Kennewick Police Department still smarting from police reforms

Stabbed Kennewick Police Car

Update: July 26, 2021, 11:45 p.m. Kennewick Police Department reports that pepperball guns are on order.

Of the Tri-Cities, only the City of Kennewick opposed police reform in the last Washington State Legislative Session. Reform legislation passed and apparently, the Kennewick Police Departments (KPD) hasn’t come to terms with that.

A media release on July 27 about officers’ response to a disturbance at 1001 W. 4th Ave. in Kennewick describes how Kennewick officers successfully apprehended a woman throwing dishes and rocks and armed with scissors and kitchen knives which she used to slash their tires.

The successful conclusion of the event, the 28-year-old in custody and injury only to two police cars, didn’t stop Kennewick police from complaining about police reforms. According to the media release, H.B. 1054 prohibits the KPD from using their 37mm impact baton because it is larger than .50 caliber. They had to call in the Pasco Police with their pepperball gun to help.

Through public record requests earlier this year, the Observer obtained the emails from each of the Tri-Cities between city officials and staff and their Olympia lobbyists. In an email on January 12, 2021, Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who also serves as a Kennewick Assistant City Manager, opposed the reform bill H.B. 1054.  and instructed the city lobbyists, Tom McBride and Ben Buchholz, to oppose it as the city’s representatives in Olympia.

When the Observer emailed the members of the Kennewick City Council to ask if the council had discussed a position on the police reform, only two wrote back. Both Councilmember Jim Millbauer and Councilmember Chuck Torrelli pointed to the discussion at the July 14, 2020, Kennewick City Council meeting.

At that time the council seemed to accept Hohenberg’s position supporting choke holds and other methods prohibited in H.B. 1054. Hohenberg said, “Police Officers have to have the option or we’ll have more dead officers.”

Pasco took the opposite approach. Before the last legislative session, Pasco City Council formally adopted this position: “Pasco encourages [their emphasis] the state to enact reforms to our state’s criminal justice system. Pasco has taken bold steps to reform policing locally and calls on the state to follow suit.”

According to Interim City Manager Jon Amundson, “The City of Richland supported the AWC (Association of Washington Cities) in their position on behalf of cities, ‘support local control over city law enforcement to meet the needs of each community while recognizing the need for certain statewide reforms.’”

No word on whether KPD plans to buy a peppergun.

Undisclosed property flip lands local pols McKay and McKay in disclosure commission trouble

An undisclosed land swap has put a Kennewick city councilman and his Benton County commissioner son in potential trouble with the state.

Two complaints filed April 28 by Kennewick Councilman Chuck Torrelli accuse William “Bill” McKay, Sr. and McKay’s son William “Will” McKay, Jr.  of flipping ownership of a property at 2652 W. 15th Ave. in Kennewick without telling the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

In April of each year, office holders in the state are required to file their personal financial information for the previous year so that citizens can determine any conflicts of interest. That information could include land deals.

The flipped property is an empty 3.87-acre parcel on South Conway Street, west of the Zintel Canyon greenway in Kennewick. Benton PUD owns two parcels on South Ely Street adjacent to the west side of the 2652 W. 15th property.

Bill McKay Sr. bought the land in 2017 for $390,000, according to the complaint. On April 8, 2019, McKay Sr., a dairy farmer in Idaho for 21 years, created a limited liability company fittingly named Udderly Williams. Will McKay Jr. is listed as a governor on the Udderly Williams paperwork with the  Secretary of State’s office. Neither one of them disclosed the LLC on their PDC financial filings for that year.

On August 27, 2019, McKay Sr. took McKay Jr. off the LLC’s governor’s list. Two days later, McKay Sr. transferred the land to Udderly Williams, according to the complaint. .

McKay Sr.’s ownership of the property has not been a secret in Kennewick.  On August 26, 2019, he spoke before the Kennewick Planning Commission requesting that the property’s zoning be changed to high density residential.

At about the same time, he asked the planning commission to change his 5.47-acre property at 3112 W. 27th Ave. just east of the entrance to the Canyon Lakes development from Residential Manufactured Home (RMH) to Residential High (RH). That property has a storage unit facility on it and is appraised by the Benton County Auditor at $3,687,910.

Both properties had zoning which allowed storage unit development before a 2018 municipal code amendment prohibited those in a RMH zone. The two properties were grandfathered for the storage unit use.                                                  

The changes were approved by the Kennewick City Council on March 17, 2020. Kennewick staff recommended the new zoning to help address a housing shortage in Kennewick. McKay recused himself from the votes.

The PDC has not resolved Torrelli’s complaints.

Pasco City Council goes live but not without controversy. Richland and Kennewick councils stick with Zoom

Pasco City Councilmembers donned their facemasks and began having live city council meetings on Feb, 22. Anti-mask protestors have already disrupted one. Kennewick and Richland councils have stuck with Zoom.

Governor Jay Inslee moved Benton and Franklin Counties into Phase 2 on Feb. 14. That allowed live meetings with 25 percent occupancy in the council chamber, mandatory masks for everyone, and six-foot distancing.

Like everything else with Covid restrictions, Phase 2 has not been without controversy. At the March 1 Pasco City Council meeting, two men in the public section of the council chamber refused to wear a mask.

According to Pasco Mayor Saul Martinez, “A couple of men wanted to express their opinions and they were very respectful. ”After a fifteen-minute recess, the two agreed to leave.

City Attorney Heather Kintzley explained the guidelines to the Richland council on March 2. That was enough to make councilmembers decide that they weren’t interested in live meetings.

Councilmember Bob Thompson who has cursed Inslee’s restrictions said, “We might be a little premature. We could be reinforcing bad policy decisions made by others.”

Councilmember Terry Christensen, whose comments during council meetings have often been hard to hear, agreed with Thompson, “We would have to speak through masks,” he said.

“Rarely do I agree with Bob and Terry, but it is too early to have live meetings,” Councilmember Phil Lemley responded..

As she often does, Councilmember Sandra Kent wanted to “go with the flow.”

Mayor Ryan Lukson, Councilmembers Marianne Boring and Michael Alvarez also supported the status quo. Zoom meetings will continue.

Like Richland, Kennewick City Council currently meets via Zoom. Councilmember Steve Lee said that next week he expected the council to consider making Zoom attendance a permanent option for council members.