The Kennewick City Council has big ears but no authority to discipline Councilman Bob Parks over his private Facebook postings disparaging Pasco, Yakima and Latinos.
The council will listen to citizen comment as long as necessary when it holds its regular business meeting April 5, its first since the Facebook furor erupted Friday. The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at Kennewick City Hall, 210 W. Sixth Ave.
Those wishing to address the council have up to three minutes to speak. But the city wants citizens to understand in advance that Parks’ comments aren’t reflective of its views and the city lacks authority to discipline elected officials. That power rests with voters, it said in a statement Wednesday.
Spokeswoman Evelyn Lusignan said the council will listen to everyone who wants to speak at its next meeting regardless of how long it takes.
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We deeply regret the comments made by Mr. Parks and that some in our community have considered his personal comments to represent the views of the city council or the city of Kennewick.
Mayor Steve Young
With calls and emails pouring into City Hall since the posts first appeared late last week, the city continues to distance itself from the comments.
“(T)here currently is not a code of conduct violation when a council member has exercised his right to speak personally in this manner. Elected officials are ultimately accountable to their constituents,” it said.
Parks issued an explanation and partial apology Tuesday as the council wrapped up a workshop that included no opportunity for public comment. In the written statement, Parks said he was commenting on illegal immigrants, not Latinos. He issued a partial apology for those offended by his post and subsequent comments.
An online petition seeking his ouster has gathered about 1,400 signatures, but the petition’s origins are unclear and most signatures are from people who do not live in Kennewick. The petition may provide a convenient outlet for frustrated critics, but Washington law gives voters limited authority to recall elected officials.
The state constitution limits recalls to public officials who have engaged in the “commission of some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has violated his oath of office.”
Also on Wednesday, Kennewick Mayor Steve Young and City Manager Marie Mosley echoed their earlier comments that Parks does not speak for city and his views aren’t reflective of its values.
“We deeply regret the comments made by Mr. Parks and that some in our community have considered his personal comments to represent the views of the city council or the city of Kennewick,” Young said.
Mosley, the city’s top paid employee, said Parks’ posts do not align with or reflect the city or council.
In Kennewick, city staffers report to Mosley, but Mosley works for the council and mayor. They answer to voters at election time.
The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters also released a statement Wednesday condemning Parks’ comments and called for his resignation. “Using one’s elected position to push a toxic personal agenda against hard-working Latino families is shameful,” said Jimmy Haun, political director for the union, in a statement. The group represents more than 21,000 carpenters throughout the Northwest.
Parks joined the Kennewick council in 2002. His current term expires Dec. 31, 2017.
Parks reposted an image of Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, with the comment, “I went to Yakima today. Now I know why Trump wants to build a wall.” He added a personal comment, “Wait until he sees pasco!”
Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins responded by calling the post “lame,” triggering an angry response from Parks who noted he doesn’t go to either Yakima or Pasco “without rocks,” a reference to the 2015 death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was shot dead by three Pasco police officers after he threw rocks at them
In his explanatory statement, Parks said he may have gone a little too far in his comments to Watkins, but said he was joking.