Hornish steps down as deputy mayor in heated meeting

Tom Hornish

Tom Hornish stepped down Tuesday as deputy mayor but remains on then Sammamish City Council as an elected member.

Hornish has taken a new job that will require heavy travel in the next several months. He announced that he has to step down from council and regional committees while he assimilates into the new position.

Karen Moran was selected by the council to be deputy mayor on a 4-3 vote. Ramiro Valderrama was nominated by Pam Stuart to succeed Hornish. Jason Ritchie joined with Stuart and Valderrama to vote for Valderrama.

Moran, nominated by Chris Ross, receive her own vote along with Ross, Mayor Christie Malchow and Hornish.


Hornish’s new employer is a law firm in San Diego, with a Seattle office.

Ramiro Valderrama

Valderrama and Ritchie essentially called for Hornish to leave the council, said three council members, citing precedent when Troy Romero, a partner in his own law firm, opened a San Diego office. Eventually, it became known that Romero and his family had moved to San Diego and he was living at a relative’s home when he was back in Seattle. Romero’s San Diego residence became known when a photo of him appeared on the front page of The Seattle Times inspecting the ashes of the house, which had been destroyed in one of San Diego’s periodic major wildfires.

Following the newspaper photo and story, Romero resigned his position on the Sammamish council.

Valderrama said Tuesday he talked to the former council member that day. Romero, Valderrama claimed, said he had been in Sammamish most of the time.

Council member Karen Moran, who was a close friend of Romero’s at the time, disputed Valderrama’s claims. Romero wasn’t a Sammamish resident by the time he resigned.

“He was couch-hopping,” a current city council member said.

Sammamish Comment asked Romero about his conversation with Valderrama.

Romero experience

“He asked me several questions about my experience in 2003 and splitting my time,” Romero wrote in an email. “I told him it was very difficult to do, but possible.  I was fortunate because I was always in WA at least three business days per week, and the Council was great at scheduling Council meetings and Committee meetings in the middle of the week when I was always here (so I didn’t miss meetings).

“That said, I told him that it was really difficult to pull off and I was only able to do it for about a year,” Romero wrote.

“[Valderrama] asked if I thought someone could serve if they were never around during the week.  I told him I thought that would be really hard, but again possible depending upon how his Council colleagues helped him or her balance the split.

“He also asked if I quit going to Council or Committee meetings (or resign from committees) and I said no.  I was around for those and participated fully.

“It wasn’t until the very end of the conversation, when I asked him why he was asking about my experience, that he told me that Tom had taken a job down in San Diego.”

Previous experiences

Four council members charged Valderrama came to the meeting Tuesday essentially campaigning to force Hornish off the council, something Valderrama denies.

“He came with both barrels loaded,” said one council member.

Hornish had given advance notice to the council last week that he would step down as deputy mayor and from committees.

The jockeying by Valderrama began immediately, the council members claim.

Valderrama talked with Ritchie and Stuart. Valderrama appeared Monday at the Citizens for Sammamish meeting, conducting what amounted to push-polling about an unidentified council member who resigned from committees and would have challenges attending meetings.

Valderrama said at the Tuesday council meeting that he called former Romero and former council member Nancy Whitten. Whitten served when John Curley was a council member for four years. Curley constantly objected during his one four-year term to the amount of time the position required and committees meetings members were appointed to. Curley refused to serve on many committees during his one term.

Valderrama cited his conversations with Romero and Whitten in response to Hornish’s announcements, but he says he didn’t try to force Hornish off the council.

Remaining or not on the council?

“I did not try to force Hornish off the Council,” Valderrama wrote The Comment in an email Wednesday. “I have enormous respect for Tom, and I stated this during the meeting.

“We all stated that we wanted to work with his schedule and to accommodate his schedule so he could continue work on his committees.  I said we had two past council precedents that needed to discussed, given the announcement by Tom. One was the Troy Romero situation, who had a home in California and was splitting time between California and Sammamish.

“In talking with him [Tuesday], he told me that he spent the majority of his time here in Washington (a requirement to serve, he believed) and never missed a council meeting while on.  He said that the work load did however take a toll,” Valderrama wrote.

