Langley City Council votes for apology letter

The Council decided that the subject of an unofficial Ethics Board report is owed a formal apology.

Members of the Langley City Council have decided that the subject of an unofficial Ethics Board report is owed a formal apology.

At a meeting in July, the council discussed the future of the citizen-led Ethics Training and Advisory Board, which hasn’t met since February because of a lack of members. The board’s most recent opinion, which has not been officially released, became a subject of controversy for its finding that Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce, acted as a city official and thus is subject to Langley’s ethics code. Mayor Scott Chaplin has since disputed that Morascini is not, in fact, considered a city official.

David Price, a Langley business owner, called into question the payment Morascini received from the Whidbey Camano Joint Tourism Board during the pandemic to produce a COVID-related “support local” tourism campaign while serving as a member of the board, labeling it as a conflict of interest. She performed the contract job, which wasn’t offered to the public.

Price asked the Ethics Board to provide an advisory opinion on the issue. He received a copy of the board’s draft report, dated December 2022, through a public records request and forwarded it to the city council and The South Whidbey Record.

At the July 3 meeting, several members of the public staunchly defended Morascini’s character. Some called for the punishment of Price and others labeled his actions as bullying and harassment.

Price later referred to the public comments as “slanderous” and “threatening” in an email to the mayor and council. He also announced his resignation from the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Commission, citing concerns about retribution.

At the council’s most recent meeting on Aug. 7, Councilmember Thomas Gill brought the issue of the currently defunct Ethics Board to light again.

“I believe we have a fundamental responsibility to correct the error from that leaked memo,” he said.

He suggested the council authorize an apology to the affected party – Morascini – and place the issue of figuring out what to do with the Ethics Board on the council’s work plan.

Councilmember Cyr agreed to vote for this action because he thought the process the Ethics Commission went through was not inclusive of the party that was the focus of the effort, and he believed that was worthy of an apology.

In a 4-0 vote, the council approved the motion to ask the mayor to compose a letter with the city’s attorney as an apology to the party that was “mistakenly spoken about.” Councilmember Harolynne Bobis was absent from the meeting.

In an email to Gill, Price spoke out against the apology.

“I understand that this is a difficult situation but to ignore what happened, and for the City to issue an official apology, only encourages similar violations in the future,” he wrote.

He has since forwarded information regarding the situation to the state auditor in connection to the audit of Whidbey Camano Islands Tourism. A member of the Office of the Washington State Auditor said they’ll consider the information as contextual background as part of their review of 2022 for the organization. However, as Price pointed out, the payments in 2020 and 2021 fall outside the 2022 audit.