County chair says abrupt swearing in of District 5 councilor was ‘appalling’

Karen Bowerman also tells Clark County Today she believes the political maneuvering was done with the intent to raise taxes on area residents during this week’s 2023 budget process

“You’re done!” Those two words, spoken abruptly in a dismissive, curt tone by Chief Civil Deputy Leslie Lopez was how members of the Clark County Council learned Dick Rylander’s term as the District 5 representative had ended this past week rather than at the end of the calendar year as previously expected.

Karen Dill Bowerman
Karen Dill Bowerman

Clark County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman said the behavior of Lopez, who was representing the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, was “appalling.’’ She also told Clark County Today she can’t help but feel the series of events of Rylander’s end of service and the subsequent swearing-in of Councilor-elect Sue Marshall was designed with an intent to impact the council’s decisions on the proposed 2023 county budget scheduled to be addressed by the councilors this week.

“It was the most unprofessional exchange I’ve seen in all my years of public service,’’ Bowerman told Clark County Today Saturday.  

Greg Kimsey
Greg Kimsey

Bowerman was describing a surprising pair of events that apparently took place simultaneously on Wednesday. Members of the County Council were assembling for a scheduled executive session, which had yet to be called into order, which allows the actions to be shared publicly rather than being privileged. As Lopez burst into the council gathering and delivered her news, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey was apparently at another location swearing in Marshall to the District 5 seat. The dual actions came as a surprise to Bowerman and Rylander and even Lopez stated in an email to Bowerman that she had only shortly before been informed of the morning’s events.

“Without prior notification, you as Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney entered the room and announced to Councilor Rylander ‘You’re Done!’ (without) even having the sense of decorum to let the Council Chair be made aware of what the PA was doing,’’ Bowerman wrote in an email to Lopez about her actions. “No documentation was presented. The goal of the Prosecuting Attorney or County Auditor was apparently included (in) swearing in the councilor-elect for District 5 immediately. Accomplished, albeit secretly.’’

In her email to Lopez, Bowerman also wrote, “there was no time before ‘You’re done’ was rudely declared and the Councilor-Elect scheduled to be sworn in on January 3 at 9 am was already being sworn in in a different room or different place by the same individual (County Auditor Kimsey) at someone’s direction in Clark County,’’ Bowerman stated.

Sue Marshall
Sue Marshall

When reached by Clark County Today on Sunday, Kimsey said the decision to swear in Marshall that morning was made “when she asked me to do it.’’ Kimsey said he phoned Marshall that morning and informed her that the timing was her decision. Marshall told other media outlets that she, like Bowerman and Rylander, was surprised by Wednesday’s series of events.

“I called her and told her that she could take the oath of office she had been elected to anytime she wanted to take it,’’ Kimsey said. “She was qualified to fill the office the day the election was certified. I interpreted the law that when the election was certified, she was qualified to fill the office. I was very confident in my interpretation.’’

Kimsey said he was “a little surprised’’ that there was so much confusion as to why so many of those involved held the belief that Marshall would be sworn in along with fellow Councilor-Elects Glen Yung (District 1) and Michelle Belkot (District 2) on Jan. 3. Clearly, at best, there seems to have been a significant absence of communication. At worst, it would seem there was some political maneuvering at play.

“This entire scenario was appalling,’’ Bowerman wrote in her email to Lopez. “What written authority instructed the councilor-elect to be present with Auditor Kimsey for a swearing in before Councilor Rylander or the Chair was even made aware of a proposed immediate action? What was the written authority for immediate swearing in of the Councilor-Elect? Should one Councilor-Elect be given inequitable treatment over another by Auditor Kimsey? What was the written authority for an assumption of the Councilor-Elect taking office? If there are not in fact such requirements, then the action taken is moot. 

“Was there an intended ‘shock and awe’ effect by whoever arranged the secret decision and communication to negate the otherwise positive assimilation that this councilor-elect was set to accomplish in January with others?’’ Bowerman asked. “Was there a back door conversation carried out by others with Governor’s Office staff so as to throw confusion and disarray into Clark County Council’s scheduled meeting on 11/30/22? Or 1/3/23? Why? By whom? Does it have to do with manipulation of votes before final budget decisions?’’

In response to Bowerman’s email, Lopez replied in a Dec. 1 email by stating, “my sincere apologies on the manner in which information was provided at the beginning of executive session regarding Councilor Rylander. I do not recall stating ‘You’re Done!’ to Councilor Rylander. But if I did say that then I am truly sorry to Councilor Rylander, yourself and the rest of the Council. That certainly was not my intention to use those words. I admit it was an awkward situation and I feel badly about how it occurred.  Unfortunately, since Councilor Rylander’s appointment had expired, it was important to relay that information to him. Prior to yesterday, I was unaware that Councilor Rylander’s appointment ended once the election was certified on November 29, 2022.’’

Lopez wrote, “at some point during the November 30, 2022 Council Time, I received information from the Auditor’s Office stating as such. During the Council meeting, I reviewed a copy of Governor Inslee’s letter to Councilor Rylander (please see attached) which indicates: ‘This appointment expires upon the certification of the next general election.’ I then conducted research on the issue. Governor Inslee’s statement is non-negotiable since RCW 36.16.110(4) provides: ‘If a vacancy occurs in a nonpartisan county board of commissioners elective office or nonpartisan county council elective office after the general election in a year that the position appears on the ballot and before the start of the next term, the term of the successor may commence once he or she has qualified as defined in RCW 29A.04.133 and shall continue through the term for which he or she was elected.’ Pursuant to statute, Councilor-Elect Marshall is to complete the term of District 5 vacated by former Chair (Eileen) Quiring-O’Brien, and then continue through the term for which Councilor-Elect Marshall was elected.’’

Bowerman and others keyed in on the word “may’’ as the source of confusion as to the RCW’s instruction to the county in this situation. Obviously, if Kimsey and his office intended to interpret the RCW in the manner that was eventually done, it wasn’t communicated with Bowerman, Rylander and Lopez prior to Wednesday (Nov. 30). 

What is next?

It should be noted that a partial recount will take place Tuesday (Dec. 6) of the votes in 12 precincts within District 5. Marshall had an advantage of about 1,300 votes over Don Benton in the race for the position.

The Clark County Council will consider the $721.2 million 2023 budget during public hearings that begin at 2 p.m. today (Mon., Dec. 5). At this first hearing, the county’s other elected officials will be first to testify on budgets proposed by their departments. Council will continue the public hearing to 10 a.m. Tuesday (Dec. 6) in order to hear public testimony regarding the budget. If needed, the budget hearing will be continued to 10 a.m. Wednesday (Dec. 7).

As county chair, Bowerman told Clark County Today she isn’t optimistic about her ability to influence any changes to the maneuvering that took place last week. She doesn’t consider the current council, with Marshall in the District 5 seat, a legally-seated council. However, she concedes there’s no way Rylander can be returned for the rest of the current term. The other alternative would be to have Marshall’s tenure pushed to the Jan. 3 date when the other councilor elects will be sworn in.

“Given the many questions, the remedy and how to best proceed from here is of concern,’’ Bowerman wrote in her email to Lopez. “Given that action taken was in secret and outside of a duly-called meeting, I do not intend to Chair a Council meeting composed of a Council that is illegally formed. Agenda items on the December 2022 meeting dates should be moved to January 2023 under these extraordinary circumstances. On January 3, 2023 when the new councilors are sworn in as currently scheduled and the 2023 chair is elected, the meeting should proceed in an orderly manner as planned.’’

Taxes could be raised

If the council addresses the proposed 2023 budget as scheduled this week, part of that discussion will be the decision on whether or not to raise taxes on Clark County citizens. In recent years, councilors have elected not to implement the allowed 1 percent increase in property taxes. 

