“Inappropriate comments” spark vote to pull Yakima City Council member off committees

“Inappropriate comments” spark vote to pull Yakima City Council member off committees

Yakima City Council members voted Tuesday to remove one of their own from city committee positions for making “inappropriate comments” at several meetings last month.

After an executive session to review the performance of a public employee, council member Brad Hill motioned to censure council member Kay Funk, who represents District 4 in Yakima.

Hill cited Funk’s “untimely, inappropriate and embarrassing comments” during a press conference Friday announcing the new Yakima police chief and about the mental health of a city resident at a March 14 committee meeting as reasons for the motion.

Additionally, Hill listed other criticisms of Funk, including:

Engaging in a “verbal campaign” against community organizations
Making an “inappropriate and insensitive” statement to the media that Yakima is not a glamorous location
Posting online comments on news articles that inconsistent with majority of council members
Acting in a generally combative and contradictory manner at council meetings
Violating the council’s principles of conduct and code of ethics

Hill recommended the council vote to sanction Funk by removing her from all council committee assignments and non-city boards, committees and commission assignments for six months.

“Council member Funk has brought discredit to herself and the city,” Hill said. “It is difficult to make this motion and highlight the issues as I have done, but I believe that as leaders and for the good of the city, we must take this difficult step.”

The council voted 5-2 in favor of censuring Funk — with Funk and council member Jason White voting no.

Funk argued the vote to sanction her was not a censure, but rather, censorship.

“I did not run for elective office in order to give up freedom of speech,” Funk said. “We all know that we speak for ourselves and not on behalf of the full city council … I think that this insistence on silencing disparate voices is not helpful.”

Council member Dulce Gutierrez said while all council members retain the ability to speak as an individual, they cannot speak indiscriminately while effectively speaking for the city in a leadership role.

“It is a privilege to be chairing a committee …to be this city’s representative to an outside commission,” Gutierrez said. “That’s what we’re talking about here: not your freedom of speech outside of that capacity.”

Funk asked to delay the executive session for her to obtain legal representation. When council members denied that request, Funk argued she had not received her right to due process.

Yakima City Attorney Jeff Cutter said while due process rights apply in legal proceedings, the same is not true for the censuring process.

“No one’s charging you with any crimes. No one’s alleging that you committed any crimes,” Cutter said. “You are not being subject to anything that would hinder your freedom and therefore due process — and all that goes with it — really isn’t part of this.”

Funk chairs the city’s Healthy Communities and Neighborhood Building Committee and serves on the Public Safety Committee.

City Manager Cliff Moore said it’s not yet known who will take over Funk’s duties. He said Funk will still be able to attend and vote in council meetings.

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