Councilmen Harris and Khan allegedly politicized Mukilteo council vacancy appointment
MUKILTEO, Wash., January 31, 2022 – During the January 18th City Council candidate interviews, it was revealed by one of the candidates, Ashvin Sanghvi, that allegedly Councilmen Riaz Khan and Louis Harris asserted party affiliation as a criterion for their support to fill the vacancy on the Mukilteo city council in a private meeting with him during the application process.
The Lynnwood Times immediately requested from the City of Mukilteo emails regarding the city council vacancy to/from all city councilmembers and candidates, sent emails to all city councilmembers inquiring on the potential process violation, and interviewed as many city council applicants as possible to investigate the matter.
As of the time of this article, the City of Mukilteo has delayed the request to release emails to and from city councilmembers regarding the city council vacancy appointment. The city originally stated it will fulfill the request on January 28, now the extended fulfillment date for the public records request is February 4 citing, “technical difficulties.” Also, the video of the January 18th City Council meeting, is no longer on the city of Mukilteo’s website yet other commission meetings are posted.
Councilman Emery shared that although two applicants approached him, he was only able to meet with one candidate – Jason Moon. He stated that the conversation covered Moon’s background, interest and reasons for wanting to be a councilmember, how much time it takes, what the council does and does not do, and how to be an effective councilmember.
He assured the Lynnwood Times that it was clear to Moon not to suggest nor imply any support because he had not met with everyone and had to be neutral. Emery also assured the Lynnwood Times that he did not discuss Moon’s party affiliation.
“I did not ask about, nor was there any mention of, political orientation, belief, or party membership,” Emery wrote to the Lynnwood Times.
Tom Jordal shared with the Lynnwood Times that he spoke briefly with applicant Alex Crocco on the phone and that the conversation centered on the timeline of the process. He also assured the Lynnwood Times that at no time was party affiliation discussed. This content of the discussion was confirmed by Crocco during his interview with the Lynnwood Times.
No other Mukilteo City Council members responded to the Lynnwood Times after multiple requests to discuss the matter.
The Lynnwood Times was able to reach out to all city council applicants except for Jason Moon as no contact information for Moon was available nor provided. The Times was able to correspond with the following applicants: Carolyn “Dode” Carlson, Donald Saul, Ashvin Sanghvi, Alex Crocco, Ted Wheeler, and Peter Zieve. Kevin Stoltz never returned any calls nor emails from the Lynnwood Times.
Carlson, Saul, Wheeler, and Zieve all confirmed they did not meet with any city councilmember outside of the application process to discuss the city council vacancy. Crocco confirmed meeting with Jordal and that their discussion was trivial and brief.
Former Councilman Ted Wheeler shared with The Times that city councilmembers should not be inserting party affiliation nor meeting with candidates outside of the agreed process.
“[This] is not the right thing to do,” Wheeler told the Lynnwood Times. “They are the ones making the choice.”
Sanghvi revealed details of the meeting he had with both Councilmen Khan and Harris at Starbucks last December. He shared that initially both councilmen were supportive. According to Sanghvi, the conversation was going well until Khan asked about his party affiliation and Harris reiterated the question. Sanghvi inquired to the councilmembers “Isn’t this a non-partisan position, how does it matter?”
According to Sanghvi, both councilmen responded stating, “We are both “Ds” and if you want to get anywhere it really matters.” One can only assume that “D” is referring to the Democratic Party.
Both Councilmen Khan and Harris again allegedly asked Sanghvi to declare his party affiliation to them.
“I don’t think it matters for this job here,” Sanghvi told both Khan and Harris.
Then according to Sanghvi, the tone of the conversation changed as to why he may not be “ready” for the job. Both councilmen allegedly told Sanghvi that there are many other applicants with references from “higher-ups in the [Democratic] Party”, others have been on committees unlike Sanghvi, and that they also implied that he hasn’t “paid his dues” for the job.
Emery told The Times that he can understand concerns of transparency by the public in the vacancy fulfillment process.
“I do believe that it is the responsibility of any councilmember who have such conversations to be clear with the applicant(s) that it is inappropriate to indicate either support of or opposition to the candidate,” Emery wrote to the Lynnwood Times.