The Seattle City Council won’t fulfill Mayor Jenny Durkan’s request to investigate and potentially expel Councilmember Kshama Sawant for alleged bad behavior, Council President M. Lorena González said Wednesday.
González said she wants the council to concentrate on other work.
On Tuesday, Durkan released a letter to González asking the council to investigate Sawant for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest march to Durkan’s home and for several other actions, such as opening City Hall to protesters on the evening of June 9.
The mayor accused Sawant “and her followers” of displaying “reckless disregard of the safety of my family and children,” and she noted the City Charter authorizes the council “to punish its members and others for disorderly or otherwise contemptuous behavior.” Durkan accused Sawant of leading the march to her home and mentioned graffiti spray painted at her property; organizers said Sawant was an invited speaker.
“(Sawant) and organizers knew that my address was protected under the state confidentiality program because of threats against me due largely to my work as U.S. Attorney,” Durkan wrote.
Sawant responded by characterizing Durkan’s move as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement and by criticizing the mayor for allowing the Police Department to repeatedly use tear gas and other weapons against protesters.
In a statement Wednesday, González said: “It is clear to me that the people of Seattle want us to focus on addressing the concurrent crises facing thousands of families and small businesses in Seattle.”
“There is an ongoing pandemic, a worsening economic and job loss crisis, and a civil rights movement demanding we divest from racist, anti-Black systems and redirect those investments towards housing, education, and wealth-building opportunities for Black and Brown community members. These are the issues that demand our attention,” the council president said.
González described the mayor’s move as not helpful.
“These critical and concurrent challenges are unprecedented and require us to set aside our personal and political grievances and work together,” she said. “The public airing of issues amongst and between independently elected officials will not advance solutions on the deepening needs of our constituents.”
Sawant called for Durkan to resign in early June, after some local Democratic Party and community leaders launched an online petition. The council member has continued to call for Durkan’s ouster and the petition has collected about 15,000 signatures.
In addition to Sunday’s march and the June 9 rally at City Hall, Durkan’s letter Tuesday said Sawant should be investigated for involving her political organization, Socialist Alternative, in staffing decisions for her council office; for using her office to promote a potential Tax Amazon ballot measure; and for urging protesters to occupy the Police Department’s East Precinct.
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission last year dismissed complaints against Sawant related to Socialist Alternative. It and the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission have open enforcement cases related to Sawant and the Tax Amazon campaign. Police swept into the East Precinct area early Wednesday to clear protesters who have been camped there for weeks.
“Mayor Durkan copied the director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) in her letter,” González said Wednesday. “As a former SEEC Commissioner, I have full faith in that independent agency to handle complaints that may fall into their jurisdiction.”