The Washington Secretary of State’s Office is investigating one of its employees, who is also a Sumner City Council member, for a racist meme he attached during an email exchange in August.

Patrick Reed is a public and government affairs manager for the secretary of state and holds a seat on the Sumner City Council. KIRO 7 reported on Sept. 14 that his meme said: “If they’re in court, they’re guilty especially if they’re Black or Mexican.”

KIRO got a copy of the email exchange through a public records request after receiving a tip. The News Tribune also received a copy of the exchange through a records request to the secretary of state’s office.

It shows that Reed was cc’ed on an email in which the author said they did not have to attend jury duty, and Reed responded with the meme. It’s not clear from the redacted records who Reed sent it to.

Reed posted a statement on his Facebook account Sept. 21 about the meme, saying that it was a “horribly offensive mistake.” He wrote in the statement that he attached the wrong meme from search results in a rush “without verifying” what he was sending.

“In no way do I agree with the sentiment of that meme. I am deeply sorry for my mistake,” Reed wrote in the statement.

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Reed told The News Tribune he did not have any further comment beyond the statement. He said the incident remains “a confidential personnel issue” his employer is handling.

The secretary of state can confirm a human resources investigation was conducted, but cannot discuss “ongoing personnel matters,” external affairs director Charlie Boisner wrote in an email.

City spokesperson Carmen Palmer said the state initiated a human resources investigation because Reed used the state’s email and not the city’s email.

The meme doesn’t align with the city’s values, Palmer said. Mayor Kathy Hayden issued a similar statement in an e-newsletter sent Sept. 21.

“I have received several messages, asking me to remove this council member from office. The mayor does not have the authority to remove another elected official from office,” Hayden wrote.

Other council members can “vote for sanctions that include options for a verbal admonition, a written reprimand, censure, expulsion from the meeting and/or removal from appointed council committees,” as per City Council rules, Hayden wrote.

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Reed is an elected city official in Sumner, which means the city doesn’t have the power to remove him, Palmer said. Voters must initiate the recall process if they want him off City Council.

“There’s not much the city can do,” Palmer said.

At the Sept. 26 City Council study session, council members considered issuing a written reprimand. At the next council meeting on Oct. 3, they will vote on whether the written reprimand should be approved.

Reed has been a City Council member since 2015, after being elected the year before. He has worked for the Secretary of State’s Office since 2017.