“One of the things coming up this week is whether or not to increase taxes,’’ Bowerman told Clark County Today. “So given there are some folks who are very adamant about increasing taxes, I think we can see why the push was possibly made as it was.’’

Bowerman, Rylander and Gary Medvigy formed a conservative majority on the council (as was also the case when Quiring O’Brien held the District 5 position). That majority would have likely continued the recent practice of not adopting the allowed 1 percent increase in property taxes. It should be noted, that Rylander had already stated publicly that he would not vote in favor of the tax increase.

Adding Marshall to current Councilors Temple Lentz and Julie Olson for the deliberations on the 2023 budget, Bowerman believes could lead to a majority of councilors who will favor the 1 percent tax increase. In addition, the council has the ability to reach into past banked tax increases to raise property taxes even more. When the new councilors are sworn in, it is perceived that Belkot will join Bowerman and Medvigy as a conservative majority on the council that would oppose tax increases.

“The decision will be to tax and spend or not,’’ Bowerman said. “My position is don’t tax and spend. Right now, our budget is stable and balanced as it is without that additional tax.’’

Bowerman made a point to state that she does not believe Marshall had any part in the political maneuvering that played out last week.

“I’m not holding this against Sue Marshall in any way,’’ Bowerman told Clark County Today. “I don’t know that she was part of the plot, so I’m not holding it against her.’’

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  1. Rob Anderson

    It was appalling but this isn’t surprising. I’m hoping that Bowerman & Medvigy will finally start confronting the corruption & Democrat shenanigans. The Democrats run the County with the lawyers & County Manager. It’s time to expose that & stop going-along-to-get-along.

    1. philip johnson

      Mr. Anderson, Mr. Rylander’s last day was in the letter sent by the Governor on the day Mr. Rylander accepted the job.Also one could see on the ballot where the winner was to serve the short and full term. Ms. Bowerman’s lack of comprehension of how the system works does not go back to thos D*** Democrats and shenanigans.

      1. John Ley

        Phillip Johnson — perhaps you can provide a copy of the Governor’s letter that shows the last day for Mr. Rylander.

        The RCW’s say “may” be sworn in, once the election is certified; not “will” or “shall”.

        The council had the swearing in on the calendar for all 3 new members in January.

        The Monday and Tuesday meetings were the last of the year.

        Sue Marshall has sat in on NONE of the extensive briefings the councilors had received to help prepare them for the final budget discussions.

        Sadly, she was uninformed about the myriad details.

  2. Steve

    Hard to take Bowerman seriously when she just did the exact same thing by taking the jail away from the Sheriff without notice or consultation.

  3. Carolyn Crain

    The mess created by Eileen continues to haunt our County Council. She is gone now… doesn’t even live here to have to deal with the chaos she created. I am truly disgusted and ready for a new council with hopes that it functions less politically and more towards the concerns and needs of the individuals and community at large.

    1. Mike

      What mess did Eileen create… she was the only one on the council that had common sense…What if the New Council doesn’t act less political???? The only one Joining the Council with knowledge and common sense is Michelle Belkot.. Can’t wait to see a RINO-FREE CCRPCC, we take back the CCRPCC board with real honest and good people representing and not playing GAMES are ya READY for that on Saturday.

  4. Tom Schenk

    Once again the Clark County Auditor, Greg Kimsey has shown his willingness to conduct business in a underhanded way by removing current 5th District Councilor, Dick Rylander and installing Sue Marshall, the purported winner in this election a month earlier than anyone had anticipated.

    I’m still waiting for an answer to a previous question to Auditor Kimsey about why he changed precinct lines to move Greg Cheney from the 20th precinct into the 18th…per a request from the prior Vice Chair of the Clark County Republican Committee (CCRC), Kathy MacDonald.

