Evan Thompson / The Record — Advocates of the draft inclusive city ordinance marched up Second Street to city hall before Monday night’s Langley City Council meeting.

Langley inclusive ordinance goes back to city attorney for additional review

Those wanting a first reading of an inclusive city ordinance will have to wait a little longer.

The Langley City Council directed city attorney Mike Kenyon of Kenyon Disend to further modify the draft ordinance to remove conflicts with Langley police and city administrative policies and to eliminate conflicts with city officials’ oaths of office. They did so after mulling over Kenyon Disend’s guidance on the draft ordinance concerning immigration enforcement, a document which became available to the public only after the council waived attorney-client privilege at the beginning of the meeting.

The guidance’s purpose was to explain legal risks associated with an inclusive city ordinance, according to Kenyon. It was drafted by request of the city council at a March 20 meeting, Mayor Tim Callison said.

According to the guidance document, the draft ordinance conflicts with the police department’s “duties and obligations to analyze and inspect and enforce both local, state and federal law.” Kenyon wrote that Chapter 2.18 of Langley’s municipal code conflicts with Section 9.01.030 of the draft ordinance, which would prohibit police from using city funds or resources to enforce civil or administrative federal immigration laws.

Kenyon said at the meeting that there is a “clear” conflict in the “oath of office language” taken by city officials and that “murky issues” could emerge with civil service and internal discipline, “depending on how the ordinance is ultimately adopted.”

Kenyon also said the draft ordinance does not make it clear how a city police officer or city employee may be subject to discipline for an alleged violation of the draft ordinance.

But, City Councilwoman Rene Neff requested disciplinary action be taken “off the table.”

“This isn’t about demonizing our police department,” Neff said. “This is about protecting people who live and work in our community.”

“I would hope that we wouldn’t discipline anyone. That would be my recommendation if we adopted this ordinance,” she added.

Kenyon said the ordinance can be amended to include a provision that essentially says that a violation of the ordinance does not create a cause of action against any employee of the city.

“We can come up with some language that addresses that and I think that’s something we would recommend if the council wants to go forward with the ordinance,” Kenyon said.

Neff also asked Kenyon if he had examined any other cities or counties that have adopted similar ordinances and whether any countermeasure were taken to address any problems or conflicts. Kenyon said the city of Burien is one of his firm’s clients. The Burien City Council approved a sanctuary city ordinance in January, but Kenyon said the impact has been negligible.

There were other notable events on Monday night. As expected, Neff officially resigned from position 1 after 12 years of service. She has been diagnosed with a serious illness and can no longer fulfill her duties. Also, a group of about 30 advocates of the inclusive city ordinance gathered on Second Street to vocalize their thoughts and feelings about the topic before heading over to city hall. Several advocates held signs in support of Neff, who restated her opinion that the city needs an ordinance rather than a non-legal binding resolution approved on March 20.

Callison said he understands the impatience on both sides surrounding the inclusive city topic, but also felt there is nothing wrong with taking things slow.

“It’s consumed a lot of energy for city council and city government as well,” Callison said. “But, you know what? We’re going to get it right if we keep working on it.”

“… We’ll ask for more guidance and we’ll see what we can do to make it a better ordinance that reduces our risk that we can control. We may never reduce the risk of things we can’t control, but we’ll move forward.”

The meeting’s outcome wasn’t what advocates were hoping to hear, according to Fran Abel of community advocacy group Inclusive Langley.

“We certainly weren’t wanting it to go back to the lawyer that we thought was already resolved,” Abel said in a phone interview Tuesday morning.

The council’s next meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on June 5.

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