The 30th District Democrats censured Federal Way City Council candidate Sharry Edwards during their monthly meeting Aug. 7.
Before a lengthy executive session, precinct committee officer Christi Keith said Edwards’ behavior was unacceptable and deserving of punishment.
After the vote, Edwards told the Mirror she was embarrassed and humiliated by the vote, which she said was unexpected.
“I made a mistake but this isn’t fair,” she said.
Edwards supporter Mayor Jim Ferrell, who was at the meeting, later described how the meeting was a surprise attack against Edwards.
“I think this was an ambush. I think it was really unfortunate,” Ferrell said.
The specifics of the complaints were discussed during a private executive session and not fully disclosed during the meeting. However, a subsequent press release from the 30th District Democrats outlined the complaints, which include Edwards’ actions on social media and her accusations against other candidates regarding campaign donations from marjiuana businesses.
“The specific nature of the complaints concerning Candidate Edwards included a public disagreement with a [precint committee officer] and member of the 30th Legislative District on social media that included a perceived threat to said PCO’s job,” the press release stated.
The press release also explains further “unbecoming and injurious” conduct that includes Edwards’ accusations regarding other Federal Way candidates accepting “bribes” in the form of campaign contributions.
Edwards responded to the press release, saying she was unaware Keith thought her words on Facebook were a threat until the meeting.
“After learning this, I apologized to her publicly,” Edwards said.
Deputy Mayor Susan Honda, the candidate Edwards’ accused of taking “bribes,” declined to comment on this matter.
Complaint letter outlines Edwards’s online comments
Keith outlined her complaints with Edwards in a letter she sent to 30th District chair Allison Taylor.
“A candidate for city council [Edwards], endorsed by the 30th, threatened my livelihood in response to a civil and informative discussion on Facebook about Needle Exchange Programs, which she does not support,” Keith states in the letter. “In response to an article posted in Federal Way Community Watch, Sharry stated her opposition to Needle Exchanges and a conversation ensued that culminated in Sharry Edwards threatening my job. As a potential constituent and a PCO … I find her conduct to be very concerning.”
Keith included in the letter the thread on the Facebook page where this discussion took place.
“Christi Keith please let your employer know that we know who you are, WE are not intimidated by you, and that I am here to fight for the health and safety of our residents,” Edwards stated in the thread, continuing that syringes belong in medical clincics and needle exchange programs have created a “community health hazard beyond belief.”
Keith continued in her complaint letter she is concerned about Edwards’ behavior online as a candidate and representative of the 30th District Democrats.
“Differences of opinion on public policy are okay. But inability to synthesize data and arrive at a reasonable conclusion is not,” Keith said. “Sharry’s behavior in this thread ranges from aggressive to sarcastic and threating [sic] constituents is completely out of bounds, so I question her ability to be professional and civil as a councilmember.”
Edwards said “we had a lengthy discussion surrounding the distribution of syringes,” and she plans to reach out to local orgaizations about wether needle exchange programs are doing more harm than good in the community. She said her goal moving forward is to engage in conversations about these programs and see if there are not some better solutions.
Discussion on censuring Edwards
After the executive session, Keith made a motion that “the body censures Sharry Edwards and that the board offers a statement of censure to be publicly released for conduct unbecoming of a member and injurious to the reputation of the 30th District.”
Chair Taylor said this motion was specifically regarding censuring Edwards and had nothing to do with the district’s endorsement of Edwards.
After the motion was presented, a few members spoke both for and against the motion, with some saying the punishment was not hard enough and others believing it was too harsh.
“It appears that we’re entering into what would be a private issue between two people,” Jim Grayson said.
Joshua Fike reminded members that this action is what would be expected from the Republican Party if one of their candidates had acted in a similar manner.
“What would we expect if it was the other side?”
Keith said that this censure was the lowest form of punishment for Edwards’s actions.
“It’s very clear what the course of action is,” she said. “I’ve asked for the lowest form of censure, and I think that’s appropriate because I think the goal here is to modify behavior, to find a candidate that appropriately represents the 30th District.”
Lyn Idahosa, state committeeperson 2 for the 30th District, said she wanted to amend the motion to both censure Edwards and revoke her endorsement.
“What is the biggest complaint about number 45 (President Donald Trump)?” she said. “His Twitter fingers … She’s [Edwards] not a child. We’re looking at this person to guide our community.”
Idahosa said that she is concerned about people in leadership being overly or easily provoked by people on social media.
“If someone on Facebook can irritate you to the point where you can say something like that, that’s a problem to me and you don’t belong in leadership.”
Several people agreed with Idahosa’s proposed motion, however Keith said there has to be a notice period before an endorsement can be revoked. Therefore, Taylor ruled the motion out of order and no further action was taken regarding the 30th District Democrat’s endorsement of Edwards.
However, Leah Naccarato, vice chair, said the censure of Edwards would not preclude any action taken on the endorsement at a later date.
Dorothy Burt spoke against the original motion, and said she thought the motion was unfairly punishing Edwards.
“I’m kind of ashamed of the whole evening, to tell you the truth,” she said. “I don’t think Sharry’s sins [are] anything like some of what I see in here sometimes.”
All present members voted 22-14 to censure Edwards with no further discussion on the matter.
The Democrats also later issued a formal letter of censure to Edwards.
Reaction following the meeting
Edwards told the Mirror after the meeting she felt the 30th District Democrats ambushed her with this action, and they did not notify her that this would be on the table at the meeting.
“This didn’t feel good.”
After adjournment, Ferrell said Edwards did not receive any notice or have any prior knowledge of the night’s events.
“I kept scouring the agenda, I kept looking over it and looking over it trying to figure out why there were four or five members of the media here because I knew something was coming,” he said. “I knew it. But I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know. Sharry didn’t know.”
When asked to clarify, Ferrell said the ambush was by certain individuals and the motion itself. He also pointed out on the agenda, there is no mention of the motion to censure Edwards.
“I’ve been an attorney for a quarter of a century and at the foundation of every process is notice and opportunity to be heard,” he said. “People should have some sort of notice … she got surprised here and ambushed.”
However, Taylor said the 30th District Democrats are not required to give out formal notification of potential motions that members may make during a meeting.
“There was no reason to notify Sharry Edwards because there was no way to know what was going to transpire at the meeting,” Taylor said.
Keith added that in the Facebook thread she notified Edwards that Keith perceived the candidate’s statements as a threat.
Ferrell said Edwards “deserved better than this.”
“Sharry is a person that’s been involved in the labor movement for 25 years … She has literally washed the clothes of the homeless in this community for years at her own expense,” he said. “She is running for City Council to try to make this community better and tonight, she got ambushed.”
He said the surprise “ambush” goes “against everything that is fundamentally fair and right in any organization.”
“She’s a good person and she’d make a great council member,” he said. “And she’s a friend.”