MUKILTEO, Wash., March 7, 2022 — Following the allegation that Mukilteo City Council members Louis Harris and Riaz Khan asked Ashvin Sanghvi, a city council vacancy candidate, to declare his political affiliation during a private meeting, a resident requested the city look into the matter and that the councilmen give an on-the-record response if the allegations were substantiated.
During the Feb. 22 City Council meeting, the city concluded that additional action was not warranted because the Washington State laws (RCW 29A.52.231 and 29A.84.720) that the resident suggested might have been violated only applied to elections, not appointment processes.
Ashvin Sanghvi informed the Lynnwood Times that no one from the City of Mukilteo reached out to him for questioning during its reviewal process of this matter.
Councilmen Harris and Khan are confident they did nothing wrong
The Lynnwood Times reached out to Councilmen Harris and Khan for statements via email on January 18th and again on the 21st. Both declined to respond.
However, the councilmen did give statements to another local news outlet, and while they confirmed that such a meeting between them and Sanghvi took place, both maintain they did not ask about his political affiliation.
The councilmen claim that Sanghvi brought the topic up when speaking about endorsements from other politicians and that they explained to Sanghvi why such endorsements weren’t necessary for the vacancy fulfillment process.
Councilman Harris said, “I was confident the conversation between Councilmember Khan and myself and the applicant was within the ethical and professional boundaries of vetting candidates within the council process.”
Ashvin Sanghvi’s statement on the city’s findings and council members’ remarks
In response to this latest development, Ashvin Sanghvi provides the following statement:
“We should thank the Mukilteo city lawyer [for] identify[ing] a technical loophole that a law that is used to protect non-partisan positions from political wheeling-dealing during an election can be broken with impunity in an appointment process for the same position. [I] hope the council will act on closing it asap given the fervor with which council men (sic) Harris and Khan pontificated on their unwavering support for non-partisan behavior.
“The two esteemed councilmen know what was said and I stand by my statements made during my presentation and in the press. All I can say is during our meeting at Starbucks councilman Khan bragged about how Jay Inslee views Khan as the face of the party in Mukilteo and the lengths he had gone over the years to ingratiate himself to the party – including carrying the party leader’s briefcase.
“Also, during the official council meeting discussing what questions to ask potential candidates for the council position, councilman Harris wanted to ask the candidates ‘How do your political ideology impact your decision making.’ Just listen to the recording. That says it all.
“This is the reason why upstanding and capable citizens think ten times before coming forward for a public service position. I am disappointed that our nice town Mukilteo is becoming a microcosm of the polarized country we live in.”
Ashvin Sanghvi’s allegations during January 18th City Council Special Meeting
“When I was considering applying for this role, I met with a couple of Mukilteo council members,” said then vacancy candidate Sanghvi during the Jan. 18 City Council Special Meeting. “I was appalled at how strongly they wanted me to declare my party affiliation, which is confusing because this is a non-partisan position.”
“And as I held my ground,” he continued, “the tone of the conversation changed from kind of help and advice to letting me gently know that maybe I’m not political enough for the role.”
It was later revealed to the Lynnwood Times that the council members Sanghvi met with were Councilmen Harris and Khan and that the meeting took place at a Mukilteo Starbucks in December 2021.
Mukilteo resident calls for investigation
Then, at the beginning of the Feb. 7 City Council meeting, an email from Mukilteo resident Brooke Perisho was read into the city’s record by City Administrator Steve Powers.
In her email, which she also submitted to the Times as a Letter-to-the-Editor, Perisho voiced her concern about Sanghvi’s anecdote and asserted that Washington State laws might have been violated—specifically RCW 29A.52.231 and 29A.84.720, which set legal parameters for non-partisan positions and election processes.
“As I understand it, making a determination of a candidates’ eligibility based upon their political party affiliation for a non-partisan City Council position is illegal based on the RCW referenced above,” Perisho wrote.
“In a time where citizens of our country have a hard time trusting facts, politicians, and institutions, I am very concerned that two of our own Council Members have been accused of corruption. This is unacceptable in our city.”
Perisho concluded her email requesting to know what the city would do to address the issue and that she expected the council members involved to be held accountable if the allegations were substantiated.
Mukilteo City Administrator closes the case
The issue came to a conclusion during the Council’s meeting on Feb. 22, when Administrator Powers issued the following statement:
“The city received a public comment email that was read into the record at the February 7th City Council meeting. That comment alleged that two city council members violated election laws when they met with an applicant seeking to fill the vacant city council position, and during the meeting, the applicant’s political party affiliation was discussed. The city has reviewed the circumstances surrounding this topic and is satisfied that additional action by the city is not warranted.”
Powers later explained to a local newspaper how the city arrived at this conclusion.
“Our role was to look at the laws cited by the citizen that applied to elections,” he told the paper. “This is not an election. It’s an appointment process. The laws cited were specifically related to elections. The appointment process is a different section of the law. I think it’s important to note those are separate provisions.”
“We looked into the matter and reviewed it against the appropriate standards and determined no standards were violated,” Powers concluded.
The Lynnwood Times has reached out to Powers for further clarification regarding the city’s review process and consequential conclusion and will be providing an updated report in the coming weeks.