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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | Cases point to malfeasance
To the editor:
Did Larry Kwarsick’s fraud while Langley planner constitute “malfeasance” as that term has been defined by the courts? Yes. There are numerous cases that hold that commission of an unlawful act while in the performance of an official duty by a governmental official is malfeasance. This is why the Langley attorney’s reliance on the DUI of the Superintendent of Public Education is irrelevant. The superintendents’s driving was not part of his official duties.
But when Kwarsick as planner backdated a document to save a relative and former client money by removing basic environmental protections, he committed malfeasance. He also broke his contract with the city, which required that he not be involved in any developments that he had previously worked on. It would behoove Langley to examine that contract and see what penalties were provided for such dereliction.
Washington law is unambiguous that conviction for malfeasance in office “shall entail … the forfeiture of his or her office …” Let’s use a conservative interpretation of that provision and assume it only refers to Kwarsick’s former job of planning director. Since he’s no longer planning director, does that get him out from under the requirements that he forfeit the office of mayor?
The answer is no. The statute, RCW 9.92.120, says:
“Conviction of public officer forfeits trust.
The conviction of a public officer of any felony or malfeasance in office shall entail, in addition to such other penalty as may be imposed, the forfeiture of his or her office, and shall disqualify him or her from ever afterward holding any public office in this state.”
The key phrase is “shall disqualify him or her from ever afterward holding any public office in this state.” “Ever afterward.” Those words include the office of mayor that Kwarsick assumed after being planning director.
The final question is whether Larry Kwarsick is still mayor. In a case involving the Snohomish County Sheriff, a Washington Court of Appeals stated, “We upheld the ouster, making it clear that the office had become vacant and forfeit upon conviction.”
The office of Mayor of Langley is now “vacant and forfeit.” The only question remaining is whether Larry Kwarsick will leave willingly or whether a court must order him to do so.