YACOLT — Yacolt residents say they love their small town for its community feel, but two members of the town council are a little too familial for some.
At Monday’s council meeting, a group of residents and supporters showed up to voice their displeasure that councilors appointed Danny Moseley to the open Position 2 seat at the July 15 meeting. Their issue is that Moseley is married to Malita Moseley, a sitting councilor, and she didn’t recuse herself from the vote. She voted for her husband, giving him two votes to be appointed to the council.
Michelle Dawson, one of the other two applicants for the seat, also received two votes, setting up a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Vince Myers, who went with Danny Moseley.
“I voted for the one of the three candidates who I thought would do the best job,” Malita Moseley said at Monday’s meeting.
There was some back-and-forth between councilors, the mayor and a group of people who came to support Dawson, including Joey Gibson, the founder of right-wing protest group Patriot Prayer.
As the group grumbled from the public seating area, Myers banged his gavel a few times during the meeting and said he wouldn’t hesitate to ask them to leave. When Myers said the crowd has to behave because they’re at a “professional meeting,” one audience member shot back, “is it?” Another compared the meeting with a “kangaroo court.”
Danny Moseley remained mostly quiet during the discussion, although he did speak up at one point asking the detractors if they were saying his wife is “incapable of having an independent thought” because the two are married. There were calls from the crowd at times Monday night for both he and Malita Moseley to step down, and even to redo the vote with the same three applicants without Malita Moseley voting this time.
Ultimately, the council decided to bring the discussion to a future meeting. However, Danny Moseley has already been sworn in for a term that runs through the end of this year. The seat is on the November ballot, and after nobody initially applied, a special filing date is coming up on Wednesday through Friday for those interested in running. Michelle Dawson says she plans to file for the seat.
Potential legal issues
Yacolt councilors said they checked with their town attorney and the state Municipal Research and Services Center, and were assured it wasn’t against the law for Malita Moseley to vote for her husband.
“We look at the application of the law,” Myers said. “The application of the law says we did not do anything wrong.”
Jeremy Dawson, Michelle Dawson’s husband, spoke at Monday’s council meeting and said it was “morally and ethically wrong” for Malita Moseley to participate in the vote.
“It does not look good to the citizenry,” Jeremy Dawson said at the meeting. “(Malita Moseley’s) vote should’ve never happened.”
He said that since town councilors are paid, Danny Moseley is benefiting from the appointment and so is Malita Moseley. According to Yacolt’s code, council members are paid $35 for attending any meeting in the town not to exceed $2,100 in any calendar year.
Jeremy Dawson also said he plans to file a complaint with the Washington State Executive Ethics Board. Malita Moseley said he should file the complaint because she feels she did nothing wrong.
Other councilors didn’t offer up much. Councilor Amy Boget, who also voted for Danny Moseley, said if anyone thought Malita Moseley wasn’t voting honestly on the appointment, they would’ve called her out when they were discussing candidates. Councilor Herb Noble said there is a lot of gray area in the situation, and it’s possible they should have tried to get ahead of the issue by asking Malita Moseley not to vote on the appointment. Councilor Rhonda Rowe-Tice said the appointment doesn’t come across looking great appearance-wise.
The councilor appointment wasn’t the only major issue discussed Monday. The council passed a resolution in June declaring the town a sanctuary from Initiative 1639, the gun-control measure approved by Washington voters in November. At the time, it was unclear what the resolution against the ordinance really meant, and the council had to work through its language with the town attorney.
At Monday’s meeting, the council approved the resolution incorporating their attorney’s suggestions. The resolution states that “a core principle of the town of Yacolt, Washington is not to infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms” and “the myriad of measures imposed by government that criminalize lawful gun ownership do, in their substance and effect, infringe upon and impair the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms as exercised by law abiding citizens, inhibit lawful self-defense, and do nothing to increase security in our schools and homes, nor do they address gang violence.”
The resolution ends by calling for the Clark County Council and sheriff’s office “to be legally required to adhere to and preserve the inalienable right to keep and bear arms as enumerated in the United States and Washington state constitutions,” and “the citizens of the town of Yacolt call up on the town of Yacolt council members within their respective jurisdictions to neither authorize nor support the enforcement of any act, order, rule, law, or regulation repugnant to the legally binding, constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms exercised by law-abiding citizens of Yacolt, Washington, enacted after Nov. 1, 2018.”
Sheriff Chuck Atkins, whose agency provides police protection to Yacolt, has previously said his agency enforces all state laws.
Michelle Dawson was one of the activists who worked to get the resolution passed in Yacolt. Her journey to public office started with a Patriot Prayer rally earlier this year in support of William Donald “Billy” Wilson, who was accused of nearly hitting protesters with his pickup after a Patriot Prayer gathering in downtown Vancouver in summer 2017.
“That sparked me to get involved,” she said.
It was at that rally where she met Shauna Walters, who is running for a seat on the Battle Ground City Council. The two have become friends, and Dawson has campaigned for Walters. So has Gibson, who held a rally for Walters and Josh VanGelder, who is running for a different seat on the Battle Ground council.
“Shauna’s an amazing woman, and someone I look up to,” Dawson said. “I want to be a voice for the people, like she’s doing.”