Kennewick allows non-residents to serve on city boards

Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo
Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo

You no longer have to live in Kennewick to serve on one of the city’s boards.

The city council recently voted 6-1 to allow people who live outside the city to be on boards and commissions, as long as they own a business with its main office in Kennewick.

City staff told the council that the move will help attract and keep qualified board volunteers.

“We may be missing an opportunity to have some people serve who have great ideas and a vested interest because they own a business in our community,” City Manager Marie Mosley told the Herald.

But Councilman John Trumbo, who cast the sole opposing vote, worries the change could allow a board to have a majority of members who don’t live in Kennewick.

They could make important recommendations to the council, even though they can’t vote in city elections, serve on the council and don’t necessarily pay property taxes.

“This is a wholesale change to procedure that affects all boards and commissions in Kennewick,” Trumbo said. “This is a step toward disenfranchising the people in Kennewick.”

Staff asked the council to consider the change after a member of Kennewick’s planning commission was forced to resign because he moved out of town, Mosley said. The member will now be allowed to reapply.

Neither Richland nor Pasco allow nonresidents to serve on boards, Trumbo said. A representative from the Association of Washington Cities was unsure if any other cities in the state allow nonresidents to serve.

The idea is not foreign to Kennewick, however.

Mosley said the Kennewick Public Facilities District, which oversees the Three Rivers Convention Center, already allows non-residents to serve on its board.

The city council’s three-member interview committee will have the final say on who to recommend for appointment to a board, Mosley said. Candidates must then be approved by the full council.

“It’s a pretty rigorous process,” she said.

Trumbo, at a workshop meeting before the vote, asked staff to look at the idea of at least requiring board members come from Benton or Franklin counties, but later said that wouldn’t work either.

“When we say government for and by the people, we mean by the people of Kennewick, not by people in another town,” he said.

The requirement that the business owner live in Benton or Franklin counties was likely unnecessary, because most people would have to live in the area to maintain a business in Kennewick, Mosley said.

If a Walla Walla resident who owns a studio in Kennewick applies to be on the Kennewick Arts Commission, Trumbo said he would likely oppose the appointment.

“I would be inclined to say no because I think there are plenty of people in Kennewick who are eligible who could be on the Kennewick Arts Commission,” he said.

Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom