South Whidbey Record


Lawsuit goes on with Kwarsick out

South Whidbey Record Editor
January 9, 2013 · Updated 1:59 PM

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

Larry Kwarsick resigned from office effective Jan. 7 but his case will live on in the courts.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks, whose lawsuit persuaded Kwarsick to step down after one year as Langley’s mayor, said Monday he will pursue the court case.

“Well, no,” Banks responded when asked if the legal proceedings are at an end. “I’ll get a court judgement to get a final definitive issue on the law.”

Kwarsick last month pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor on one count of “false report of a public official” for doctoring a relative’s land use permit in 2011 when he was Langley city planner. In a plea agreement with Banks, he accepted a $2,500 fine but no time in jail. Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill disregarded the no jail part of the agreement, sentencing Kwarsick to 15 days beginning next month.

After initial support from the city council, Kwarsick decided to remain as mayor. That prompted Banks to file a lawsuit arguing that Kwarsick, because of his guilty plea to a gross misdemeanor, had to quit his two public jobs: mayor of Langley and city planner for Coupeville.

Eventually Kwarsick lost city council support and quit both his public jobs, but he never admitted Banks was correct that his resignations were required by law.

The plea agreement Kwarsick signed on to never contained the stipulation that he resign from office, Banks said, admitting there was confusion on that point. “In hindsight I would have included it as an explicit decision,” he said. The prosecutor argued, however, that in conversations with Kwarsick and his then-attorney, Charles Arndt of Coupeville, it was informally understood that Kwarsick would resign after pleading guilty.

When Kwarsick did not resign, Banks filed the lawsuit to force him out. Kwarsick has not yet formally replied to the lawsuit. He had 20 days from Dec. 21.

In Kwarsick’s resignation statement, he doubted Banks’ power to make him resign.

“The county prosecuting attorney has initiated proceedings against me to force me to resign or face a lawsuit. Although I have received counsel that suggests I would be successful were I to contest the lawsuit, the financial and personal costs are too great,” he wrote.

Banks said it’s important to settle the issue even though Kwarsick is now out of office so he can “end the uncertainty.”

“Everywhere I go everyone has a strong opinion,” Banks said of the controversy. “We’ll conclude the lawsuit.”

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