Council appoints Dong to board, Binda defends travel expenses
LYNNWOOD, Wash., April 26, 2023—The Lynnwood Public Facilities District Board will be welcoming a new appointee, vehicles that block USPS mailboxes will be ticketed, and council recommends action in Binda travel reimbursement fiasco at its Business Meeting on Monday, April 24, 2023.
Vivian Dong appointed to Board of Lynnwood Public Facilities District
The Lynnwood City Council voted 4-3 to approve Senior Software Engineer Vivian Dong to the Board of Directors of the Lynnwood Public Facilities District. She is the first Chinese American to sit on the Board filling the vacancy left by Shawn Walker.
“I am truly honored and humbled to have been appointed to the Public Facilities District (PFD) board, and I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Lynnwood City Council for their support and confidence in my abilities to serve our community,” Dong told the Lynnwood Times. “This appointment represents a significant milestone not only for me but also for the growing Asian community in Lynnwood. As the first Asian board member, I am committed to being a strong advocate for our diverse voices and ensuring that the PFD meets the needs of all residents.”
The Lynnwood Public Facilities District changed its name to The District in February to signifying the beginning of its new forward momentum of growth and development. The District, aims to redevelop Lynnwood’s downtown core as a live, work, play, and entertainment destination for the region with a $200 million Master Plan. The plan is to include a parking garage, 300 units of residential housing, a hotel, an Event Plaza, a convention center, and an event center, as well as multiple spaces for retail space from 194th Street Southwest to 196th Street Southwest along 36th Avenue West.
As a board member, Dong aims to work diligently to promote engagement among residents and to improve the accessibility and inclusiveness of The District.
“I am eager to collaborate with my fellow board members, the Lynnwood City Council, and the broader community to build stronger relationships, create new opportunities, and ensure that The District continues to excel in its important mission,” Dong said.
She is confident that her unique skill set and experiences in technology, financial management, and community outreach will bring valuable insights and perspectives to the board, helping to create a vibrant, welcoming, and thriving “live, work, play” space for all residents.
A total of seven candidates applied to fill the vacancy by the February 15 deadline. After a series of interviews with The District’s Executive Director Janet Pope, its Board Chair, Mike Miller, and two staff employees; and the Lynnwood City Council, four finalist were selected. Dong was approved by the Council on Monday with Councilmembers Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, Shirley Sutton, Patrick Decker and Jim Smith voting in the affirmative; and Councilmembers Shannon Sessions, George Hurst, and Joshua Binda voting for Annie Armstrong.
The Board of Directors is a volunteer position with a term limit of four years, which can be renewed at the end of the term.
Ordinance to impose $30 fine for blocking USPS mailboxes passes
Current city and state law does not prohibit parking in front of United States Postal Service (USPS) mailboxes. Blocking access to a mailbox compromises USPS’s ability to deliver mail safely and efficiently. When a mailbox is blocked by parked vehicles, the local USPS Postmaster authorizes delivery personnel to defer delivery to that mailbox to the next day.
The new ordinance creates a new city code prohibiting parking in front of mailboxes during days when USPS mail is delivered. The new code will allow the Lynnwood Police Department to issue a traffic infraction for vehicles parked illegally next to mailboxes under the existing LMC 11.44.140, with the penalty of $30.
New Lynnwood Municipal Code Section 11.44.101, adopted states:
“It is unlawful to park a motor vehicle on a roadway in front of or on a roadway within ten (10) feet of either side of a public or private mailbox or grouping of mailboxes located curbside or roadside within or outside of a public right-of-way between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on days the United States Postal Service is scheduled to deliver mail.”
The ordinance was adopted unanimously, 7-0.
Council request travel reimbursement be denied for Councilman Josh Binda
In what Councilman Binda called a “performative” action, the Council voted 5-2 requesting the City’s Finance Director, Michelle Myer, not to approve a travel reimbursement request of $1,190.80 for his impromptu trip to attend the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C.
“Just to be clear, I am not directing the city finance director to do anything,” Council President Sessions said after the vote. “We have an excellent city finance director and I know she knows her job and she does a very good job doing her due diligence in making sure the City is spending its money wisely. So, in my motion, that is why I used the word request.”
