Kennewick councilman will not appeal censure. Watch the ‘consequences play out,’ he says

Hear Kennewick Councilman John Trumbo’s response to being censured

Kennewick Councilman John Trumbo was censured for investigating an unfounded drug rumor about another councilman.
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Kennewick Councilman John Trumbo was censured for investigating an unfounded drug rumor about another councilman.

Related story: Kennewick mayor pro tem demands councilman’s resignation for investigating drug rumor

Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo won’t further protest Tuesday’s vote to censure him.

He was admonished for misusing his position to investigate rumors about a fellow councilman.

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

But Wednesday, he told the Herald he will watch the “consequences play out.”

He declined to elaborate.

“Watch your Facebook page and see what happens,” he said.

A city spokeswoman said there is no formal appeal process for a council member who has been censured.

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 rare procedure does not affect his vote on the seven-member council. He was elected in 2013 and ran unopposed in 2017 for a four-year term.

However, the council decided Tuesday Trumbo cannot represent it on boards and commissions for the rest of 2019.

Trumbo was appointed by the mayor as Kennewick’s representative to the Ben Franklin Transit Board, the Benton Franklin Community Action Committee, the city’s Block Grant Advisory Committee, Kennewick FOCUS, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the Infrastructure and Operations Committee.

He was the city’s alternate representative to the Benton County Clean Air Authority and the Benton County Mosquito Control District Board.

Council censure vote

Tuesday’s 5-2 censure vote came after a 35-minute closed executive session by the council.

It was prompted by Trumbo’s January investigation into fourth-hand rumors concerning drugs other than marijuana at a cannabis store that Lee owns with his wife outside the city limits.

He personally investigated the rumors and left his city council business card at the home of one potential witness. He took his findings to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated and determined the rumors were groundless.

Trumbo, a retired reporter for the Herald, said he did not surrender his right to report criminal activity by being elected to the city council. “I do not surrender my right to report criminal activity,” he told the council.

And he insisted he did not invoke his role as city councilman while following up on the rumor.

He said the 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.”

The council faulted him for filing a report based on unfounded rumors and accusations and for perpetuating the allegation.

Code of conduct

The city of Kennewick has a relatively weak code of conduct for council members.

Spokeswoman Evelyn Lusignan said it is reviewing the codes of other cities. The council will consider strengthening it within the next few months, she said.

Tri-City government agencies rarely censure elected officials. Herald archives show only a two minor instances in the past decade in Prosser and Franklin County.

However, the Yakima Herald-Republic reports that Tuesday, the Yakima City Council reaffirmed its decision to censure Councilwoman Kay Funk for inappropriate, embarrassing and combative conduct. Funk has protested the move as censorship.

The council suspended her from her board and committee assignments for six months.

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.