City council member Josh Binda listens and eats a sucker during a city council meeting on Monday at Lynnwood City Hall. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

City council member Josh Binda listens and eats a sucker during a city council meeting on Monday at Lynnwood City Hall. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Council votes to investigate Binda over promo shot in Lynnwood City Hall

“To me, this is very clear,” council member Patrick Decker said Monday, reciting municipal code.

LYNNWOOD — Lynnwood City Council voted to file a complaint against fellow council member Josh Binda through the city’s Ethics Board, in light of his use of City Hall to promote a speaking tour where he has made over $12,000.

The council voted 6-0 in favor of filing the complaint, with Binda abstaining. Throughout the meeting, Binda, 23, sucked a bright red lollipop. He grinned to himself as council members began airing grievances.

On Dec. 19, Binda used the City Council chambers to record a video about his 13-school speaking tour “Love Conquers All.” The complaint would open an investigation about whether Binda used public resources for personal gain.

According to Lynnwood Municipal Code, “an official or employee shall not knowingly use his or her office or position for personal or family benefit gain or profit.”

“To me, this is very clear,” council member Patrick Decker said at Monday’s meeting, reciting the municipal code.

When Lynnwood City Council members found out that Binda recorded a video from his dais, at least four council members expressed concerns. Subsequently, the council scheduled time to discuss using public resources responsibly. Last week Decker said he did not think the conduct was a violation.

“However,” Decker said, “if in fact it is established — as the media has reported — that council member Binda profited from the speeches which he has given at local high schools, and he used council chambers which are public resources, in order to create videos which were used to promote or advertise an activity which he then benefited from financially, it clearly falls under the definition of benefit, gain or profit.”

City council member Josh Binda listens and eats a sucker during a city council meeting on Monday at Lynnwood City Hall. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

City council member Josh Binda listens and eats a sucker during a city council meeting on Monday at Lynnwood City Hall. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The Lake Stevens School District, for example, paid Binda $4,500 for two keynote speeches at different schools, in addition to meeting with students before and after to talk. The contract totaled three hours of work. A Lake Stevens High School teacher Rick Odom said students were grateful for Binda — a young, Black elected leader — taking the time to come inspire youth.

It is not illegal for a City Council member to simply earn money from a speaking tour.

Council member George Hurst said this is not the first time Binda has misused public resources. In June, Binda ate dinner at the City Council dais after hours and took selfies. Mayor Christine Frizzell also recalled in April that Binda used the council chambers to record a different video. That incident resulted in changes to key card access for the council members.

Binda twice declined to make a direct statement during the meeting.

But later in the evening, he answered questions from Council President Shannon Sessions. He said he has been a public speaker since 2019, and schools asked him to come speak for that reason — not because he is a council member.

“I am a community organizer,” Binda said. “I’m a voice of a generation.”

He argued all of his contracts with schools were negotiated and signed before he filmed the video, so the video itself did not result in public gain. He also argued that since the school assemblies were mandatory, he wasn’t promoting anything.

“There was no profit from city public use — no personal gain,” Binda said. “I wasn’t promoting anything.”

Sessions asked him why he filmed the promotional video from Lynnwood City Hall, seated at the dais.

“I don’t think it was necessarily wrong,” Binda said. He repeated that he did not push his political platform on the speaking tour.

City council member Josh Binda listens during a city council meeting on Monday at Lynnwood City Hall. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

City council member Josh Binda listens during a city council meeting on Monday at Lynnwood City Hall. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Sessions asked him why he didn’t secure the building after he used it, leaving City Hall unprotected. She asked if he did in fact give his badge to someone else to access the building.

“If I did do that, I do apologize,” Binda said.

Around 8 p.m., Binda reached under his desk, pulled out a green lollipop and put it in his mouth. Popping it out of his mouth to speak, he continued to maintain he did not use his city position for the speaking tour.

“It was a gray area before when we thought you were doing (the tour) out of the goodness of your heart,” Sessions said. “… That has changed.”

Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449; kayla.dunn@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

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