Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lind Town Council claims they removed the mayor. The mayor disagrees

LIND, Wash. – It’s not entirely clear who’s in charge of Lind.

The Lind Town Council voted to vacate the mayor from her seat Tuesday night, claiming that she has violated her oath of office and refused to perform her duties.

When Mayor Paula Bell returned to work at her office in the town hall Wednesday, council members called the Adams County Sheriff’s Office to remove her. Deputies responded to the call, but would not remove her because the sheriff’s legal counsel had advised them that Bell is still mayor, Councilman Robert Dew said.

When asked about the council’s action on Wednesday, Bell deferred to the council and otherwise did not acknowledge the attempt to remove her, saying the council meeting proceeded as normal. She declined to comment further.

According to a Q&A post by the Municipal Research and Services Center, a nonprofit that provides legal guidance to local governments in Washington, town councils have no legal authority to remove a mayor from office. The proper way to remove an elected official is through a recall, it says.

Video of the meeting shows Dew making the motion to vacate, the town clerk questioning the legality of the vote and Bell suggesting they first consult with the town’s attorney. The vote to remove her passed 3-0.

Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Wold, who abstained from voting, conducted the rest of the meeting.

Bell remained seated peacefully at the table and gave information on certain agenda items when the council called on her. Dew interprets a Washington law that discusses impeachment of public officers as clearly giving the council the authority to vacate the mayor. The law is obscure because it has been rarely used, he said, but he has researched it carefully.

In part, that law reads, “The office of a mayor or council member shall become vacant if the person who is elected or appointed to that position fails to qualify as provided by law, fails to enter upon the duties of that office at the time fixed by law without a justifiable reason.”

Dew said the council members do not have an attorney advising them.

A previous effort to recall Bell was dismissed last summer by an Adams County Superior Court judge who ruled that the charges were insufficient to be placed on the ballot. The recall petition had 136 signatures out of 338 registered voters at the time.

Bell’s term runs through the end of 2025. She had two supporters on the five-member council, but they were replaced in last November’s election.

“The only reason we are doing this is because she has driven the town into the dirt over the last six years,” Dew said.

The council charged her with acts of misfeasance and malfeasance. Their list of complaints includes her handling of the town’s aging water system, lack of transparency, not responding to the council’s decisions and mismanaging the town’s finances.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.