BOTHELL, Wash. — An investigation is underway into whether Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed violated any ethics laws when he was part of a group of developers that acquired the rights to buy part of Wayne Golf Course.
It's the same property that citizens and the city is pushing to buy to preserve for parks and for a salmon habitat.
"Now that we know it's available we're trying to get the community unified in trying to preserve the land," said David Bain, of OneBothell, a non-profit group trying to raise money to buy the land.
City manager Bob Stowe ordered an investigation into Freed's part of the land deal after public outcry.
"It'll look into whether any violations have occurred within the state's conflict of interest laws or any regulations or policies of Bothell," said Stowe.
Another citizen group started a website called impeachfreed.com calling on the mayor to resign.
Citizens claim he never disclosed that he was one of the developers that acquired the rights to buy part of the land until they called him out.
"My opinion to quote a great English playwright there's something rotten in the state of Denmark," said Robert Contreras who lives in Bothell.
Freed declined an interview for this story but sent us a statement saying, "I have every confidence the investigation will show all my actions were lawful and appropriate and I would be happy to talk with you at the conclusion of the investigation and release of its report.
King County council member Rod Dembowski is working with OneBothell to try and secure county and state grants for the preservation of the land.
He said that Freed should have stepped aside to give the community a chance at the land first, added that Freed's "personal financial interest" should not have been a barrier in this process.
When Freed emailed the city manager last month on the issue he said he only acted on moving forward with trying to buy the land as someone who only has a "minority interest" in the project and when the city council did not move to put in an offer to buy the property.
The proposal calls for up to 76 townhomes to be built on the golf course.
In his letter, Freed also said, "I have lived in the valley for 41 years and the quality of the new neighborhood will respect the environment by protecting around 60-65% of the 36 acres in permanent open space, improve the buffers with native vegetation and create a much desired western connection to Blythe Park through a new pedestrian and bike trail system."
Contreras says all of it needs to be preserved.
"For future generations I'm so old that it's not really going to matter to me that much but it's going to matter to my children and other's children and their children," said Contreras.
The investigation is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
King County Council member Rod Dembowski also wrote an open letter to the public voicing his support for saving the land:
"I write to express my strong and unequivocal support for OneBothell's efforts to work with local, regional and state governments and organizations to acquire, preserve, and protect all land currently operating as Wayne Golf Course in Bothell. The property holds important historic, recreational, and environmental significance. Development of the property would be contrary to long-standing parks and recreation and habitat preservation efforts and plans. King County stands ready to help in this undertaking, and may be able to assist with the funding of acquisition and/or protection efforts. King County funds project acquisition through a number of programs, including our regional parks levy, the Conservation Futures program, a Clean Water Act mitigation bank program, and where appropriate, funding from our Flood Control District. Other creative funding solutions, such as transfer of development rights programs, may also be available. These programs require partnerships and a commitment by property owners and local governments to participate. King County has a proud history of funding the initial efforts to conserve much of the Wayne Golf Course in the mid-1990s. I stand strongly behind OneBothell's community-based effort to finish this work. I encourage all elected officials and leaders in the conservation movement to join this effort and finish the job before it is too late. I encourage the owners of the property to take a pause and work with us to do the right thing for our community," said Dembowski.