Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick admitted to falsifying public records in a court of law and a judge found him guilty of the crime, but elected officials in Coupeville are reserving judgement.
Mayor Nancy Conard confirmed the town council has made no decisions yet about whether or not to continue Kwarsick’s employment as town planner, a position he has held for nearly 10 years.
She has, however, requested copies of all court records and said she plans to examine them personally, and with the town’s legal counsel, Snohomish-based Weed, Graafstra and Benson, before bringing them to council members for review.
“At some point in the near future, we will be meeting with the town council to discuss what we may do,” Conard said.
Along with being mayor of Langley, Kwarsick has been Coupeville’s town planner since late 2003.
It’s a part-time contracted position that pays $4,500 a month — $54,000 a year – with no benefits.
Kwarsick also owns and operates a private planning firm, Sound Planning Services.
Attempts to reach him for this story were not successful.
Last week Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill sentenced Kwarsick to 15 days in jail and ordered him to pay a $2,500 fine after he plead guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of falsifying a city record.
Prior to being elected mayor of Langley last year, Kwarsick worked as the city’s planning director in 2011. Shortly after taking the job, he altered permit requirements for his daughters home but backdated them to appear as if they had been created by his predecessors.
A plea deal worked out between Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks and Kwarsick’s attorney, Charles Arndt of Coupeville, recommended no jail time but that he pay a $2,500 fine.
Churchill supported the fine but rejected the request for no jail time.
The situation became more complicated Thursday when, in response to an outpouring of support by the Langley City Council and members of the community, Kwarsick announced in an email to the South Whidbey Record that he would not be stepping down as mayor.
There is some dispute about the law, but generally anyone convicted of malfeasance is not permitted to retain a public office. After Kwarsick’s announcement, Banks filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to enforce state law and boot the embattled mayor out his jobs in Langley and Coupeville.
In a news release, Banks alleged the plea agreement was predicated on the “unmistakable understanding” that he step down from both positions.
Conard, who on Wednesday declined to comment on the initial court ruling or Kwarsick’s performance as a town employee, could not be reached by press time following the development.
According to town councilman and mayor pro-tem Bob Clay, Kwarsick did infom the council about what was happening in an executive session earlier this month, before the court ruling.
However, Clay said he still felt very uneducated on the facts of the case and was wanted to wait to see the court records and hear from the town’s attorney’s before making any conclusions.
“You should expect real solid opinions from elected officials, but I’m going to waffle on this,” Clay said.
He did say he was a little confused about the definition of public office, saying he understood that to mean an elected position, so why would a contracted employee for Coupeville be required to step down?
He also noted that the crime occurred in Langley, another municipality, which could complicate the town’s decision. That’s not to say, however, that it’s a none issue, he said.
“Our concern would be, does it affect his integrity as a planner,” Clay said.
“I just don’t know what to think until I see the information,” he said.