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Kirkland Councilman Bob Sternoff resigns | Update

Kirkland Councilman Bob Sternoff - Contributed
Kirkland Councilman Bob Sternoff
— image credit: Contributed

Longtime Kirkland Councilman Bob Sternoff submitted his resignation to the city on Monday, effective immediately.

Sternoff’s letter of resignation did not outline specifically why he was stepping down: “Effective this date, I hereby resign my position as a Kirkland City Council member,” he wrote in his one-sentence letter.

Mayor Joan McBride said that Sternoff’s resignation was a “very difficult decision” for him to make and she respects his decision.

“He told me he had given much thought to it,” said McBride. “He had spoken with those who were close to him. He went through a period of discernment to come to this decision. I respect his decision and the process he went through to come to this decision. I think it was a noble decision.”

The Reporter published a story on March 21 regarding a Kirkland couple who filed a civil lawsuit against Sternoff in November 2012 in King County Superior Court. The complaint, which Sternoff denies, alleges that he defrauded them out of $70,000.

The story also outlined Sternoff’s financial woes with his former business and an embezzlement claim he filed with the Kirkland Police Department against his former employee.

Sternoff was not available for immediate comment.

He was first elected to the council in 2005 and his term would have expired on Dec. 31, 2015. The council will discuss the process of filling his vacancy to Position No. 2 during its April 2 meeting.

When a council position becomes vacant, the remaining council members can appoint a qualified person to fill the position, according to state law.

If the council fails to appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy within 90 days, the council’s authority ceases and the King County Council would appoint a qualified person.

McBride said that Sternoff’s contributions to the city over the years have included the annexation of Finn Hill, North Juanita and Kingsgate; the passage of the two park bonds; and his regional representation of Kirkland.

“Looking back over the years I have served with him, he has done many wonderful things for the city and the region and we are very grateful for that,” added McBride.

Deputy Mayor Doreen Marchione, who has known Sternoff for more than 10 years, said “he’s served the region well from the different committees he’s served on and chaired. He’s done a lot of good and I wish him well.”

Marchione noted that Sternoff called her Monday to tell her the news in person.

“I think he just wants to deal with the issues that are out there facing him right now and that’s what he will be doing,” she said.

Councilwoman Amy Walen noted that Sternoff really cares about the city.

"He loves Kirkland - he was raised here," said Walen, who has known Sternoff for six years. "He's a Kirkland guy. He brings that to his decision making and I respect his decision … [and his] motivation to do the right thing for the city."

Councilman Toby Nixon said he is sad that his friend Sternoff resigned.

"I greatly appreciate his advice and counsel, and his many years of hard work and sacrifice on behalf of the people of Kirkland. He will be deeply missed."

Santos Contreras, a former city councilman and Sternoff’s longtime friend, said he and his wife Sue  were upset about the news. Sue was Sternoff’s campaign manager during his re-election in 2011.

“I’m really sorry,” said Contreras. “We’re losing good people … He’s so thoughtful and intelligent and he brings good thinking to the council.”

Contreras said that Sternoff was supportive during his run for the King County executive seat in 2001. He also recently helped Sue clean a downtown sidewalk prior to the rededication ceremony of the historic Capt. Anderson ferry clock.

“Sue called Sternoff the night before and said, ‘would you pressure wash the sidewalk,’” recalled Contreras. “So there he is the next morning on a Saturday cleaning the sidewalk with his pressure washer. So that’s the kind of guy he is and we’re just sorry to see a friend leave.”

He said he believes the current civil litigation and other issues that Sternoff faces was a “precipitant” of his resignation.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” he added.

Kurt Triplett, city manager, said anyone who is qualified and has been a Kirkland resident for at least a year can apply for the vacant seat.

"I don't believe that council members have anyone in mind. Everyone's still reacting to the news," said Triplett of Sternoff's resignation.

The council will decide during its April 2 meeting in open session the process for how nominations for appointment will be conducted. The regular meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be held in the council chamber, Kirkland City Hall, 123 Fifth Avenue.

During that meeting the council will also set the deadline to make a decision on the appointment. Triplett expects the council will make the decision before the filing period for the November election, which is May 13-17.

The appointed council member will serve until the November 2013 election is certified. If that person stands for election and wins, he or she will continue to serve.

If another person is elected to the fill the vacancy, the person elected will take office when the election is certified and would serve the remainder of the unexpired term.

For filing information, visit www.kingcounty.gov/elections.

Reporter Raechel Dawson contributed to this report.

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