Sammamish City Council’s first attempt at appointing someone to fill an open seat ended in deadlock as council members evenly split on two candidates during their regular meeting on Feb. 15.
The vote was 3-3, with the anti-development trio of Karen Moran, Kent Treen and Mayor Christie Malchow voting for Kathy Richardson, a former planning commissioner who ran for city council in 2011.
Pam Stuart, who just stepped down from the council after her term expired, applied for the open seat and was supported by newcomers Kali Clark, Amy Lam and Karen Howe. The tie vote means no one was ultimately selected.
The seat became open after Ken Gamblin resigned from city council in January. The council initiated a call for applications, and had been evaluating multiple candidates.
According to Washington state law RCW 42.12.070, King County Council will take over the responsibility of filling the seat when the vacancy has lasted for 90 days, which occurs on April 17. That means the council still has another month-and-a-half to select someone to fill it.
The deadlocked vote caused a debate on how to proceed. Councilmembers Moran and Treen spoke fiercely against giving King County the power to select a council member.
“This is our job, this is our job until April,” said Moran. “We fight every day so that we can keep our jurisdiction and make our own decision. And we are already saying give it to the county? No.”
Councilmember Treen proposed the council open another round of applications and conduct another vote again in two weeks. This motion failed again by 3-3 vote.
Deputy Mayor Clark, Lam and Howe voted to investigate how to turn the task over to King County Council as soon as possible.
Mayor Malchow ended up voting for this motion, and it passed 4-2.
“Considering that we’re going to be high-centered unless someone is willing to pivot, I will be supporting this motion because I think we need to do something,” said Malchow. “If we don’t do something, we are doing nothing, and it’s going to the King County regardless, I do think it’s important to see a council member as soon as possible.”
Following the meeting, a kerfuffle ensued on Malchow’s Facebook page. Moran criticized Malchow for failing to do her job by voting with Clark, Lam and Howe.
“I was stunned and disgusted all at once. People are elected to do a job. Do your job,” Moran wrote in a Facebook comment.
Malchow responded by defending her approach to compromise.
“A 3-3 vote is a failed motion. I voted with Karen Moran and Kent Treen (both locked votes),” Malchow wrote. “It’s not ideal, but locked horns are locked horns. It would go to the County regardless on a 3-3 split.”
These votes ended up being fruitless. On Feb. 16, Tom Goff, the King County Director of Municipal Relations, sent an email encouraging Sammamish to “take up the appointment again and work together to find a mutually agreeable candidate,” indicating that the county will not take action until Sammamish’s 90-day window ends.
During a council retreat on Feb. 18, council members discussed the vacancy process again. They unanimously voted to recast the net for applicants, allowing everyone interested in the seat to submit materials again by noon on March 4.