Mayor of Aberdeen, Erik Larson said this morning that he could face removal from office over what he said was a misunderstanding of state law after a local blogger pointed out a conflict of interest in a recent article.

Larson said he felt he didn’t need to disclose his stock in the California company Tesla during a meeting where his council voted on a contract with the company. “Initially, the interpretation that we were using, was that if you vote on the issue there’s very specific language detailing how you need to disclose that and recuse yourself from the vote.”

The mayor added, “And I think the question that we’re asking ourselves now is ‘I didn’t make those disclosures because I didn’t vote, but am I actually exempt from having to make those disclosures, or am I not required to make those disclosures in the minutes of the meeting before we take the vote, even if I’m not voting on the issue?’.”

Larson talked over the phone from Hawaii Thursday morning, where he said he was on his first vacation in two years. He said that he’s communicating their options to the city council “I’m writing a letter to the council that will be delivered probably tomorrow. We’ll be addressing that, and in the future, we’ll make sure that we’re addressing that accurately. Because ethics is something that’s really important. Intentionally or not, the law is the law and we need to follow it. I take it very seriously and we’ll be addressing that probably at the next meeting.”

Larson said that he has owned stock in the company since 2013, adding that by RCW definition he was exempt from some things because he held less than 1% of interest in the company, “My interest is a remote interest, it doesn’t bar the city from having a contract with Tesla motors.” Larson said the problem was with disclosure, “But there are some things in there that are required to be disclosed if there is any action taken on the item.”

He said he plans to face a $500 fine and will have to null the contract with the company, he hopes the council will bring it forward again.

He added that he could also face impeachment, “This is something that I could be removed from office for, but that’s something the council would have to look at it and say ‘this is a gross violation of ethics, this person is not fit for office, and we want to proceed with going through impeachment proceedings to remove them.’ I don’t think that that is going to happen in this case but it’s an option to the council, and I’ll be addressing that in the letter I send them.”

The issue was brought to light by a local blogger at ladylibertee.wordpress.com, who noted that the mayor disclosed stocks in Tesla on his public disclosure documents in the past, but not to the public when he negotiated the contract for several electric chargers that were built in downtown Aberdeen.

Here is the first half of the interview this morning from our archives, the topic begins around 15 minutes into the audio.

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