Lynnwood City Council members, from left: Jim Smith, Shirley Sutton, Shannon Sessions, Josh Binda, George Hurst, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, and Patrick Decker. (City of Lynnwood)

Lynnwood City Council members, from left: Jim Smith, Shirley Sutton, Shannon Sessions, Josh Binda, George Hurst, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, and Patrick Decker. (City of Lynnwood)

Councilman Binda accused by colleagues of misusing public resources

Lynnwood Council alleges Binda used a video made in City Hall to promote himself, speeches from which he’s netted nearly $15K

LYNNWOOD — Lynnwood City Council members have filed a complaint against Council Member Josh Binda with the city’s Board of Ethics, following Binda’s use of the council chambers to record a promotional video for a speaking tour from which he earned thousands.

The complaint claims “Binda violated Lynnwood Municipal Code and Lynnwood City Council Code of Ethics regarding use of his public office and public resources for personal gain or benefit” and outlines several potential infractions. Council member Patrick Decker filed the complaint on behalf of the council last week.

Binda declined to comment on the allegations.

On Jan. 23, the City Council learned that Binda earned thousands of dollars for a series of speeches he gave at local schools. At the time, council members were already concerned about his use of the council chambers in December to record a promotional video for that speaking tour. The revelation he benefited financially spurred them to act. Six of the seven council members voted to file a formal complaint. Binda abstained.

The complaint alleges Binda used his Lynnwood City Council email address and city email servers to arrange his speeches and negotiate contracts “for which (he) was paid but which were not part of his Council duties.”

It also asserts that Binda entered City Hall after hours and “moved flags and Council dais items to frame a scene in Chambers with Binda sitting at the center focus of the staging” to record a promotional video for his tour.

As of Feb. 10, he’s earned $14,250 for speaking at eight school assemblies.

After recording the video, the complaint accuses Binda of failing to set the alarms at City Hall, creating a security concern. It also accuses him of providing “his employee access badge to other parties” that are not city staff, a violation of city rules. The complaint claims that “on more than one occasion, Lynnwood Police responded to an alarm at City Hall and found that Josh Binda had set off the alarm by entering the building without turning the alarm off.”

It also asserts that in 2022, Binda met with the Lynnwood city attorney who advised the first-term council member against using public resources for his own benefit. This happened after Binda had been advised “multiple times” by the mayor and council members that his use of City Hall for personal matters was not permitted, according to the complaint.

Finally, the complaint questions Binda’s timeline for recording the promotional video and signing speaking contracts, stating that if Binda signed any contracts after he filmed the video in December, then he “lied to the Council and lied to the public about the timing of events in order to attempt to make the case that the creation and posting of the video is not tied to the compensation he has and will receive for the speaking engagements.”

According to contracts obtained by the Herald, Binda signed the Edmonds School District contract on Jan. 17 and the Northshore School District contract on Jan. 10.

In accordance with city rules, the complaint will be reviewed by an attorney, not associated with the city, who will determine if the allegations are founded or not.

The attorney will investigate the claims and interview Binda, Decker on behalf of the council and other involved parties. The process could take several months. If the attorney concludes the allegations are founded, the complaint will be passed to the ethics board for possible actions.

The ethics board is comprised of citizens appointed by the city council. Its purpose is “to hear complaints and determine if violations of the ethics code” have occurred by city officials and “to enter appropriate administrative orders and make recommendations to the city council,” according to Board of Ethics.

If the board determines violations occurred then the City Council can impose remedies ranging from reprimand to removal.

Whether Binda’s decision to get paid for speaking at local schools violates any city rules is unclear, the fact he accepted compensation stands out. Typically elected officials neither seek or accept compensation.

Like Binda, state Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, gave a speech at Jackson High School last month for its assembly marking Martin Luther King Jr. day. The Black Student Union invited her to speak.

“I did not and absolutely would not accept a fee for that,” Berg said.

She said she “can’t fathom” accepting financial compensation for speaking at schools.

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

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