NAACP of Snohomish County backs Binda in heated press conference
Lynnwood City Councilmember Joshua Binda speaks during a NAACP Snohomish County press conference at Lynnwood City Hall in Lynnwood, Washington on Thursday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
LYNNWOOD — The Snohomish County chapter of the NAACP rallied behind controversial Lynnwood City Council member Josh Binda on Thursday, defending “rookie mistakes” and claiming Council President Shannon Sessions “created a hostile work environment” for Binda from the beginning of his tumultuous term.
In May, the NAACP launched an investigation into the “alleged targeting” of Binda “by the media and fellow Lynnwood City Councilmembers.” The announcement came after months of headlines and City Council meetings highlighting Binda’s misadventures. Binda, 23, was elected in 2021. He became the youngest African American to win public office in the state’s history.
Since then, he has violated campaign finance rules; used city property after hours to promote a school speaking tour where he personally profited; and posted a shirtless picture of himself on social media to promote the same tour.
The press conference was set to announce the investigation’s findings, but Dr. Janice Greene, the President of the NAACP Snohomish County, said the group will hold off on releasing its full investigation because “more evidence is pending at this time.”
Green confirmed the NAACP of Snohomish County plans to release its final report in the coming months.
In the interim, she alleged Sessions sent emails to fellow council members when Binda was elected, suggesting Binda was “stepping into a hostile work environment created by Shannon Sessions.” The NAACP did not release the alleged emails.
“We got information to document that Shannon Sessions was after this young man before he even got elected,” said Gerald Hankerson, president of the NAACP’s Alaska, Oregon and Washington State-Area Conference. “Let me be clear, in her emails to City Council before he was even elected, she said, ‘We’re going to have a problem with this guy because of this, this and this.’”
NAACP Snohomish County President Dr. Janice Greene speaks during a NAACP Snohomish County press conference at Lynnwood City Hall in Lynnwood, Washington on Thursday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Sessions did not attend the conference, but she spoke with The Daily Herald afterward about the alleged emails.
“I don’t know of any emails like that,” Sessions said, flabbergasted. “I can’t imagine I would say that because I never thought that. … We all want council member Binda to succeed and many people have tried to help him.”
Binda spoke last Thursday, addressing the question of whether his race is at the core of the controversy.
“I think it’s an intersectionality: race, age, what I represent, my style, my tone,” he said. “I urge you to remember that name, Josh Binda, because you’re going to be hearing about it for a long time with the change that we’re going to bring to our community and the fight we’re going to bring to our communities.”
Gathered outside Lynnwood City Hall, the conference quickly became tense as members of the media asked questions. Hankerson originally called all accusations against Binda “untrue” and “lacking merit,” but later acknowledged Binda’s actions could be chalked up to “rookie mistakes.”
Media and community members listen as Lynnwood City Councilmember Joshua Binda speaks during a NAACP Snohomish County press conference at Lynnwood City Hall in Lynnwood, Washington on Thursday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
“You think folks in Lynnwood ain’t got better things they need to be dealing with and worried about than whether this Black man got his shirt off?” Hankerson said.
Mario Lotmore, a former Republican candidate for state office who runs The Lynnwood Times, asked Binda why he felt the media was targeting him.
Binda responded by accusing Lotmore of stalking his ex-girlfriend.
Lotmore began shouting at Binda, threatening to sue for defamation, while Binda nodded along saying, “Um. uh-huh. Anyways …”
Carmen Rivera, a Renton City Council member, attended to show support for Binda. Rivera, 34, is the first openly queer person, first Boricua and the youngest Latina elected to the City Council there.
“I do believe there is definitely a racial and an age component to this,” Rivera said. “Because if he were a young, white man I don’t think this would be happening to him, and that’s what really breaks my heart.”
Alaska, Oregon, and Washington State Area Conference of the NAACP President Gerald Hankerson speaks during a NAACP Snohomish County press conference at Lynnwood City Hall in Lynnwood, Washington on Thursday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
About 50 yards away, members of a “Recall Binda” campaign waved to passing cars, flashing shirts promoting their cause. They’re aiming to collect 2,416 signatures to force a recall vote. The campaign’s organizer, Dio Boucsieguez, said he felt compelled to start the group because of the way Binda conducted himself as a city official.
One of Snohomish County’s leading Black legislators, state Sen. John Lovick, called on Binda to resign in April on political commentator Brandi Kruse’s podcast.
“I advised him he should take the lollipop out of his mouth when he’s in front of a hearing. I told him he should dress appropriately,” Lovick said. “And it was very clear to me that he was not going to listen. … To be honest with you, I am totally embarrassed with the guy.”
Individuals wear “Recall Binda” shirts and wave to cars passing by after a NAACP Snohomish County press conference at Lynnwood City Hall in Lynnwood, Washington on Thursday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
For reference, here’s a brief overview of Binda’s controversial actions:
• Binda charged local schools thousands of dollars for a slot on his “Love Conquers All” speaking tour, where he brought in about $15,000. Profiting off a tour in public schools was unusual but not illegal, according to state officials. However, according to an Ethics Board attorney, Binda did “unknowingly violate” ethics rules about using public property for personal gain when he recorded a video in City Hall to promote the tour and used his government email address to negotiate some of the contracts. Binda apologized in May
• Binda posted a shirtless photo to promote his speaking tour aimed at minor students.
• The state Public Disclosure Commission fined Binda $1,000 for misusing campaign funds on “Versace, plane tickets and haircuts.”
• Binda falsely claimed to be a “keynote speaker” at a conference in Washington, D.C., alongside speakers like Dr. Jill Biden. He had filled in for an absent event speaker, giving closing remarks to youth delegates.
• The Public Disclosure Commission fined Binda $1,250 in outstanding fees because he filed his public financial affairs statement several weeks late. It was the second time Binda had delayed filing his financial records, according to the PDC. Binda testified, saying he had “never written a check or done a checkbook or any of that sort.”