EVERETT — A Mill Creek City Council race remains in limbo after a Snohomish County Superior Court judge on Friday declined to throw out votes for the winning candidate, who moved out of town months before the election.
Judge George Appel was considering a request to invalidate votes for ex-City Councilman Sean Kelly. Kelly’s opponent, Carmen Fisher, wanted the court to declare her the winner in his place.
“Mr. Kelly isn’t qualified to take office and he cannot take office,” Appel said. “The next step is a little more complicated.”
Kelly won re-election last month with a whopping 71.4 percent of the vote. Fisher contested the election results after Kelly admitted to county officials that he had moved to a house in Snohomish over the summer.
Fisher’s lawsuit named county Auditor Carolyn Weikel as the sole defendant. Appel said the auditor committed no error in the case. To examine Fisher’s question about whether votes cast for Kelly should count, Appel said any future challenge would have to name the county Canvassing Board instead.
The board is tasked with determining whether an election is valid.
“I’m going to look into it,” Fisher said after the hearing.
The Canvassing Board includes three county officials: Weikel, County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright and the prosecutor’s top civil deputy attorney, Jason Cummings. The board certified the 2017 general election results Nov. 28, including Kelly’s victory.
The same day, Kelly informed city officials of his resignation, Mill Creek spokeswoman Joni Kirk said. His written notice arrived a few days later.
“It is with a heavy heart that I submit to you my resignation from the Mill Creek City Council effective immediately,” he wrote in a letter dated Dec. 1. “Due to personal circumstances, I am unable to fulfill my term through Dec. 31.”
Kelly reimbursed the city $2,000 for pay he received from August through November. An aerospace engineer, he was nearing the end of his first term in office. He served in council Position 1.
Fisher is a first-time candidate who said she moved to Mill Creek about three years ago. She earned a law degree from Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in 2003, but said personal reasons have kept her out of the professional workforce “for quite some time.”
“I would like to think, however, that most of my efforts to establish Mr. Kelly’s qualifications to serve show that I am willing and capable of tackling complex challenges,” she wrote in an email.
She said her electoral loss of more than 1,600 votes and 43 percentage points speaks more to the power of incumbency than anything else.
“Yes, the difference in votes was a lot, but over 90 percent of incumbents are re-elected, and this council has been very popular,” she wrote in an email. “So, I think it’s relevant that I was beaten by a predictable margin, rather than one that indicates a repudiation of me as a candidate.”