UPDATE | Langley city officials question candidate’s eligibility
December 18, 2010 · Updated 11:34 AM
Langley officials are raising doubts about whether Kathleen Waters can be a candidate for a vacant city council seat.
According to records released by the city Thursday, Langley officials began reviewing Waters’ eligibility based on requests to the mayor’s office from unnamed council members and community members.
“I wasn’t surprised they did this, and it’s a great disappointment,” Waters said Friday. “This could be a messy situation. Why they want to get involved in another controversy is a mystery to me.”
In a staff report to the mayor and council, Kathleen Landel, special assistant to the mayor, said Waters provided two addresses to the city and had registered to vote in Langley on Sept. 22.
To be eligible to be appointed to the council, a candidate must be 18 or older, a registered voter, and a resident of the city for the past 12 months.
Waters said she had heard rumors that something like this could happen ever since she applied for the council position on Dec. 1.
“I followed all the procedures,” Waters said Friday. “I find it odd. It’s not like
I just moved to Langley. I’ve owned property here for 30 years, which I’ve used as a residence.”
Landel said Friday the city isn’t “challenging” Waters’ application for the council position, only trying to verify the information.
“We’re just trying to confirm that she has been a resident of the city of Langley,” she said.
Landel said she didn’t know who raised the issue of Waters’ qualifications, only that Mayor Paul Samuelson had said several people had brought it up.
Samuelson on Friday also declined to identify those who raised the issue, only to say the questions came “from several members of the community in passing.”
He said Landel began work on her staff report at the urging of Councilwoman Fran Abel, who wanted to check on the qualifications of all the applicants.
“We needed to research the picture,” Samuelson said.
“The staff report is very straightforward,” the mayor said. “The question in this case is the one-year requirement for residency. That’s what we’re trying to find out.”
“It’s up to the council to decide,” Samuelson added.
In the Dec. 16 staff report, Landel said the city contacted Municipal Research Services Center, and city officials were told that Water’s recent voter registration “could raise a cloud” if she were appointed.
Waters said Friday that the legal case referred to by MRSC “is entirely different from mine.”
Landel contacted Waters on Dec. 14 and raised questions about her residency. Landel asked if she had been a registered voter anywhere else since Dec. 20, 2009, and asked Waters if her driver’s license listed her Langley address.
Landel said Friday she had verified the application information of all the candidates for the council position, and that only Waters’ raised questions about residency.
Landel concluded her four-page Dec. 16 staff report by saying Waters “has declined to provide other facts, typically used, to support her declaration of her Langley address as her permanent address.”
In an e-mail response, Waters questioned the city’s scrutiny of her, and recalled the recent criticism of her by a council member.
Earlier this month, Langley Councilwoman Rene Neff used the council’s website, langelyelecteds.org, to criticize Waters, characterizing her as untruthful and a bully. Neff’s comments spurred calls from others for Neff’s resignation.
Waters has been a property owner in Langley since 1976, and has been a frequent critic of the council and mayor on financial and land-use issues. She also owns a residence in Normandy Park in South King County, and said she has divided her time at both places through the years.
“It is apparent that the city is trying to disprove my residency in Langley,” Waters wrote to Landel.
“I believe that the city is compiling a rather perilous set of actions regarding me as an individual — it seems to be boarding on harassment,” Waters said.
In another e-mail, Waters told Landel that she had contacted voter registration officials, who said she has two legal residences.
“I can choose which one I want to vote at, and if I am a registered voter, I can run for public office in that jurisdiction, it is entirely my choice,” she wrote. “Where
I have my driver’s license is also my choice, and has no bearing on my voter registration, nor holding public office,” Waters told Landel.
Waters also said she met all the standards in the Langley Municipal Code for holding office.
And in another e-mail, Waters reminded Landel that she had opened a seasonal espresso business on Wharf Street in Langley earlier in the year: “Has anyone thought about how easy it is to open a brand-new business on a brand-new business site while not living in the city?”
Waters has an extensive background in management, consulting, teaching and lecturing in the healthcare field, and has co-authored three books on the subject.
She has owned property on Wharf Street at the Langley Marina, and currently lives in a cabin there, the front half of which serves as the harbormaster’s office.
Her bid for the city council seat is only her second attempt to serve in city government in any capacity.
Earlier this year, she applied for the position of alternate on the Planning Advisory Board which ultimately went to Gail Fleming.
The city council is expected to interview candidates for the open seat on the council — left empty by Russell Sparkman’s resignation earlier this year — at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 20 and appoint the new council member that same evening.
Three others have applied for the position: Hal Seligson, Thomas Gill and Robin Adams.
“I’ll be there, maybe even with bells on,” Waters said Friday. “I might even wear my reindeer antlers.”
Meanwhile, Realtor Leann Finlay, a close follower of Langley government, sent a letter to Samuelson in support of Waters.
“Most people with two homes choose to vote at one or the other and change their choice too,” Finlay wrote. “The state requirement is 30 days for voter registration. Kathleen clearly met that.”
As for the opinion from the Municipal Research Services Center, which said the residency requirement is in place “to allow a candidate to be exposed to the needs and problems of the people of a particular city,” Finlay responded:
“It would be difficult for the city to argue that after 30 years, Kathleen wouldn’t understand the needs and problems of the people in Langley!”