KELSO, Wash. (KOIN 6) — Kelso’s city manager said Monday the city council has not made any immediate decisions regarding Jared Franklin’s status as a councilman after he was arrested last week in connection with a hit-and-run.
Court documents also revealed that Franklin has been charged in the past with trying to hijack a bus, assault and several drug possession counts.
Kelso city officials said they did not know of those past charges until KOIN 6 brought them to their attention. Despite the past charges, Kelso City Manager Steve Taylor said it appears Franklin will maintain his eligibility to serve on the city council.
After learning of Franklin’s past, Taylor said the city has conducted research and looked into what their options are and it appears they have none.
According to state law, if someone is not currently under the supervision of the state’s department of corrections, he/she can register to vote and run for office.
Franklin’s past convictions were from before he moved to Kelso, and the hit-and-run charges for the incident last week will only be misdemeanors if he is convicted.
When asked why a background check was not conducted when Franklin ran for office, Taylor said it would have been “inappropriate.”
“It would really be inappropriate for city staff to be researching background or criminal past of a potential candidate for council,” said Taylor. “You really need to have separation between administration and electoral process.”
Cowlitz County Auditor Kristina Swanson said it is her responsibility to determine if someone is eligible to run for Kelso City Council.
When asked whether people deserved to know Franklin’s extensive criminal history, she said, “Whether they deserve to know, it’s incumbent upon them to research that candidates.”
Swanson explained that all an auditor checks for is whether a candidate is a registered voter and whether he/she lives in the district he/she is trying to represent.
“I will say it doesn’t preclude a person from registering to vote or running for office if they have a felony conviction,” said Swanson.
The city’s charter does allow fellow council members to remove someone from office if a council member is convicted of a crime that is considered contradiction to community standards of justice, honesty or morals.
However, Franklin has not yet been convicted of the latest hit-and run charges.