The hour-long discussion between all councilmembers that involved the City’s attorney, Lisa Marshall, it was shared with the public that under section 2 (A) in “Resolution 2023-01: City Travel Policy” which was adopted on February 13, 2023, “All travel, education, or training expenditures by City Councilmembers and the Mayor, shall be at their individual discretion, provided, however, that each councilmember shall not exceed the amount allocated in the biennial budget for councilmember travel, education and training.”
According to the latest biennial budget, $2,500 is allocated to each city council member to use as they see fit within the parameters of section 4 of the same policy.
“In order to qualify for reimbursement, each expense must be reasonable and prudent under the circumstances and directly related to the conduct of city business, or a service or substantial benefit provided for the City,” an excerpt from the section reads.
In addition to providing compliance guidance for approved travel expenses, the section specifies the Finance Director as the sole authority “to ensure that these policies are uniformly applied, and to provide the forms, instructions, and training, necessary for implementation.”
Councilman Binda stated that he felt “bullied” and “intimidated” by Council President Sessions to not go on the trip. According to Binda, prior to going on the trip he was told to seek legal advice on the rules for approved travel to the NLC conference for which President Sessions informed him he may contact the City’s attorney for clarification.
During the April 10 City Council meeting, City Attorney Marshall shared that Councilman Binda never contacted her regarding any travel to Washington D.C. for the NLC conference. Binda said that he “attended on his own merit” because, as the conference was a week away, he felt there wasn’t enough time for the attorney to respond to his questions.
“The reason I did not have a conversation with the attorney, because I decided it was a week out from the conference and by the time I would have a conversation with Lisa [the City’s attorney], I would already miss the deadline to make it,” Councilman Binda said at the April 10 Work Session. “So, that is why I decided to attend on my own merit and now I am requesting reimbursement of that funding.”
During this Monday’s meeting, now two weeks later, Councilman Binda expressed that he wants to focus solely on the travel policy.
“I had reached out to our city assistant to register me for the conference as Council President Sessions said – about two or three weeks in advance – which as councilmembers we all have a budget within our [unaudible] to go to conference, to go to things like educational purposes, umm…we all have that within our biennial budgets to choose to go to,” Councilman Binda said. “So, I made that request to Lisa [Harrison, the city clerk] and ask if she can register me for the NLC conference and wanted to follow the proper process to make sure it was getting done right. Lisa told me, yeah; we will get you registered, and everything set and we can get things going.”
Councilman Binda shared that an hour after this conversation, Council President Sessions called to inform him that he could not go and would need approval from council leadership to attend the conference. He shared that the motivating factor in seeking reimbursement for his NLC trip was because Council Vice President Altamirano-Crosby attended the conference and to his knowledge, never received an approval from the council.
“It is to my own discretion of what council events I go to, what conference I go to, that is funded there is not such thing as getting approved…that is something that was made up by Council President and used as a tactic to bully and intimidate me,” said Binda.
Binda continued, “I went fully in a legal way to this NLC conference, handled completely legal duties as a councilmember that I did, and attended the things I felt necessary as a councilmember to represent the people and bring back.”
He alleges that he was a keynote speaker at the event in which Council President Sessions revealed that she confirmed with a senior specialist involved with the conference that Councilman Binda was not a keynote speaker.
“He briefly spoke with some youth delegates,” Council President Sessions revealed from an excerpt with her correspondence with the NLC confirming that Councilman Binda embellished the speaking role of his engagement to the public.
It was further revealed that Council Vice President Dr. Altamirano-Crosby was the official representative for the city of Lynnwood to attend the NLC conference and that she worked with both the mayor and federal partners for months in planning the legislative priorities for discussion and corresponding meeting logistics.
In addition to attending several speaking engagements and panel discussions, Dr. Altamirano-Crosby met with the City of Lynnwood’s lobbyist who submitted requests to Representative Rick Larsen, Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for $5 million for the Scriber Lake Phase 3 project and $2 million for the Maple Stormwater Demonstration Park.
Three weeks after Dr. Altamirano-Crosby met with federal partners in Washington, D.C. on her NLC trip, Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02) announced that Lynnwood’s Scriber Creek Trail Redevelopment Phase 3 submittal was one of only 15 projects he is earmarking in the Fiscal Year 2024 spending bill.
During her post-trip presentation, Council Vice President Dr. Altamirano-Crosby shared that she attended the “Celebrate Diversity Breakfast” that focused on honoring excellence in Municipal Multicultural Initiatives, and an ARPA implementation in your communities meeting bringing back resource materials for grant opportunities, workforce investment partnerships, and broadband funds.
