Kennewick councilman probes a senator’s home sale but won’t say why

Kennewick Councilman John Trumbo contacted the person who bought State Sen. Sharon Brown’s Canyon Lakes home this fall to ask probing questions about the deal.

The call triggered complaints to the city by both the Republican senator and the individual who purchased her house.

Brown and the new homeowner said they didn’t understand why a sitting city councilman would have questions about a private home sale.

The issue was briefly discussed during Tuesday’s Kennewick City Council meeting after Trumbo requested that any discussion of complaints against him be talked about in an open session.

Trumbo didn’t publicly say whom he called or why he was asking about it, but in a follow-up call with the Tri-City Herald he confirmed it was Brown.

“The bigger question is why is the state senator concerned?” he asked.

Brown is a lawyer and former Kennewick council member and has represented the 8th Legislative District for six years.

Trumbo declined to tell the Herald why he was looking into the home sale.

He called the buyer in October. When the buyer returned the call, Trumbo explained that his name may seem familiar because he previously worked for the Tri-City Herald and is a member of the city council.

According to a city summary of the complaints, he asked about the purchase, Brown’s divorce, a lien, repair work and the home’s assessed value.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Trumbo was asked to explain why he brought up his elected position on the city council when he called the buyer.

He said he was simply introducing himself to a stranger and later clarified to the buyer, who seemed confused, that he was not representing the city nor working for the newspaper. He retired from the Herald seven years ago.

The council took no action and did not invoke its newly enacted council ethics policy to delve further into the matter. It would have taken two council members to formally request that the city’s newly hired independent ethics officer look into it further.

Trumbo is currently under sanction for “misuse” of his position by using his city council business card when he conducted an unauthorized investigation earlier this year into unfounded rumors regarding Mayor Pro Tem Steve Lee.

The council removed Trumbo from board and commission positions through 2019.

Brown said she’s mystified about why the councilman was asking about the sale of her house. She said her buyer was upset by his call and was left disconcerted.

Brown told the Herald she has no plans to pursue her complaint further, adding she has more important issues to focus on.

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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.