Concerns over the ethics of appointing the husband of a sitting Yacolt Town Councilor to a vacant seat on the governing body has caught scrutiny from residents and a Vancouver-based protest group.
At their Aug. 5 meeting, Yacolt Town Council heard displeasure from citizens over the recent appointment of Danny Moseley to a vacant seat. He is the husband of Malita Moseley, a sitting councilor.
The chief complaint raised during the meeting was that Malita Moseley voted to appoint her husband during the council’s July 15 meeting. Danny Moseley was one of three candidates considered, alongside Joseph Ensley and Michelle Dawson. Both Danny Moseley and Michelle Dawson received two votes, with Yacolt Mayor Vince Myers breaking the tie by voting for the former, according to meeting minutes.
It was Jeremy Dawson, Michelle Dawson’s husband, who addressed the council formally to express his concerns over Malita Moseley’s vote. He pointed to language in state law that prohibits municipal officers from securing “special privileges” for individuals, including one’s spouse.
Prior to citing state law, Jeremy Dawson asked the council whether or not they considered a seat on the governing body as a special privilege — Malita Moseley said she did consider it a privilege.
“What went on last city council (meeting) was not only morally wrong, but ethically wrong,” he said.
Jeremy Dawson went on to say that Danny Moseley’s appointment should be vacated pending a new vote by the council on candidates and that Malita Moseley should resign.
Malita Moseley defended her vote, saying it was the result of her choosing the individual she felt would “do the best job” in the position, not out of preference to her husband.
“I shouldn’t have to sit out the vote,” she remarked.
Danny Moseley asked if Jeremy Dawson’s characterization was that his wife was “incapable of having an independent thought” because of their marriage, which Jeremy Dawson denied.
Jeremy Dawson finished by saying that because of the compensation councilors received it violated state law which prohibits public office from being used for “personal gain and private advantage.”
According to Town of Yacolt code, council members receive $35 per meeting, capped at $2,100 for a year.
During his public comment, Jeremy Dawson held up a complaint form that he planned to submit to the Washington State Executive Ethics Board.
“Anybody I’ve talked to … you give them this scenario, it does not look good for the citizenry,” he said.
Yacolt Mayor Vince Myers said state law didn’t prohibit a sitting councilor to vote for his or her spouse and it did not qualify as a conflict of interest based on an opinion from the town’s attorney. Myers said the Municipal Research and Services Center also concluded there was no conflict.
Among those in attendance was Patriot Prayer Founder Joey Gibson. He said a recusal should be used if there is a “perception” of bias, regardless of any actual conflict.
“It just looks bad,” Gibson remarked.
Myers directed discussion about the matter to be put on the agenda for the council’s next meeting.
Danny Moseley’s seat is up for election this year. Because nobody had formally thrown their hat in the ring during the May filing week, a special filing period ran from Aug. 7 to 9. According to Clark County Elections, only Michelle Dawson is running for the position.