Lynnwood council approves Josh Binda’s ethics violation settlement

Councilmember Josh Binda said in his comments that he was looking forward to moving past the incident.

The Lynnwood City Council at its May 8 meeting approved a settlement with Councilmember Josh Binda regarding an ethics complaint submitted in January that accused him of using city resources inappropriately. 

In December 2022, Binda filmed a promotional video in council chambers and conducted personal business using his city email address, both of which were connected to his paid speaking tour of Washington schools. Acting on the council’s behalf, Decker filed a complaint with the Lynnwood Board of Ethics, which referred it to a third-party attorney for follow-up.

The settlement, created by a third-party attorney and negotiated by Councilmembers Patrick Decker and Binda, details the following: 

  1. Binda violated ethics code in his business use of council chambers and city email.
  2. The agreement would provide a “high-level overview” of these violations.
  3. Binda was unaware at the time that his conduct violated ethics code. 
  4. Binda would not use city facilities this way again and would do all he could to avoid ethics violations in the future. 
  5. The ethics board, its attorney, the council and the city would take no further actions against Binda for these complaints.

The council unanimously voted to accept the settlement Monday night.

“Thank you everybody. I just want to emphasize point two of this agreement that clearly states that I was not aware or knowingly committed any violations,” Binda said. “It was not within my knowledge at all. This is a very minor infraction that is pretty common in politics and the fact that this got blown to this proportion is very unfortunate. It’s a knowing-and-growing mistake and going forward, like the agreement says, I just look forward to doing my work and learning and growing as a councilmember.”  

Following this, the council changed its attendance policies to limit councilmembers’ use of Zoom to attend meetings. With this rule change, councilmembers will only be able to attend council meetings over Zoom three times per calendar year. After that, a councilmember not physically present will be counted as absent. Every councilmember will start from a fresh slate, with three Zoom uses available. Additionally, attendance at executive sessions via Zoom must be done with video on to ensure participants are keeping confidentiality. 

During last week’s work session, Council President Shannon Sessions introduced the resolution in response to Binda’s four absences and nine Zoom attendances in 2023. According to Sessions, the measures were being considered months prior to that work session discussion.

Council President Shannon Sessions introduces the proposal to change the attendance policy.

Councilmember Jim Smith proposed two amendments to Sessions’ original proposal, aimed at making the language stricter. These amendments passed by 6-1 votes, with Binda opposed.

Councilmember George Hurst also proposed an amendment to eliminate a clause that required Zoom participants to appear to be awake and attentive to the meeting, saying that the terms were arbitrary. The council unanimously approved removing this clause.

Binda proposed an amendment to remove a section allowing the council to vote on whether a councilmember’s absence was excusable, stating that this rule could be used to show preference. This amendment failed 2-5, with Decker and Binda voting in favor.

Councilmember Patrick Decker voted with Binda to remove a specific portion of the rules that may promote preferential treatment.

The council then approved the amended attendance policy 6-1, with Binda voting against.

“I am totally against this motion. I think it’s unnecessarily restrictive,” Binda said. “As someone that’s part of the working class whose work may require him to travel out of state depending on my schedule, I don’t think I should be held accountable if I’m able to travel out of state for more than three times and I want to Zoom in, that I’m not considered no longer a part of the council.” 

“I think after hearing last meeting, this clearly was something designated towards particular councilmembers,” added Binda, who works as a real estate agent.

The sentiment of differing treatment was echoed during the meeting’s public comment section, during which some community members spoke against the council’s recent focus on Binda’s behavior. One of the most prominent was former 32nd District Washington State Sen. Maralyn Chase, who drew comparisons between the council’s treatment of two councilmembers: Binda and Jim Smith. 

Former State Sen. Maralyn Chase spoke about what she said was the council’s apparent pattern of discriminatory conduct against Binda.