“The other precedent (which the [city] attorney recalled caused “friction”) was John Curley not taking committees and that the past council wanted to ensure that going forward, everyone was on committees due to the burden to the others.

“Last night, Tom said while he figures the schedule out he planned to spend the majority of the week here in Sammamish but was adamant he would not serve on any committee (except governance) and wanted them relinquished at that meeting immediately.  We again asked to take some time and work with him but he was adamant.”

“I…want to reiterate that I value Tom’s contribution to the council, want him to continue to be effective, and hope that his schedule will permit this.  We are all committed to helping him as needed.”

Hornish told The Comment Valderrama omitted several “key” points.

“I stated that I’m hoping to be in Sammamish the majority of the week, but that’s four out of seven days (including the weekend days), but not three days of the workweek (when such committee meetings often occur),” he wrote in an email.

“In addition, I highlighted that I am going back into the private practice of law which is a very time-demanding position–often 16 hour days. I stated for these reasons I wanted to be clear that I would no longer have the time to serve on committees (even if I was in town) except the governance committee.”

Heated meeting

Although Valderrama’s emailed comments are understanding and conciliatory, four council members told The Comment the meeting became heated as Valderrama, Ritchie and Stuart pressed the issue of Hornish’s continuing service.

At one point, the city attorney said Hornish could resign or be recalled, but the council can’t force him off. Despite this statement, one council member said the conversation continued about Hornish’s serving.

“The conversation should have been, congratulations, Tom, what can we do to help?” said member Chris Ross. Instead, “it appeared to me that they were trying at a least establish a precedent. The tone was negative to a council member having work outside Sammamish for a period of time. They weren’t open to being flexible,” he said of Valderrama and Ritchie.

“Jason suggested Tom keep all the committees and if that burned him out then it proved he wasn’t capable of service,” Ross said.

Hornish’s plans

Hornish old The Comment that he and his family will remain in Sammamish, in contrast to Romero’s situation. But initially, Hornish said his travel schedule will be heavy. He hopes that within a few months, this will ease and he’ll be able to reengage on committees.

Mayor Christie Malchow said Hornish deserves some leeway. She said Hornish has been one of the hardest-working members of the council, even reading the detailed (and excrutiating dull) Highway Capacity Manual as part of the council’s analysis of traffic concurrency.

“Who does that?” she asked.

She expressed confidence that Hornish will give the new arrangement a fair chance and if he can’t in the end reengage, he’ll make the “right” decision.

Ross agreed.

He also noted that public interaction usually is on weekends (when Hornish will be in town) because the public by and large works during the week.

Hornish called into Tuesday’s council meeting from out of state (he was on vacation). Valderrama also has called into council meetings when he’s been traveling on business or personal trips.


7 thoughts on “Hornish steps down as deputy mayor in heated meeting

  1. Other Council members that have participated from afar , Phil Dyer who traveled 2 to 3 weeks a month for a while, was our 1st mayor and Ron Hawoth went to Arizona for the winter months.

  2. Title of your article should read Mayor Malchow and Council Member Moran use an ingenious display of wits and quick thinking to out smart Valderrama and Ritchie’s attempt to conquer and divide the City Council. This article only scratches the surface of what happened in Tuesday night’s meeting (I hope a follow up article is published!) Once the meeting becomes available on You Tube ever Sammamish resident and political science students across America should watch this meeting. What they will see is two aspiring politicians (Valderrama and Ritchie a Republican & Democrat) willing to do whatever it takes to undermine the unity and oneness of the Council. Valderrama and Ritchie showed that they would stop at nothing to try to openly divide the council essentially creating a welcome mat for all developers or anyone else with an agenda to come take advantage of the divisive politics in Sammamish that they purposely created.

