LYNNWOOD — After a four-month investigation, 23-year-old Lynnwood City Council member Josh Binda admitted to violating ethics rules against using public resources for personal gain.
Binda was elected to the council at age 21 after campaigning in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Since then, he has faced a string of controversies and potential rule violations. In January, the Lynnwood City Council voted to open an ethics investigation into how he’d made at least $14,500 for motivational speeches at schools, a speaking tour he advertised with a video filmed from the Lynnwood City Council dais. He also used his public email to negotiate contracts for the deals.
Since February, Noel Treat, an attorney, has been investigating the claims against Binda. In early May, the investigator proposed that Binda admit to being guilty and pledge to refrain from committing similar issues in the future.
The settlement states that his “use of city property for personal benefit or gain and constitute a violation of the city ethics code as codified in Lynnwood Municipal Code 2.9 4.030.”
It also states Binda seemed unaware of the rules, and if he apologized, the council should move forward without further action.
On Monday, Binda spoke before the council.
“I just want to emphasize point two of this agreement that clearly states that I was not aware or knowingly committed any violation,” Binda said. “This is a very minor infraction that is pretty common in politics, and the fact that this got blown into this proportion is very unfortunate.”
Council member Patrick Decker, who filed the investigation case against Binda on behalf of the council, reminded him the settlement required a formal apology.
“In terms of the violation, there is an apology I’d like to make for this very knowingly unknowingly mistake (sic) that was made,” Binda said. “I’d like to offer that to the community. Like I said, it’s a mistake that is pretty common. And as I’m still learning the game of politics, of how to go forward, I just look forward to growing as a council member, as a person.”
The council voted to accept the settlement unanimously.
Although the ethics investigation has officially been closed, Binda has ruffled feathers due to campiagn finance violations, a scandal over a shirtless photo he took to promote the speaking tour and a reimbursement request for an unauthorized trip to Washington D.C.
On April 26, reporter Brandi Kruse asked state Sen. John Lovick, a leading African American voice in the state’s Democratic party, if Binda should resign. Lovick didn’t hesitate.
“Yes, yes and yes. Absolutely without a doubt,” Lovick said. “When I met Joshua, I think it was 2021, he was a talented young man. I was a most impressed with him. I didn’t hesitate — I endorsed him. … But what I found is that he was not going to listen. I advised him to take the lollipop out of his mouth when he’s in front of a hearing. I advised him to dress appropriately. But it was very clear to me that he was not going to listen.”
“To be honest with you, I’m totally embarrassed with the guy,” Lovick continued, citing a photo Binda posted on social media that depicted half of his face alongside half of the face of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
Lovick went on to say that Binda “listens to no one” and that Binda’s issue is a combination of ego and immaturity.
Meanwhile, the local chapter of the NAACP announced it had launched its own separate investigation into “the alleged targeting” of Binda by “the media and fellow Lynnwood City Councilmembers.”
The NAACP of Snohomish County wrote it was “investigating if misinformation is being used to justify actions against Joshua Binda, the youngest Black council member in Snohomish County. The NAACP of Snohomish County recognizes that young black voices are often maliciously silenced, and this investigation aims to shed light on any injustices Council member Binda may have faced.”
The NAACP did not respond to a Herald reporter’s phone calls with questions about their investigation.
Decker, who moved to open the city’s investigation, said he trusted Binda when he said he has learned from this and is apologetic.
“But what I really want to say,” Decker said, “is I really want to put this behind us — all of us — and get back to spending this time on the really important things.”