Council Vice President Dr. Altamirano-Crosby also attended an event with the First Lady of the United States, Jill Biden, where the discussion focused on the importance of bipartisanship, education, and jobs.
Council President Sessions later revealed that Councilman Binda has a checkered pass of not participating in council member trainings nor the legislative priorities for Lynnwood. Councilman Binda’s city email was suspended for months earlier this year for not completing mandatory computer security training, his badge is currently suspended pending an ethics investigation regarding misuse of city facilities for personal/monetary gain, and is the only councilman to have skipped the required diversity training sessions for which the city paid thousands of dollars.
In January of this year, the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) found Councilman Binda guilty of two separate PDC violations and imposed a $1,000 fine. The violations include using $2,742 of campaign funds for personal use (RCW 42.17A.445 and WAC 390-16-238) related expenditures as well as submitting a Post-General election C4 report 280 days late (RCW 42.17.235 and .240).
Council President Sessions shared that because Councilman Binda is currently under investigation by the City for misusing city resource for personal/monetary gain, she had a fiduciary duty to the residents of Lynnwood to prevent any potential misuse of city funds.
“I was clear when I told him, and we have it in writing, that he would need to get authority from the whole city council because of his past misuses that have been on notice of city resources,” Council President Sessions said. “So, it is important that I gave him the opportunity to talk to the whole council and to discuss this with all of us, including the city attorney and he chose not to. It is also important to note that nobody knew he was actually there [the NLC conference] until we saw it on his social networking.”
Councilman Jim Smith revealed that it has been two weeks since Councilman Binda submitted his request for reimbursement via an email, yet he has not completed the required reimbursement forms nor submitted all the required paperwork.
“The first thing we need to do is to get copies of your debit card receipts…I am just trying to get all the ducks in a row here,” Councilman Smith said.
Councilman Smith suggested that Councilman Binda develop a presentation for the council to review like that of Council Vice President Altamirano-Crosby that lists training and speaking events he attended such as the Youth Education & Families Session.
“With all due respect Councilmember Smith, I just want to remind you, umm, we all have different opinions and different things of what it looks like to serve constituents,” Councilman Binda said. “I did attend certain classes and certain things that I felt was the best way for me to bring back my way of wanting to serve my constituents here in Lynnwood.”
Councilman Smith reminded all councilmembers that it is the fiduciary duty of both the Council President and Vice President to the residents of Lynnwood to ensure no abuse of city funds are taking place.
“There is an unfortunate history of abuse and I appreciate the council leadership is at least looking into this,” Smith said. “I want to see all of the paperwork, I want to see all the policies, etc. and so on.”
Smith continued, “I want to thank council leadership for bringing this up because we have had an abuse of the council chambers, we have had abuse of the emails by Councilmember Binda using his city email account… In fact, there was accidentally one time we exchanged our iPads and he [Binda] had all kinds of pictures, personal pictures on his iPad, which I think he doesn’t understand is inappropriate. There is no need to put down the council president for doing her job, let’s go ahead and investigate as a council.”
“You and I are in the same boat, Josh,” Vice President Dr. Altamirano-Crosby said. “So, if we are going to perform, we have to be very honest what we are doing. So, just for clarification, it is no Julieta versus Binda. You mentioned many times like that. I’m the only Latina here too. You mention all of the time outside that as a city council we try to harm you all of the time and I disagree with those comments.”
She continued, “You have to have an open mind to learn. Every single one of us have tried to help you in the past, in the present, many people [including state officials] and you don’t want our help. So, be honest one time in your life. Stand up and be honest with yourself.”
The council voted 5-2 requesting of the city finance director not to approve a travel reimbursement request of $1,190.80 for Councilman Binda’s impromptu Washington, D.C., trip with Councilmen Binda and Hurst dissenting.
Proclamation: National Day of Prayer presented by Council President Shannon Sessions
Proclamation: Cinco de Mayo presented by Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby
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Councilman Josh Binda has proven that he does not have the maturity or even common sense necessary to continue as a representative of Lynnwood government. I’m in favor of the current recall effort. The evidence is overwhelming. No council should have to put up with and spend valuable time discussing his antics. It’s obvious he cares more about himself and his own image than the work he was voted in and is paid to perform at city hall.