It’s a sad situation, but the time has arrived for Langley to start looking for a new mayor.
Larry Kwarsick has been a respected public figure in Island County for many years, first as an Island County employee who worked his way up to the top and then as the part-time planner for both Langley and Coupeville while running his own consulting business.
A person doesn’t accomplish all that without being skilled, effective and respected by those he deals with. He was elated last year when he became mayor of Langley, giving him the opportunity to serve as a top elected executive for the first time. He made much progress in a short time, improving the effectiveness of city staff, successfully going after grants, and leading improvements efforts on Second Street and the Langley Marina, for example. But the fuse to his demise was lit early in his term when a whistleblower complaint accused him of changing an official city document during his time as city planner.
The complaint led to the legal muddle we find ourselves in today. Kwarsick admitted to committing a gross misdemeanor in a plea bargain agreement and promised to resign and pay a $2,500 fine, but to the surprise of most he was sentenced to 15 days in jail as well. Soon after, Kwarsick said he wanted to remain as mayor.
The city council was at first supportive due to some questionable legal advice from the city attorney, but quickly abandoned the mayor when Greg Banks, county prosecutor, filed a lawsuit to keep Kwarsick from retaining his position.
In Banks’ view, now shared by the entire city council, Kwarsick committed malfeasance while a public official and can no longer serve in any public capacity.
Only Kwarsick knows the entire story, and perhaps he made a poor decision in opting for a plea agreement rather than standing trial where he could fully defend himself. He could get that chance if he fights Banks’ lawsuit.
Unfortunately, the option of fighting the lawsuit would be extremely costly to Kwarsick in personal and financial terms and throw the city into turmoil for months to come.
The fact is, neither the city nor Kwarsick has the time or money to pursue this issue. The mayor accomplished many good things in a short time. The last good thing he should do is resign — immediately. Let’s move on to the next chapter in Langley’s history.