“Both (Binda and Smith) are city councilmembers and were investigated by the Lynnwood ethics commission,” Chase said. “However, in the case of Jim Smith, the council absolutely refused to make public the cause of the investigation, the process and, in fact, anything about the investigation. The council continued the apparent pattern of unlawful discrimination, discriminatory conduct on the part of the city council…In the case of Josh Binda, several councilmembers appear to have been constantly conducting the investigation at the public council meeting.” 

Chase went on to state that she believed Binda’s civil rights were violated in this visibly different treatment, and she chided councilmembers for making derogatory remarks she heard during council meetings. 

Longtime resident Riall Johnson brought attention to a recent story in the Lynnwood Times that spoke about Binda’s unpaid fees to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) for his campaign violations and a fine for filing his expense reports late. Johnson said that every councilmember currently on the Lynnwood City Council except one had violated PDC guidelines. Riall then accused the council of never reaching out to Binda as they said they had.

Edmonds School Board member Carin Chase said that during the last work session, she witnessed snarky and snide comments toward Binda and asked the council to do better.

Diodato Boucsieguez wearing a new Recall Binda shirt. Several individuals pointed out the past t-shirt design resembled the Black Lives Matter branding.

Diodato Boucsieguez, who is spearheading the recall effort against Binda and one of his most vocal critics, recalled remarks made during the initial discussion about Binda’s unauthorized uses of city hall. In those remarks, then-Council President Hurst spoke about a prior instance where Binda ate lunch and took selfies in the council room and was chastised for this. Boucsieguez contended that these remarks were indicative of Binda’s knowledge on the improper use of council chambers and so the part of the settlement stating Binda was unaware his conduct violated ethics code was false. Boucsieguez asked that the council launch an investigation into who knew what regarding the rules. He then accused Hurst of “covering up illegal activity on behalf of Councilmember Binda.” 

Commenter Jason Moore decried the Snohomish County NAACP’s decision to investigate misinformation around Binda, accusing the organization of attempting to make a political statement. 

Hurst later issued corrections to certain public commenters’ statements. When discussing the use of council chambers, Hurst stated that concerns over Binda’s uses of city resources were administrative, not ethical, concerns. He said the accusation that councilmembers did not reach out to Binda was not accurate. 

Other public commenters included Ted Heikel, who once again asked the council to consider what the city could do about gun violence and resident Ann Helmkey who asked the council what she could do with the property of homeless individuals who were trespassing on homeowner properties. Helmkey said that although she hated chasing homeless individuals away, she felt that the human waste and other items she and others had to clean up necessitated action. 

Edmonds City Councilmember Will Chen speaks about the work of the Asian Service Center.

David Chan, a South County Fire commissioner, and Will Chen, an Edmonds City Councilmember, spoke on behalf of their grassroots organization, the Asian Service Center, in an effort to get the word out about the services they provide for the Asian community. Chen said that the organization offers health care resources, senior care, youth development and other programs.

During council comments, Decker said Gov. Jay Inslee quietly signed zoning bills into law that would allow fourplex development anywhere in Lynnwood and the council could not prevent this. The bill prohibits the city from limiting residential development to exclude middle housing options such as townhouses, duplexes and fourplexes.

“So he has removed our ability to zone cities in a way that you, the public, would like to see them zoned in favor of allowing the legislators in Olympia what Lynnwood should look like and how it should be built,” Decker said. Polling conducted by the City of Lynnwood indicates that the majority of respondents would like to see more housing types, including fourplexes. 

Finally, the council read proclamations acknowledging Older Americans Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

A photo taken after the Older Americans Month proclamation.
A photo taken after the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month proclamation. The holiday is more commonly known as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

–By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

  1. Josh Binda doesn’t have any respect to the community ie wearing a hat during a council meeting indoors? Just another example of I can do anything I want to. If you say anything you are picking on him. Did the other members have hats on….no. As far as Zoom meetings he knew what was involved when he ran for office.

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