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Ex-councilman Zach Wilde may not face penalty

City leaders were blindsided by resignation; may ask for around $3,500 in pay returned

SNOHOMISH — Former City Councilman Zach Wilde, who resigned Dec. 13 after public scrutiny asking if he moved out of city limits in the spring, may not face legal penalties.
The ex-councilman, though, could be pressured to give back a few thousand dollars in council pay if his former peers direct city staff to pursue a refund.
Council members appear interested in getting the money back into city coffers.
This week after press time the council began the process to fill Wilde’s vacated seat.
Elected officials generally are supposed to resign if they move out of the area they were elected to serve.
However, a spokesman for the Washington Secretary of State’s office said its office is “not aware of any crimes and penalties related to serving in office after the office holder has moved out of the jurisdiction that he or she represents.”
Wilde closed on a house in Lake Stevens in April.
While his homeowner’s association wouldn’t disclose whether he rents or lives at the Lake Stevens house, it seems clear he doesn’t live in the Snohomish house anymore. Instead, he’s been renting it out.
Wilde’s voter registration address as of mid-December was still for that Snohomish address, from checking the state voter rolls. 
Wilde did not return a call last week by deadline to discuss this story.
His presence on council has no effect on the council’s decisions during 2016 if his votes are disqualified.
The council didn’t have any split 3-4 or 4-3 votes during 2016 that Wilde participated in, city manager Larry Bauman said. City staff pored over past votes to make sure.
There’s also no risk that a meeting was held without a quorum as there’s always been enough council members at each meeting to have a quorum whether or not Wilde attended, Bauman said.
Wilde’s council stipend was $513 a month, and during the seven months it is believed
Wilde lived outside city limits while on council, the city of Snohomish paid him up to or over $3,500 for his service.
The council has the authority to direct city staff to get
that money back, and this directive might come up during this week’s council meeting after press time.
“I feel strongly that Zach should reimburse the city for any stipend he collected after he moved outside city limits,” Councilman Michael Rohrscheib told the Tribune.
Mayor Karen Guzak said, “Personally, I think it appropriate to ask Zach to return his pay, but will defer to Council and Council’s process.”
City leaders were blindsided by the resignation.
Wilde never gave any warning or asked City Hall about his residency being an issue.
As of late last week, Wilde has not approached City Hall about the residency issue, Bauman said.
Wilde’s Snohomish house is in the Clarks Pond subdivision developed about six years ago. He put a mortgage on it at age 23 after coming back from college. 
His Lake Stevens address is in a recently developed subdivision called West View Ridge with $300,000 homes.
Incidentally, a state law on vacancies says a person can hold a council position if their voter registration is inside city limits. Snohomish’s city code largely defers to the state rulebook.
Wilde’s campaign treasurer also appears to be his
business associate. In 2014 they jointly formed a now-defunct house remodeling company called Flip Teasers.
State business records show his associate incorporated a separate business, a transportation company, in May 2016 that uses Wilde’s Lake Stevens address as the company’s registered address.
The transportation comp-any is governed by the associate’s older brother, its business record shows.
During the Dec. 13 special council meeting after being confronted by public comment, Wilde passed a note between himself and
the councilmember seated next to him before pausing and then walking out the back entryway of council chambers.
The series of events un-furled after CPR-Snohomish members John Kartak and Bill Betten went to Wilde’s listed address in Snohomish
on Dec. 9 to serve him court papers for an unrelated injunction asking a judge to pause the council’s timing for the city’s special elections for strong mayor. Every council member was being served. Wilde was not at his address. Betten said a woman answered the door and told them that Wilde did not live at the house and that she was renting it from him.
Residents dug into records and the Tribune heard about it just before council. 
Shortly before council convened, Wilde responded to a Tribune reporter’s text message that “I did purchase a home in Lake Stevens, that is correct. I do not live in Lake Stevens. I still own (a) house in Snohomish.”
After he resigned, Wilde did not respond to a Tribune request for clarification on why he resigned. A day later he issued a written statement to the Tribune that he plans to pursue other endeavors.

 

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