Kennewick council censures John Trumbo for ‘misuse of office’

For more on this story see: Kennewick mayor pro tem demands councilman’s resignation for investigating drug rumor

Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo has been removed from his board and commission appointments for the rest of the year after being censured Tuesday for misusing his office to investigate rumors about a fellow councilman.

The Kennewick City Council voted 5-2 to censure Trumbo over an investigation into an unfounded, two-year-old rumor concerning Mayor Pro Tem Steve Lee.

The vote came after a closed-door discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Trumbo and Councilman Bill McKay voted against the motion. Lee voted in favor, along with Mayor Don Britain and Councilmen Paul Parish, Steve Young and Chuck Torelli.

The motion faults Trumbo for conducting an unauthorized investigation that included leaving his city council business card at a citizen’s home, filing a report with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office based on unfounded rumors and accusations, for sharing the unfounded accusations with the Tri-City Herald.

“Councilmember Trumbo did not have the authority nor was authorized to investigate this matter on behalf of the city or the city council, yet he used his council position and city business card,” said the resolution.

The sheriff’s office concluded the rumors were baseless, Lt. Erik Magnuson told the Tri-City Herald.

The rumor concerned drugs other than marijuana at a cannabis store that Lee owns with his wife outside the city limits.

Trumbo, a retired reporter for the Tri-City Herald, defended his actions to the council, saying it was his responsibility to act if he heard about a possible crime.

Trumbo said he did not surrender his right to report criminal activity by being elected to the city council. He said that he invoked no special privileges when he looked into it.

Trumbo protested the motion to censure him, saying he did not invoke his role as city councilman while following up on the rumor.

He said the Benton County Sheriff’s Office invited him to share his findings and that he stopped investigating on his own, not at the order of the sheriff’s office.

“Everything I did was outside my role as a city council member,” he said. “I’m the one who told them I was done.”

City staff drafted the motion at the request of Mayor Don Britain, who earlier told the Herald Trumbo’s actions were “inappropriate.”

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.