The Standard of No Standards

Three ways the Lacey City Council ignored its own core values by failing to censure two of its members


Some members of the Lacey City Council serve under The Standard of No Standards.

The owner of the Great NW Coffee Co. provided video evidence that Councilmember Ed Kunkel, accompanied by Councilmember Lenny Greenstein, illegally removed a campaign sign belonging to Thurston County Commission candidate Emily Clouse.

1)  The misdemeanor

For those councilmembers not familiar with the RCW 29A.84.040, it reads as follows: A person who removes or defaces lawfully placed political advertising including yard signs or billboards without authorization is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable to the same extent as a misdemeanor that is punishable under RCW 9A.20.021. The defacement or removal of each item constitutes a separate violation.

Is not the language clear in its intent? When the subject of Kunkel and Greenstein’s actions became the center of discussion at the end of the July 27 work session when Councilmember Robin Vazquez made a motion to censure Kunkel and Greenstein, other councilmembers rallied around The Standard of No Standards.

2)  Looking the other way

With the flagpole firmly in hand, Mayor Andy Ryder said, “I do not feel comfortable with this council making a comment, one way or the other, which has to do with elections,” he said.

He seems to have forgotten that on page 7 of the Lacey City Council’s Policies and Procedures Manual, four of the city’s core values are integrity, leadership, professionalism and accountability. How are Kunkel and Greenstein’s actions in this matter anywhere near in line with these values?

What’s more, Ryder should know that RCW 29A.84.040 has everything to do with the reelections of Kunkel and Greenstein; they are supposed to obey it.

In support of the mayor’s stand on The Standard of No Standards, Deputy Mayor Malcolm Miller added, “I’m willing to leave it to the [public] to decide who’s going to represent them in the next four years.”

In line with his interpretation of The Standard of No Standards, Miller opted to do nothing about actions that clearly violated RCW 29A.84.040 and, as Councilmember Carolyn Cox pointed out to the council, “reflects badly on the city.”

3) The vote

But The Standard of No Standards was raised even higher when it was asked if Kunkel and Greenstein would be allowed to vote on whether or not they should be censured.

After some more waving of The Standard of No Standards by Ryder, the city attorney said that Kunkel and Greenstein were allowed to vote on whether or not they would be censured.

Does it not seem odd – to say nothing of illogical - that the two councilmembers who violated RCW 29A.84.040 and who have ignored at least four of the city’s core values get to vote on whether or not they are censured?

In her closing remarks in support of her motion, Vasquez said, “Accountability is important. When there is a nexus to public trust, the reputation of our city in the eyes of the public, it would be inappropriate in my opinion for us to say nothing because to be silent about an issue like this that is so visible is like passively suggesting that we’re okay with it, that it’s fine.”

Not surprisingly, the vote was 4 to 2 with Councilmembers Ryder, Miller, Kunkel and Greenstein voting against the motion to censure; Councilmembers Cox and Vazquez voting in favor; and Councilmember Michael Steadman abstaining because he is a candidate in this week's Primary Election for the same county commissioner seat for which Clouse is running.

The Standard of No Standards flies high at Lacey City Hall. 

          ~ John Simpson, Lacey

Editor's Note: Simpson served on the Lakewood City Council.

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