‘Intentional and flagrant disregard’: Spokane City Council censures Bingle over refusal to wear mask

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Spokane City Council Monday voted to censure a fellow council member over his refusal to wear a mask at city hall.

The council also approved a resolution urging Mayor Woodward to enforce the mask rule and prohibit Jonathan Bingle from entering city hall without a mask.

Jonathan Bingle told 4 News Now last week he’s taking a “principled stand” over the state mask mandate, which requires people to wear masks in indoor spaces.

Several of his fellow council members expressed concern over the refusal. A city spokesman said there was an active conversation with Bingle about the policy and his refusal, but said it was “tricky” because of his position as an elected official.

The Washington State Joint Agency Compliance Team sent a note to the City of Spokane last week, reminding the city about the mask requirement.

Some council members worry it could lead to the city being fined for not enforcing the mask mandate.

A resolution introduced at the council briefing Monday says Bingle’s “intentional and willful violation of state law” and his refusal to wear a mask at city hall shows an “intentional and flagrant disregard for the health and safety of every person with whom he comes into contact.”

“I put this resolution forward because council member Bingle is intentionally breaking the law and, even worse, using his office to break the law,” said councilman Zack Zappone. “This resolution for censure is our way as a body to say that this conduct does not represent us.”

Councilman Michael Cathcart accused the council of holding back the resolution until afternoon on Monday.

Zappone replied, “It wasn’t secret if you knew about it.”

Cathcart and Bingle said it was dangerous to ask the city’s mayor to not allow a council member to enter city hall.

“This has never been about the masks,” Bingle told the council Monday. “My effort… is because I want to stand up for the employees who are not heard.”

He cited firefighters and other city employees who don’t want to comply with mask and vaccine requirements.

Bingle said he was not doing this for self-promotion, but that the “overwhelming majority” of people who have reached out to him support his stance.

“This is a decision I feel good about because I want to represent those who feel as if they don’t have a voice,” Bingle said.

Several times during the discussion, Bingle and Zappone sparred over the mask mandate. Bingle accused Zappone of not masking up “at a bar with [his] friends.”

Zappone accused Bingle of using his office to break the law.

Before casting his vote, Council President Breann Beggs said he encouraged Bingle to continue to speak his mind and his beliefs.

“It’s his actions that I’m concerned about,” Beggs said. “To violate the law and not expect the consequences, that’s untenable.”

Beggs continued that censure is really just the council acknowledging that a council member is breaking the law, but says it should not interfere with Bingle doing his job.

Bingle said other council members have not worn masks and aren’t being disciplined; Beggs said Bingle is the only one.

After about an hour of debate, the council voted 5-2 to formally censure Bingle for “displaying his lack of judgement which reflects poorly on the public’s trust and confidence in government generally and local elected officials specifically.”

Council members Beggs, Kinnear, Stratton, Wilkerson and Zappone voted for censure; Cathcart and Bingle voted against.

In a second resolution, the council voted on whether to urge Mayor Nadine Woodward to enforce the mandate by banning Bingle from city hall if he’s not wearing a mask.

Zappone said the city should follow the leadership Gonzaga showed in suspending John Stockton’s season tickets because he refuses to wear a mask.

“I’ve worked for three mayors in my lifetime at city hall,” Stratton said. “We need an adult in the room to stand up, set out these rules and get legal to follow them.”

Stratton said she’s one of several people who are frustrated that the mayor has not taken action.

The council also voted 5-2 on the resolution, urging Mayor Woodward to enforce the mask mandate and prohibit Bingle from entering city hall if he’s not wearing a mask.

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