Grant Degginger, an ethics auditor hired by the City of Snoqualmie earlier this year, recently released a statement of the facts after completing an investigation and conducting a personal public hearing with Councilor Shepard and Mayor Larson filing a complaint against the Shepard submitted a code of ethics on February 4ththe, 2021.
In the complaint, Larson Shepard alleges:
- Participate as a decision maker in quasi-judicial proceedings that require impartiality, while privately advocating an outcome.
- Improperly disclosed privileged and confidential legal information and legal advice and;
- Made false statements or representations of public records or documents or willfully disregard their truth.
These allegations violate paragraphs 2.80.030.D & 2.80.030.F.1 of Code of Ethics.
Larson noticed a pattern of behavior from Councilor Shepard, who is involved in groups against certain projects and does its own research outside of the process. He said she had disclosed confidential documents and legal advice to her husband and opponents of other projects.
In her rebuttal, Councilor Shepard claimed that:
- Many of the examples Larson cited of their alleged violations were outside the pending litigation of the quasi-judicial process.
- Have been discussed with neutral parties.
- As a government employee, she felt a legal obligation to report suspected illegal activity.
Shepard stated that she was gathering documents outside of the files to better understand the information and not reaching out to city officials with questions or concerns as she found them difficult to work with. She said it never crossed her mind that what she requested would be viewed outside of the record – more details on Mayor Larson’s allegations and Councilor Shepard’s rebuttal are available in the session video.
Ruling Shepard’s Code of Ethics, Mr. Degginger stated, âAfter listening to the presentations and statements made by the parties at the hearing and reviewing the exhibits submitted, as well as applicable laws and jurisdiction, Councilor Shepard was found to have several has committed violations of the Code of Ethics of the City of Snoqualmie, as set out below and detailed in the Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations … “
The ruling goes on to say that this is based on Shepard’s own statements.
- Councilor Shepard has violated SMC 2.80.030 (A) (1) in two cases:
- Failure to disclose their communications with King County’s GIS staff on October 10, 2018, and to seek documents outside of the records of the quasi-judicial process of the Salish extension during the council meetings in which the matter was discussed on 15, 22 and / or October 29, 2018.
- Numerous contacts with Department of Ecology staff regarding the scope of the SEPA review of the Mill Site development application.
- Councilor Shepard has violated SMC 2.80.030 (D) in two cases:
- Delivering attorney-client communications emails prepared by City Attorney Bob Sterbank to the Mayor, councilors, and other city officials dated July 17, 2019, to the Washington State Auditor’s Office; and
- Forwarding of the notification drawn up by City Prosecutor Bob Sterbank and forwarded to the city council on October 10, 2019 to the lawyer and client with her husband
The auditor found that âCouncilor Shepard’s conduct raises serious questions about her ability to become acquainted with sensitive information about the city and that the violations meet theâ willful and knowledgeable âprovisions of SMC 2.80.080 (D) seem to meet. When this standard is met, the provision gives the ethics hearing officer the discretion to refer the matter to the prosecutor for action in accordance with SMC 2.80.090, which includes prosecuting offenses. “
Degginger recommended not referring Shepard to the prosecutor, but that “the decision not to refer the matter to the prosecutor is a tight decision. Councilor Shepard’s violations described here show a pervasive lack of transparency, arrogance and poor judgment. âHe said the city was lacking material damage.
Degginger issued a letter of no confidence in which he said, âCouncilor Shepard is hereby recognized for her multiple violations of the City’s Code of Ethics, for her poor judgment in failing to protect confidential information, and for disregarding the rights of project applicants who have properly acted Procedures are open, transparent and impartial. “
According to the Code of Ethics, punishment for violating the Code comes from the Mayor. The ethics officer only determines whether there has been a violation and can recommend whether the violation should be punished.
Living Snoqualmie contacted Alderman Shepard and Mayor Larson for comments after business hours. This article will be updated if either one has an answer.