’s really not up to you (as a council) to vote whether or not someone is qualified or not for office. That’s a vote for a different forum if it’s a disputed question.”
With that, council saluted the flag and retreated into a private room.
Fewer than 20 minutes later they returned, took their seats — including Hageman — and got on with the evening’s agenda, with no further discussion on the matter as if nothing ever happened.
But stay tuned.
The agenda, incidentally, was short and included discussion items only: a review of city “pocket” parks and how to address the costs of maintaining them; more talk about the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse ballot measure and the survey to be sent to citizens; and a discussion on the Eastside Rail Corridor’s proposal by new operator Eastside Trailway Regional Alliance, which seeks to gain support from the city in its efforts to reestablish the railway through town.
No vote was taken on the night, nor were any scheduled.