The Lynnwood City Council has removed fellow Councilwoman Kimberly Cole from office due to excessive absenteeism, our friends at Lynnwood Today reported. The vote was taken at Monday night’s council meeting.
Council President Loren Simmonds made the motion, citing a state law that says a council position becomes vacant if a councilmember fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings.
Cole received unexcused absences for meetings on Sept. 10, 17 and 19.
“I felt like in some measure as the council president, I was sort of boxed in to taking some form of formal action relating to Councilmember Cole,” Simmonds said when making the motion. “I personally feel that the degree of absenteeism has become egregious and a major impediment to her fulfilling her responsibilities to both the people of the city of Lynnwood, as well as to her colleagues on the council.”
The council voted six to one to pass the motion to remove Cole from office. Cole, who was in attendance Monday night, was the single vote against the measure.
The other six members of the city council, along with Mayor Don Gough, convened an executive session prior to voting. Cole objected, stating she preferred that a public hearing be held. Mayor Gough overruled that request, saying the executive session was necessary due to potential litigation.
For her part, Cole — a single mother — had requested her absences be excused due to a domestic violence situation, but that request was denied by the council. It came at the same time her son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism.
“Together we have battled over and over to simply be relieved, assisted, to see justice done and our voices heard in a process often unfriendly to those arriving with a financial or communicative disadvantage,” Cole said in an email to Lynnwood Today. She added that domestic violence victims who serve in public office are often not afforded the same privacy protections as average citizens.
“These events instead are required to be publicly disclosed, placed before the members of the council and voted upon as an acceptable excuse for the individual who was not present, or not. It has been an environment that was counterproductive to progress,” Cole said.
Lorenzo Hines, the city clerk and finance director, will now begin the procedure of filling the vacancy. It typically involves accepting applications from interested candidates, who will then be interviewed by the remaining city council. The council will eventually appoint a candidate to fill the slot.
Last year, Cole also worked full-time at the city of Edmonds as an executive assistant to then-mayor Mike Cooper, but was terminated when new mayor Dave Earling took office. Earlier in 2011, she made a claim against the city in regards to a hostile work environment. An independent investigator later ruled most of her claims were unfounded.