    Despite Ritchie and Valderrama’s calculated efforts, Mayor Malchow and Council Member Moran displayed an amazingly amount of quick thinking and witts to thwart this takeover attempt.
    At one point in the meeting Ritchie uses his political pedestal to openly call out Moran for using foul language (apparently muttered under her breath). Ritchie was clearly trying to bait Moran into a morality debate meant to make Moran look silly (with Ritchie already establishing himself on Moral high ground by calling out Moran in front of everyone). The attempt was disingenuous and very self-righteous. Rather than take the bait Moran brilliantly remained cool and calm quickly apologized for any harm done and chaulked her use of such language to her personality style which is calling things exactly how she saw them even if that meant muttering under her breath. Moran’s response was honest and refreshing and caused all watching to embrace Moran’s style for calling things how they are. Ritchie on the other hand showed that he was willing to use divisive politics at all cost even if that mean using his plat form to embarrass other council members and divide the council as a whole.
    As the debate drug on it became apparent that Mayor Malchow was able to take a step back summarize the situation and then brilliantly put a plan together to thwart the takeover. When it came time to nominate a new Deputy Mayor, Malchow called for nominations, there was a silence and Stuart then nominated Valderrama for Deputy Mayor. Subsequently Moran and Ross were also nominated for Deputy Mayor. When it came for a vote Malchow then points out that per Roberts Rules the voting had to be done in the order the nominations were made. Valderramma is up first and gets three votes. Moran is up next and gets the remaining four votes and is elected Deputy Mayor. It was very clear that Malchow had thought out the whole process of nominations and voting. Stuart took that bait by nominating Valdarrama first then Moran was only then nominated 2nd which would be a key advantage in the order they took the vote. Ross was then also added as a 3rd nomination possibility as a possible attempt to split the alliance of the Ritchie, Valderrama, Stuart combo. Once Valderrama got the 3 votes Moran got the remaining 4 votes. Ross was a decoy to potentially break up the 3 vote combo. Once Moran was elected it became very clear that Malchow, Moran, Hornish, and Ross had clearly out smarted, out witted and out played Ritchie and Valderrama’s attempts to divide and then to conquer council. No amount of training or preparation could have prepared Malchow and Moran to respond with the level of quick thinking and coolness they did in this meeting. It was made very clear that Malchow and Moran are the right people to be leading this city.

  3. First, let me reiterate again that I have tremendous respect for Tom Hornish and his contributions to the City. My hope is that with his new position in San Diego he can still provide the quality guidance to our city. As a Council Member I felt it was important and appropriate for the Council to have this discussion and alerted the whole Council and City manager in advance of the Council Meeting of this need.

    This was in no way a discussion intended to “outsmart, outwit and outplay” or “divide and conquer”. If we are going to be successful as a Council, the impacts of Tom’s role while working in San Diego needed open discussion. During the Council meeting I and others worked to see if we could move committees to accommodate his schedule. I had also given Tom a call and left a voice message of my desire to further discuss this with him prior to the Council meeting. We should note that the City Attorney on Tuesday noted that it was appropriate to have these discussions particularly given the additional work burden that will be incurred by the other members of the Council.

    Additionally, in regards to political aspirations, as many in the City already know, I was diagnosed last year with CANCER and my focus is on meeting obligations to the city and addressing my health. I have been clear that I have no intention to run for office.

    I want to reiterate again the enormous respect I have for Tom. I and the entire Council are committed to working with him on this tough balancing act he will have.

  4. I didn’t catch the meeting and only have been to 1 or 2 meetings in my 10 years here in Sammamish. Without watching the meeting Council Member Valderrama, bringing up the fact that you have CANCER and the need to focus more on your personal life seem to concur with the overall disingenuous accusation’s being made. If this is the case then why did you vote for your self to become Deputy Mayor potentially necessitating more of your personal time and taking away from your ability to take care of oneself?

  5. Yes. Still on council-just not the extra duties of various committees. Like you—I’m on vacation—in Hawaii!




  6. As far as I’m concerned, the citizens of Sammamish elected Tom, and that’s the end of the story unless he violates some legal qualification or chooses to resign from Council.

    There shouldn’t be any required committee work. The Council needs a variety of representation to make good decisions. If everyone was required to commit to anything beyond their Council attendance, we would only be represented by retirees and unemployed.

    The Council should have nothing to say about Tom’s choice of how much time he can participate on outside meetings. I, for one, support Tom continuing to serve or not serve on whatever committees he chooses.

    If he fails to serve the citizens’ interests, they will vote at the ballot. Until then, congratulations Tom on your new job, and I’m glad you are not moving. I hope you will continue to be a strong contributor to the city’s future in your elected position on the City Council, and whatever ways you can beyond that.

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