Accusations question mayor’s, councilman’s filings on properties
SNOHOMISH — The Tribune answers residents’ questions about Mayor John Kartak and City Councilman Larry Countryman’s 2021 campaign filings relating to property ownership.
Residents contacted the Tribune to look into allegations of zoning violations, false addresses and inaccurate state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) filings against the two city officials.
What is the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) ?
Since 1973, the PDC has helped ensure the ethicality of Washington State elections by monitoring the money coming in and out of a campaign or ballot measure and who is spending it. It is a quasi-judicial body that can issue fines up to $10,000 per violation.
The PDC monitors for campaign finance disclosures, contribution limits, lobbying disclosure, political advertising and personal financial affairs. All Washington State politicians file material with the PDC to run for office. The public can view documents at www.pdc.wa.gov
Property values, PDC filings and 618 Maple Ave.
Kartak and Countryman listed 618 Maple Ave. as a mutual property in their PDC filings to report their finances but show contrasting values. In his latest filing, Kartak no longer lists 618 Maple Ave. He says he no longer owns it, which Countryman publicly corroborated.
In a 2020 filing discussing 2019 finances, Kartak reports his property value in the property is between $100,000 and $199,999, whereas Countryman reports his property value as between $500,000 and $749.999.
In a June 2021 PDC filing discussing finances from January 2020 to May 2021, Kartak amended this filing on Aug. 4 to no longer list 618 Maple Ave. as real estate he owns.
This value difference would be a red flag if the land had been evenly split between the two; however, the assessor’s office shows 618 Maple Ave. is owned by R&S Snohomish, LLC (R&S), with Countryman listed as being responsible for the taxes.
Department of Revenue records shows Kartak and Countryman are two-third owners of R&S, with a third partner making the remaining third. An unequal share could explain the difference in PDC filings.
Department of Revenue records shows this LLC’s address was 618 Maple Ave. Its license expired on January 1, 2016, and the LLC was marked inactive on July 1, 2016. No dissolution filings were found.
In explaining the properties during the Aug. 17 City Council meeting, Countryman said he purchased 614 and 618 Maple Ave. as investment properties. He partnered with Kartak and one of Kartak’s family relatives to put money in to acquire 618 Maple Ave.
Countryman said publicly that Kartak has since been paid off.
On Aug. 4, Kartak replied by email to the Tribune that he does not have an ownership stake in 618 Maple Ave.
“The only property I currently have ownership in is at my personal home,” he wrote.
Kartak did not answer follow-up questions for this story before a Tribune deadline.
614 Maple Ave. zoning and permits
Directly next door to 618 Maple is 614 units A, B and C. Some citizens claim 614 A, B and C Maple Ave. are not legitimate and were built without proper permits. Furthermore, they claim that Countryman doesn’t live in Apartment C as he claims.
Countryman’s address is 614 C Maple Ave. He said so at the Aug. 17 City Council meeting, and this matches his state voter records, the White Pages and address lookup websites.
City records show a construction permit was issued in 2015 for two apartments (A and B). Apartment C is where Countryman said he resides with a family member.
According to city planning director Glen Pickus, nothing indicates a third apartment was built. “I couldn’t find anything in our files indicating there’s a third unit,” Pickus said in early August. “The third unit may have been already existing, which would explain why there is no permit.”
No certificates of occupancy were issued to the address. The need for a certificate depends on the scope of the construction.
Countryman said at the council meeting that the post office designated this as Apartment C, “so I left it.”
Countryman would not respond to phone calls or emails for this story before a Tribune deadline.
When asked about certificates of occupancy, Pickus stated, “There do not appear to be any certificates of occupancy issued for 614 Maple Ave. for any dwelling units.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Countryman needs the certification. Pickus stated that the scope of the construction dictates if one is required. He said that newly created units require a certificate of occupancy but aren’t necessarily required for remodels or small-scale construction.
The Snohomish County Assessor’s office shows the property is zoned as a warehouse.
In the Aug. 25 story “Accusations question mayor’s, councilman’s filings on properties,” due to an editor’s change to the story, the properties were incorrectly stated as being within the Pilchuck District. These are on the outer edge of the Pilchuck District’s boundaries. The Tribune regrets the error.
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