Kirkland City Council candidate Martin Morgan is currently serving a one-year probationary sentence for fourth degree assault and resisting arrest, the Reporter has learned. The city has also sued him twice, with the first lawsuit resulting in a $20,000 fine he currently owes the city.
The second lawsuit was dropped in June for his compliance to city zoning codes.
But Morgan, who vying for position No. 1 against incumbent Deputy Mayor Joan McBride, says he hopes voters will look beyond his past.
“I don’t want to make this election about me and my past with the city,” he said during a phone interview with the Reporter on Wednesday. “I want to make this about what’s good for Kirkland.”
In May 2008, Morgan was involved in an altercation with his neighbors that resulted in his arrest.
According to Kirkland Police documents, Morgan sprayed and soaked three of his neighbors with a garden hose after an argument broke out about a water main shared by the two properties.
Morgan sprayed one of the neighbor’s directly in the face, which “took her breath away” and shocked her, she told police.
Morgan admitted to police that he squirted his neighbors, but fled inside his house once the responding officer told him he was under arrest for assault. During the pursuit, the officer discharged his taser, shot a dart that went into Morgan’s back and drew his firearm, according to the charging papers. Morgan was arrested and booked into the Kirkland City Jail.
Morgan later pleaded guilty to fourth degree assault and resisting arrest. Two other charges of fourth degree assault were dismissed.
He is currently serving a one-year probationary sentence, which includes unsupervised probation, completion of 120 hours of anger management and 25 hours of community service, according to court documents. His probationary period ends this Nov. 13 – just 10 days after the general election – at which point the court will review Morgan’s file and could dismiss the guilty conviction if he complies with the conditions.
“If you flinch your hands, you’re resisting arrest apparently in the City of Kirkland,” Morgan said, adding that he hopes to have the guilty conviction expunged in November once he complies with the conditions. He has already completed anger management and 30 hours of community service. “It shouldn’t be too hard.”
He added the situation with his neighbors has been “wrong from the beginning.” He feels he had to plead guilty because “the cards were stacked” against him.
“You just sort of agree and move on,” he said. “Otherwise you can let it continue to haunt you. It was really a bizarre deal.”
The altercation was part of a long-running feud between Morgan and his neighbors over his and his wife’s adjacent properties at 8241, 8249 and 8251 122nd Ave. N.E. in Kirkland. Police records show at least 36 calls have been made to the Kirkland Police Department in the past three years by Morgan or his neighbors.
On numerous occasions, he was caught lying to police, according to the police reports.
For nearly two decades, issues surrounding the properties have ranged from two sheds that were over the allowed 120 square feet, up to 13 cars left on his property – several that were deemed junk – and parking of cars in an undesignated parking area. Other issues have included the removal of trees without the proper permit and junk and garbage accumulation on the Morgan’s properties.
Neighbors, including a nearby business, have complained to the city that the properties are unsightly and have devalued their property over the years.
The city also has had its own problems with Morgan.
Lawsuit leads to $20,000 fine
In many of the issues with the city, Morgan has either ignored or challenged the citations during the past decade, according to records.
One example in May 2006, shows the city hearing examiner concluded that Morgan had violated several city codes, including the accumulation of junk – scrap metal, discarded furniture, appliances, vehicle tires and rims, and several wrecked automobiles – and an oversized RV parked at the residence.
Craig Salzman, a city code enforcement officer, noted in city documents there has been a “long history” of violations that are “typically resolved by moving the violation (from one property) to another one of the properties.”
However, Morgan said “that’s really not the case.”
Morgan said that his issues with the city began after years of volunteering and working on the comprehensive plans for Rose Hill and Bridle Trails neighborhoods and the 85th Street Corridor.
“The city allowed a building to be built that did not meet any of the design codes laid out in the newly established comprehensive plan and I complained,” he said. “It has been somewhat of a nightmare for me and my family since then. I still wonder when the city is going to answer any of my questions … Where is the buffer that should have been installed between the office building and the single family residences to the south on 122nd Ave. and when will they address numerous other building code violations allowed for this building?”
But Morgan’s own city code violations were at the heart of a lawsuit that the city won during the early part of this decade.
“The primary problem was the vehicles and debris, the accumulation of junk and other materials (on the properties),” said Kirkland Assistant City Attorney Oskar Rey.
During the late 1990s, Morgan failed to comply with citations issued by the city. The city took him to court in which the city was awarded $20,000 for the infractions. The sum is now in collections with one of the Morgan’s properties as collateral in a deed of trust if the fine is not paid in full by 2016.
“In Mr. Morgan’s case I think the amount (for code violations) was higher than that and $20,000 is a negotiated settlement,” Rey noted.
Rey added this kind of amount “doesn’t happen often. It usually means that the property owner is not taking the necessary steps to get property in compliance.”
But Morgan believes he hasn’t done anything wrong.
“I don’t think I was at fault,” he said of the outcome. “Unfortunately, it’s how the city makes you jump through their hoops. I think the city is flawed.”
He also noted that it was difficult to comply with some of the codes “because the city wouldn’t tell you anything that was wrong. They refused to participate in any resolution. It always took a long time – there’s nobody in charge there.”
City records show that in April 2008, the city and the Morgans participated in a mediation session that resulted in a settlement agreement, which required the Morgans to comply with codes. However, after the 60-day period in the agreement lapsed, the Morgans had not complied, according to documents.
Last December, Morgan allegedly broke an agreement with the city to correct all the violations within 90 days, which led to a lawsuit brought by the city. The suit was eventually dropped in June, just before going to court. Morgan had resolved all the issues the city cited him for during the previous four years.
The city has not had any pending violations or ongoing enforcement issues with Morgan since June of this year, Rey said.
“Every case is unique and it is difficult to compare the magnitude,” Rey said of how Morgan’s violations have impacted the city. “In terms of severity, this was very time consuming to get to this point where we have no pending enforcement issues.”
Opponent Joan McBride said she heard about the issue when Morgan spoke with her about it in a bank, however “once the process starts with code enforcement, council members can’t get involved. The issue was between city staff and Mr. Morgan.”
McBride added that she hopes citizens “will look carefully at the records. It is something that will be left up to the voters to decide.”
Morgan has also claimed that the city is singling him out, according to city records. However, Rey stressed that code enforcement fines are intended to bring about code compliance and are not a means for the city to generate revenue.
“We treated Mr. Morgan like any one else and tried very hard to get him information so he could comply with the building and zoning codes,” said Rey.
City officials say a gross misdemeanor conviction of fourth degree assault does not disqualify Morgan from running for or holding an elected office.
Though Morgan claims the outcome of the lawsuit was “unfair,” he stressed that he doesn’t want this election to be about his past.
“I’ve had difficulty with the city. It’s made me realize they’re broken,” he said, noting that is the main reason he’s running for city council. “Now the issues are resolved and I would like to move forward.
Editor Carrie Wood contributed to this report.