Unfounded Ethics Complaint, Statement

From former mayor (2016-2019) and current council member (2023) Jon Mutchler regarding unfounded, unproven, and untrue accusations of an ethics violation and a summary of the results of the September 2019 independent ethics investigation, paid for by the City of Ferndale, conducted by W. Scott Snyder, of Ogden, Murphy, Wallace, PPLC (901 Fifth Ave #3500, Seattle, WA  98164). This is public record. [February 15, 2020, edited June 6, 2020, Oct 18, 2023]

Note:  all items referenced in this summary are public record available from the City of Ferndale and Police Department upon request. Contact City of Ferndale clerk. (360) 685-2354

Jon Mutchler served as Ferndale’s mayor from 2016-2019, on the City Council from 2010-2015. And again on the city council, 2022- present. His administration served with integrity, honesty, and transparency and it grieved him, his family, friends and supporters to see his good name wrongly attacked for the worst of reasons, petty personal local politics. 


Complaint filed by Councilmember O—-: Two weeks following his primary election loss (August 6, 2019) when he ran for mayor against incumbent Mutchler, and the immediate day following his admonishment and rebuke by and from the Ferndale City Council for conduct judged by his peers as “discriminatory, harassing, and retaliatory“ toward Ferndale’s Chief of Police Kevin Turner (August 19, 2019, Council minutes), Ferndale Councilmember O—- then filed an “unfounded” ethics complaint against then-sitting Mayor Mutchler falsely charging the mayor with interference with a police investigation that briefly involved a Mutchler family member (August 20, 2019, ethics complaint filed with the City).* 

At the same time Councilmember O— also filed an ethics complaint against a fellow council member, Rebecca Xczar, on an unrelated matter. Both charges were eventually dismissed unanimously by Council. 

O—- also filed a third ethics complaint against Councilmember Kate Bishop during the last week of his council-term. It was likewise dismissed by Council.

Councilmember O— used misleading, inaccurate, second and third-hand gossip supplied to him by G— and Y—– G——- who had become well-known and long-term political opponents of Mayor Mutchler and made similar unfounded public accusations against Mutchler.

Normally, ethics investigations will be conducted “in house” by Ferndale’s city attorney. However, since the city attorney (Dannon Traxler) worked at the “pleasure of the mayor,” a conflict of interest arose.  Thus, the City hired an independent outside investigator at a cost of some $16,000 to investigate the charges. 

It should be noted that Mayor Mutchler had verbally asked staff (City administrator Jori Burnett and Police Chief Kevin Tuner) to look into conducting an outside investigation regarding unfounded rumors that the mayor had interfered with police operations two months earlier. But learning the cost to the city could be $20,000-30,000, the Mayor Mutchler chose not to direct staff to launch an investigation whose conclusions were already known to him and the entire staff involved. It was O—-‘s complaint that made the outside investigation necessary. It can noted here that no ethics violations, suspension of customary police or city processes, or requests for any kind of favoritism were ever, at the time or after, made against Mayor Mutchler by anyone employed at City Hall or the Ferndale Police Department.

With full support of the mayor, but concerns of expense expressed by council members, the city (directed by the city attorney and city administrator) located outside counsel, to conduct the investigation. 

W. Scott Snyder, an experienced attorney in such matters (without ties to Ferndale) thoroughly investigated the matter and summarized the answer to this central and only question of the ethic’s complaint, which was:  

“Did the Mayor attempt to influence a police investigation?” 

From Mr. Snyder’s September 24, 2019 report to the City: 

“…attached is my report on Mr. O—-’s…complaint regarding an allegation that an attempt was made by the Mayor to influence a police investigation…I conclude that this complaint is unfounded.” [Page 1]


“Neither Chief Turner, Jori Burnett, Dannon Traxler, Lt. Huffman, Sgt. Vanderyacht nor Detective Melanie Campos [the only officers and/or city officials involved] report any attempt by the Mayor to influence the police investigation or the City’s handling of it…” [Page 6]


“When asked whether her investigation had been influenced, [lead] Det. Campos responded: “Hell no.”  [Page 6]


“Did the Mayor interfere in the judicial process in a matter before the Court…I [Snyder] recommend the conclusion that no violation of this provision occurred. The Mayor did not retain Judge Kaiman nor did the judge provide advice to him.” [Page 7]


“Did the Mayor ‘place pressure on…employees that would cause them to deviate from preferred and acceptable public process or deviate from accepted behavior?’ The facts as presented by the officers with personal knowledge and the Mayor’s and Chief’s [Kevin Turner] versions…are consistent…the Mayor did not attempt to influence the actions or investigation at the department…” [Page 10]

In addition, we note that the original Ferndale police report (#19F03639) contained a number of remarks by Ferndale Detective Melanie Campos that were unclear and were subsequently distorted and twisted by political opponents to suggest “interference” by the mayor. 

Regarding her report and again, in the words of Attorney Snyder, “Det. Campos’ police report contains only second-hand information, and in one key instance, third-hand information. The structure of the report, particularly the two paragraphs prior to the conclusion of the Police Report (page 12 of 13) imply a causation [interference by the mayor]  that is not borne out by witness interviews.” [Page 7] 

A summary statement of the problems and confusion with this part of Detective Campos’ report is made by Ferndale Lt. Matt Huffman, and quoted in full here:  (October 15, 2019)

“Based on Detective Campos’ report from 04-24-2019, there had been some concern and a complaint filed that JON MUTCHLER (C8) had influenced the investigation of this case.  This was investigated by W. Scott Snyder of Ogden Murphy Wallace, PLLC.  

W. Scott Snyder’s report has been filed with the City Clerk’s Office.  On this date, I reviewed his report and verified that W. Scott Snyder concluded that JON MUTCHLER (C8) did not “place pressure on … employees that would cause them to deviate from preferred and acceptable public process or deviate from accepted ethical behavior.”  

W. Scott Snyder also concluded that JON MUTCHLER (C8) did not “… interfere with the ordinary course of law enforcement within the City” and did not “suggest or request such special favors or consideration of the disposition of any law enforcement person in the City…”.

As there was some language confusion in the report from 04-24-2019 by Detective Campos, I documented my review of the report into this case file.

No further action taken.”

To summarize all the testimony and evidence, with no contrary view: 

The mayor broke no laws nor violated any city ethics. There isn’t a single witness saying otherwise.  In fact, Mutchler’s communication with the Chief of Police, and City Administrator [regarding his family member and a possible complaint by a friend] were judged by the investigation to be “appropriate and thoughtful.” [Page 10]

One final comment about Mayor Mutchler’s family member, an 18 year old at the time:  he was never questioned nor interviewed by law enforcement in any jurisdiction and the case closed shortly after it opened. 

If you have any questions about the reporting in this memo, you are welcome to contact me.

Jon R. Mutchler

February 15, 2020 (edited June 6, 2020, November 6, 2020, Oct 18, 2023)

(360) 927-1881

[email protected]

* At the same time a second minor ethics charge was brought by )—- alleging a campaign car-sign violation to both the City and the PDC (Public Disclosure Commission).  This was dismissed by both the PDC and the City Council, but led to some language clarification in the city sign code. 

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