Diversity Commission meeting ends with uncertainty

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Art Ceniza, Commissioner Rosamaria Graziani, M. Christopher Boyer, Commissioner Angel Shimelish and Commissioner Glenda Powell-Freeman (left to right) sit around a table during Tuesday’s Diversity Commission meeting. City staff liason Tracy Sloan is standing.

After its monthly meeting Tuesday night, during which a commissioner was asked to resign, the Lynnwood Diversity Commission’s future appears uncertain, though there is no formal discussion by the Lynnwood City Council to disband it.

Commission Chair Glenda Powell-Freeman asked Commissioner Rosamaria Graziani to resign from the commission. Commissioner Angel Shimelish endorsed Powell-Freeman’s request. Graziani was the Diversity Commission chair in 2015.

“2015 was a really volatile year and I have never seen this commission in the place it is now, in the nine years I have attended as a commissioner,” Powell-Freeman said.

“I constantly tried to figure out how we moved from where we were, in a place where we could have done more with our citizens in Lynnwood, and it just left me with a broken heart (over) something that I need to request from Commissioner Rosamaria Graziani,” Powell-Freeman said, adding that she had a written letter she intended to submit to the mayor’s office.

If Graziani did not offer to resign as requested, Powell-Freeman said she would read the letter at the meeting.

Graziani responded that she was not willing to resign, so Powell-Freeman proceeded to read the letter, which asked the mayor “to consider removing Graziani from the commission immediately.”

The letter said Graziani “chose to lead the the Commission on a collision course with the mayor’s office, the Lynnwood City Council and other city offices,” such that the commission’s focus and effectiveness has been “greatly damaged.”

Powell-Freeman, Graziani and Shimelish are the remaining members of the advisory group this year. The Diversity Commission had the required seven members in 2015, but four vacancies opened up due to former Commissioner Shirley Sutton’s election to the council in January, a formal resignation by Commissioner Rabbi Berel Paltiel (issued last month), and the expirations of Commissioner Pining Reyes and Ty Tufono’s terms last December.

Tufono, who has not sought reappointment, was blamed by Graziani for insulting a citizen who came to read a written statement at the commission’s November 2015 meeting. Tufono told that citizen that she did not know what she was reading; a source who asked not to be named told Lynnwood Today that Tufono may have operated under the impression that the written statement was instigated by Graziani rather than by the citizen.

Reyes submitted a letter requesting reappointment to the commission last August and she appeared at the Lynnwood City Council’s business meeting on Monday to say she had not yet received any response about her letter from the mayor’s office. However, city spokeswoman Julie Moore confirmed that she has communicated “several times” with Reyes about the official receipt of her letter and that Reyes’ term did not expire until Dec. 31, 2015, after which the mayor’s office is expected to respond.

Reappointments are recommended by the mayor’s office to the city council for approval.

Due to the apparently long-standing turmoil within the Diversity Commission and yesterday’s breach, Mayor Nicola Smith said the body has to “solidify” before she can proceed.

As of Wednesday, the mayor’s office had not yet received Powell-Freeman’s letter.

In Commissioner Rabbi Paltiel’s resignation letter, he gave two reasons for stepping down: the “hostile environment at recent meetings” and a belief that the commission’s role needed to be “narrowed down” and “more specifically defined” in order for the group to be effective.

–Story and photo by Karen Law

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