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Council appoints new Police Chief, allegations of discrimination of PFD Board

LYNNWOOD, Wash., July 25, 2023—The Lynnwood City Council confirmed Deputy Chief Cole Langdon as the next Police Chief for the Lynnwood Police Department during their business meeting on July 24

“I live here. I’m raising my family here. I shop here. I’ve been here my whole life — my whole adult life. And so, I’m looking forward to getting out there and the work is out there in the community — building those relationships,” Langdon said after his confirmation as Lynnwood Police Department’s new Chief. “Even if this is a matter of process or not, I want to earn your trust. I want to earn that confidence, I tell you, we’re going to be doing some awesome work together. That’s all of you along with some great men and women over at the police department that are there 24/7, 365 a day. We’ve got so much good work coming our way. I can’t wait to share our department with the community and share the community with our department.” 

lynnwood police chief
Deputy Chief Cole Langdon, confirmed by the council as the next Police Chief for the Lynnwood Police Department, thanking the council for their confidence in him. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore

“I remember when I first knew what a councilperson had to do, Cole was there for me,” Councilwoman Shirley Sutton said holding back tears. “He took me by my hand, he helped me, he allowed me to do ride-ons with him. He definitely was the best teacher I ever had in terms of…in terms of really welcoming a person and making them feel really comfortable at home and I really thank you for that.”

The vote to confirm Langdon succeeded with six in favor and Councilmember Josh Binda abstaining.

Binda was confident in Langdon’s qualifications to be police chief, but cited concerns from himself and community members about the process — believing external candidates should have been considered.

“With the community members that have come up to me about the situation… and I have even publicly stated that the process should have been external,” Binda said. “My vote will be purely based off of what I thought the process should’ve [been] and not the individual.”

During public comments prior to the vote, several community members spoke against the internal selection of the next police chief.

For Langdon’s confirmation to happen, the council passed a resolution to waive the requirement for three candidates in a 5-2 vote, with Councilmen George Hurst and Josh Binda dissenting. They are afforded this option in the same municipal code that requires three candidates, LMC 2.06.030, which the council discussed during their work session last Wednesday

Councilmember George Hurst moved to table the resolution, but was unable to do so in a 3-4 vote. 

“The candidates that were brought forward were excellent candidates — I have no problem with them — I have a problem with procedure,” Hurst said. “Procedures were not followed… Doing this after-the-fact, we’re just trying to justify that, ‘oh, yeah, we better follow the rules and regulations.’”

Langdon will replace Chief Jim Nelson when he retires on July 31.

lynnwood police chief
Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell congratulating Deputy Chief Cole Langdon as the next Police Chief for the Lynnwood Police Department on July 24, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore

“Chief Nelson has done a remarkable job of leading the department through these incredible changes, while nurturing and mentoring new leaders and setting the department on a solid path forward,” Mayor Christine Frizzell said. “It was clear to me that an internal candidate was best suited to continue the current positive direction of the department and to nurture and grow the foundation of community-based policing.”

After his confirmation vote, Langdon gave a briefing on the fix to the Blake decision, which was brought up during the July 7 business meeting

Once Second Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5536 goes into full effect, the drug ordinance passed earlier this year will be largely redundant. As a result, the council passed an ordinance — in a 6-0 vote with Binda abstaining a second time for the evening —  to repeal the changes made earlier this year and amend the Lynnwood Municipal Code (LMC) to incorporate the new state law. This ordinance also allows the city clerk to make clerical changes to the LMC as the state law is set to deploy in stages.

The police chief candidate process wasn’t the only topic brought to the council by members of the public. 

Some who spoke voiced their opinions on the initial findings of the ongoing investigation by the Snohomish County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) into alleged discrimination toward Binda. 

Both Binda and Council President Shannon Sessions commented on this during the council comments portion of the meeting.

Sessions read a prepared statement and said, in part: 

As the city council president, it is my responsibility to make sure that the council adheres to city and state regulations set in place for its public leaders. This position is also required to set the council’s agenda and keep council informed on issues that may have a positive or negative impact on the city. 

When anyone steps outside of those regulations, it is the duty of the council to address those issues and to take appropriate action when warranted. The actions taken regarding Councilmember Binda have been in adherence with that due diligence. I stand by all of my emails and communications regarding Councilmember Binda. They are all appropriate and in compliance with council policies and procedures. Every member of the Lynnwood City Council works diligently to represent the citizens of Lynnwood and Josh Binda is no exception. 

The rules and regulations on the books have been updated by a majority of the city council and compliance with those rules and regulations allows the council to consistently focus on issues facing the citizens of Lynnwood without distraction. The last few days, weeks, and months, unfortunately there’s been a flurry of media attention surrounding this council member — Councilmember Binda — regarding the activities and outcomes of ongoing internal and outside investigations involving a state agency.

Now, I am grateful to everyone who has reached out and offered words of support and encouragement following a press conference when a small group of people publically made completely false, ugly, and slanderous statements about me. As the current city council president, I am an easy target. 

With that said, public discord is a predicted part of democracy and the political process. The open and ongoing discussion by a variety of voices ensures a healthy civic environment and we need to continue that.

Josh Binda and I are not enemies and I know he knows that too. He and I have had plenty of private conversations before he was elected and during the past year or so and I know he knows my heart. 

It is important for everyone that Councilmember Binda succeeds. He is capable and has successful, wise, and compassionate people who are willing to mentor him and help him achieve an effective and ethical career.  

Binda did not have a prepared statement, but made some comments about the press conference and Session’s response.

“Shannon, you said that I ‘know your heart’ and such and such, but to be honest… I don’t think you’re a bad person, I don’t think you’re a horrible person… but if you don’t see a problem with the emails and the things you have stated, then I don’t know what to say. I truly don’t,” Binda said. “I want to let the community know that I really did not want to go this route.”

Binda then brought up the council’s initial refusal to reimburse expenses for an National League of Cities (NLC) Conference in Washington, D.C. that he attended in March and continued, saying: 

One of the big things with the entire NLC trip — that we, as council members, are in our budget to go to do — before that even blew out to proportion, I sat down with our city administration and said, “Look, I do not want — this is wrong. Can we fix this? I do not want to go this route. It is within my right to do this.”

I publicly stated I did not want to go this route. When I was on Zoom here and I said, “This is discriminatory. The city is watching. Can we not do this performative route that we’re doing?” I said that — publicly. And there was a 5-2 vote in the opinion of the council to turn down my reimbursement. We all witnessed it.

So, you know, I truly did not want to go this route — the community. And you know, Shannon, I 100% thought you had a good heart until you sent me a text of one of the articles publicly shaming me and I sent you a bible verse back. I don’t know if you remember that. 

So, no, I did not want to go down this route, but here we are. So, let’s just do better.

Alleged Discrimination of Public Facilities District Board

The other major topic brought up by residents during public comments was the swift vote of no confidence against Vivian Dong by the board members of the Public Facilities District (PFD) in an attempt to remove her from the board. The PFD Board has yet to confirm it has the statutory authority to remove Dong.  Several speakers felt that Dong was censored during and after the vote, with some alleging racial and anti-asian motivations for her removal.

Dong was appointed back in April and was the first Chinese American to serve on the board. 

The PFD board, in a letter read publicly during its July 11 meeting, cited Dong’s alleged involvement with a rally in support of Olympus Spa as the reason for the vote of no confidence. During this meeting, Dong — who was attending via Zoom — was muted prior to and during the motion and vote to remove her, with Board Chair Mike Miller stating the reason for this was Dong’s “rambling.” 

Dong spoke during public comments at Monday’s council meeting, stating that she was not only blindsided by the vote, but that she had confirmed with the PFD attorney that she could attend the rally.

vivian dong
PFD Board member Vivian Dong addressing the Lynnwood Council on the alleged discrimination she is experiencing from the Lynnwood Public Facilities District. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

“I got confirmation from the PFD attorney that I could attend the rally and there was no mentioning of any wrongdoing whatsoever,” Dong said. “Apparently, they set me up and used the fact that I attended the rally to attack me in the board meeting. This is a clear violation of my First Amendment rights, this a clear violation of the Open Public Meetings Act, and it is an attack on my character and, potentially, Asian representation.”

Councilmember Patrick Decker stated during council comments that he asked for a report or  investigation into the removal of Dong. Hurst agreed that the council needed more information on the matter. He and Decker expressed their respect for the members of the board, with Hurst also pointing to the diversity of the current sitting members. 

Other Business Items

lynnwood police chief
Members of the Work Opportunities receiving a proclamation from the City of Lynnwood on July 24, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore

The council also made a proclamation to designate July 26 as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Awareness Day to “celebrate the rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.”

lynnwood ada proclamation

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