    Auditor Kimsey tried to deflect this question by answering…”he doesn’t change Legislative District (LD) lines the Legislature makes those changes”. Auditor Kimsey is right, however, that wasn’t the question…why, Auditor Kimsey did you change the PRECINCT lines to move Greg Cheney into the 18th LD from the 20th LD…a move the County Auditor does have the authority to accomplish…and in this case Auditor Kimsey did redraw the lines of the 18th and the 20th LDs to move Greg Cheney into the 18th LD from the 20th.

    Let’s hear your answer on that question Auditor KImsey…the email exchanges are available between you and Kathy MacDonald on this issue…so let’s not hear about LDs, let’s hear your reasoning behind shifting the PRECINCT boundaries of the 18th and 20th LDs…as I understand it, by one block to accomplish the goal.

    Now we have Auditor Kimsey being involved, again, in a controversial affair to fast track the installation of Sue Marshall in place of Dick Rylander. What’s the rush? Oh yes…the County Council is about to work on the budget and Councilors Julie Olsen and Temple Lentz now have a third vote in Sue Marshall…creating a majority of the five Councilor positions, in order to raise taxes on Clark County residents.

    These examples of Auditor Kimsey’s (and company’s) political shenanigans reflect the type of “politics’ citizens all across our Country reject…thus the populist movement to get back to honest governance at all levels…local, State and Federal.

    Transparency is used quite often these days…many of us believe the current situation with Auditor Kimsey and Sue Marshall is a perfect example of the lack of transparency, in this instance, in our local county government…so much for the Councilor and Auditor positions being non-partisan.

    1. Steve

      If you are going to be upset with Kimsey, you must also be angry with Bowerman for taking away the jail from an elected official with no transparency or oversight.
      Kimsey is following the law as it is written.

      I do agree that they should have given more notice to Mr. Rylander and the rest of the Council.

  5. Anna Miller

    Councilor Bowerman has smelled a rat. She says she doesn’t hold it against Democrat Sue Marshall for the plot. Well, I do. It seems pretty clear by now that Marshall was sworn in out behind the barn in order to have that “third” vote (with lame ducks Olsons and Lentz) to raise property taxes and possibly deeper dip into the taxpayer’s wallet by dipping into the “banked” funds. Ok, I know we are going to hear “Well Kimsey and Marshall followed the letter of the law”. Yeah well, maybe, maybe not. Typically, the swearing in is open to the public and folks can come in and watch and celebrate their election with them. Not this time. The rats went behind the barn and gave a quick “repeat after me”, wham bam thank you ma’ma! Meanwhile, back at the ranch house, ranch hand Rylander has been thrown into the dusty street without so much as a thanks for helping out! This stinks up the place.

    1. Steve

      Blame it on Sue Marshall but it’s ok for Bowerman to remove the jail from the Sheriff? Your outrage is not equal and smells of partisanship. Bowerman needs to learn how to read. The laws is clearly written.

      As chair, it’s her responsibility to be aware of the law.

  6. philip johnson

    Plot? Following the law is a plot? Come on Ms. Bowerman, you are giving the rest of that hold public office a bad name.

  7. David

    What’s appalling is having a county chair not read, know, or understand the law. We should elect more intelligent people, it’s kind of scary what other laws she doesn’t know. Recently, the previous chair Quiring refused to follow the law selecting candidates for the appointment as well.

  8. Melissa
    1. The term “may” allows for discretion. It’s not a mandate, as has been suggested.
    2. The Council and Chair Bowerman should have been informed prior to the swearing in, which should have been done publicly.
    3. This is not a good look for the Auditor’s office nor the Prosecuting Attorneys. It reeks of back-room politics.
    1. Anna Miller

      Exactly right Melissa. And for those who are commenting about the jail transfer process, I agree with you! The ball was fumbled on that also. That transfer decision should have not taken place until the new Sheriff was sworn in, in January. The “sleight of hand” way of doing things is never good.


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