By Martin Barrett
In a Burien City Council meeting, called to decide if the actions of Planning Commission Chairman Charles Schaefer and City Councilor Cydney Moore merited disciplinary action for their engagement in moving tent encampments from city site to city site, the Burien City Council voted to remove Schaefer from the Planning Commision on a 4 to 3 vote.
Schaefer was called up on 9 specific counts. He was deemed guilty of five of those counts:
2. Violating or causing the unhoused to violate Burien’s ordinances by sending, directing, or encouraging the unhoused to camp on Burien park property, which is a crime under BMC 7.30.110 (No person shall camp in any park area, including any park parking lot) and BMC 1.15.080 (The violation of any regulation is unlawful… any violation of this code shall constitute a misdemeanor). (Handbook, p. 4)
3. Interfering with the City Manager’s administration of Burien’s day-to-day operations and execution of City Council policies and objectives. (Handbook 2.D)
6. After speaking with the media, Mr. Schaefer failed to immediately notify the City Manager or Communications Manager about something that could impact or reflect negatively on Burien, its officials, staff, or its business. (Handbook, p. 10)
8. Taking actions that undermine or attempt to undermine or thwart the Council’s action, authority, decision(s), deliberation, discretion, or options concerning the unhoused. (See Burien Rules of Order 6.20)
9. Engaged in an activity that the Council would not permit to be unilaterally performed by staff or the public.
The vote was consistent on each count, with Mayor Sofia Aragon, Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling, and Council Members Stephanie Mora and Jimmy Matta voting in agreement with the charge and Council Members Hugo Garcia, Cyndey Moore, and Sara Moore voting nay.
Burien resident holding up a sign at City Council meeting on June 15, 2023.
Schilling and Mora asked the most direct questions, Schilling pointedly asking Schaefer why he did not send them to shelters where they could get help. Mora pointed out that the Salvation Army was at the encampment sweep at 6th and 152nd and offered every camper a place to go. ( No one had to stay on the street.)
The process with Schaefer took 3 hours. There were about 50 people at the meeting. There were about 45 comments made, mostly in person. The comments weighed heavily towards the removal of Schaefer from his office Commission position.
The Mayor called for a recess at 10:00. When the Council returned to take up the second part of the agenda, the potential censure of Council Member Cydney Moore, Deputy Mayor Schilling moved immediately to postpone the discussion indefinitely. Matta immediately seconded it. There were a few comments by Schilling and Matta to justify their positions. Cydney Moore then spoke up. “I really do not care what you do. I do not respect the moral authority of our Council. Everything Schaefer did, I did right alongside of him.” In the end, only Mora voted nay on the motion, and the meeting adjourned.
It was a stunning turn of events. Citizens left very frustrated and angry! Why were the actions severe enough to remove a commissioner but not censure a Councilor? Was it a double standard? It appeared as though there was courage enough to disciple the servant but not the master.