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Embattled Langley Mayor Kwarsick resigns his Coupeville position

Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick listens as City Councilman Jim Sundberg, right, stands and asks the judge for a light sentence. Sitting behind Kwarsick just over his right shoulder is Councilwoman Rene Neff. At left is his attorney Charles Arndt. Kwarsick will spend 15 days in jail in February.  - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick listens as City Councilman Jim Sundberg, right, stands and asks the judge for a light sentence. Sitting behind Kwarsick just over his right shoulder is Councilwoman Rene Neff. At left is his attorney Charles Arndt. Kwarsick will spend 15 days in jail in February.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick, caught up in a scandal of his own making, resigned from his part-time job as city planner for the Town of Coupeville on Friday.

In a brief letter to Mayor Nancy Conard, Kwarsick asked that his firm, Sound Planning Services, be released from its contract.

“I am requesting the town’s agreement to immediately terminate the contract,” he wrote.

Kwarsick cited as his reason the recent lawsuit filed by Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks aimed at ousting Kwarsick from both public offices he holds, as mayor of Langley and planner for Coupeville.

Kwarsick made no mention of his intentions for Langley. In an interview with the South Whidbey Record last week, he said he would decide within the 20 days he has to respond to Banks’ lawsuit, filed Dec. 21.

In his letter to Conard, Kwarsick said he disagrees with the law, RCW 9.921.120, cited by Banks in his lawsuit, but that, “these proceedings are the basis of my request for immediate release from the current contract as town planner.”

Until Kwarsick’s letter, Coupeville officials were undecided about his future with the town.

Mayor Nancy Conard said last week the town council had made no decisions yet about whether or not to continue Kwarsick’s employment as town planner, a position he held for nearly 10 years.

She had requested copies of all court records and said she planned to examine them personally, and with the town’s legal counsel, Snohomish-based Weed, Graafstra and Benson, before bringing them to council members for review.

“At some point in the near future, we will be meeting with the town council to discuss what we may do,” Conard said. That now appears to be a settled issue.

Kwarsick had been Coupeville’s town planner since late 2003. It was a part-time contracted position that paid $4,500 a month with no benefits.

In December, Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill sentenced Kwarsick to 15 days in jail and ordered him to pay a $2,500 fine after he plead guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of falsifying a city record.

Prior to being elected mayor of Langley last year, Kwarsick worked as Langley’s planning director in 2011. Shortly after taking the job, he altered permit requirements for a relative’s home but backdated them to appear as if they had been created by his predecessors.

A plea deal worked out between Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks and Kwarsick’s attorney, Charles Arndt of Coupeville, recommended no jail time but that he pay a $2,500 fine.

Churchill supported the fine but rejected the request for no jail time.

The situation became more complicated when, in response to a brief outpouring of support by the Langley City Council and members of the community, Kwarsick announced in an email to the South Whidbey Record that he would not be stepping down as mayor.

There is some dispute about the law, but generally anyone convicted of malfeasance is not permitted to retain a public office. After Kwarsick’s announcement, Banks filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to enforce state law and boot the embattled mayor out of his jobs in Langley and Coupeville.

Banks alleged the plea agreement was predicated on the “unmistakable understanding” that Kwarsick step down from both positions.

After Banks filed the lawsuit, Langley City Council members all withdrew their support for Kwarsick and agreed that the mayor should resign, said Hal Seligson, councilman and mayor pro-tem. Council members were also considering the possibility that by admitting to malfeasance in the plea agreement, Kwarsick in effect removed himself from office, but that is a legal issue unsettled at press time.

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