Following his recent on-air support for QAnon on 91.5 FM and vacation trip to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sequim Mayor William Armacost faced some opposition from residents Monday — some asking for his resignation.
However, city councilors opted not to take action, saying it was a matter of free speech and free will.
Armacost answered a question posed at the Coffee with the Mayor program in late August on KSQM 91.5 FM, encouraging people to investigate QAnon, a set of conspiracy theories involving pedophiles plotting against President Donald Trump.
Armacost later apologized via press release about sharing his beliefs as a city representative.
Councilor Sarah Kincaid said Monday night she read the emails against Armacost and felt people were complaining about his personal life rather than actions as mayor.
Kincaid noted that residents have complained about his Sturgis trip and demanded he quarantine following his return, but that it would be hypocritical to not ask the same of all residents who travel off the peninsula.
“The idea that we have an ‘Idea Police’ in Sequim is frightening,” she said.
“Every name I recognize (in the emails) would consider themselves a liberal. How liberal are you if you would stifle all speech other than your own?”
Councilor Brandon Janisse said he didn’t have an issue with what Armacost said, but rather, “it’s where he said it.”
Janisse said he was concerned about a negative light being placed on the city.
Public comments Monday included some for and against Armacost.
Sequim resident Karen Hogan phoned into public comments asking for Armacost to resign or for city councilors to remove him. She said Armacost used his position to promote a presidential candidate and anti-semitic propaganda, and in his letter to the editor response (Sequim Gazette, Aug. 19), she felt it was “more like the lunatic ravings of a cult leader than an elected official.”
She said Armacost’s “opinions about public health are based on a profound misunderstanding of the immune system and conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality.
“You, of course, have the right to your opinions and beliefs, but as mayor you have an obligation to protect the health and welfare of Sequim residents and follow the law,” Hogan said.
Karen Grayheck of Sequim disagreed with Hogan, saying Armacost has stood up for democracy of Washington and Sequim.
“He knows the constitution and he abides by the constitution,” she said.
“He honors people of all nationalities. This is a man who should not be removed from city council. I encourage the other council members to remember what he has accomplished and all the positives and to stand behind your mayor.”
Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell said in his seven-plus months on city council, he’s found his interactions with Armacost to be apolitical with no mention of conspiracies.
“His decisions have been mainstream and reasonable, and his dialogue has been appropriate and professional,” he said.
As for QAnon, he said he doesn’t plan to look it up but felt that freedom of speech applies with it and the mayor.
In reference to Armacost’s recent trip to Sturgis — an event that some researchers have called a “superspreader” of the COVID-19 virus — Ferrell said hopes everyone takes care of themselves anywhere they go.
“It’s important to trust the people in our community,” he said.
Ferrell asked city councilors and staff to “remember it may cause a lot of work on the seven members of the council” when commenting on something controversial.
“We all have to deal with this. We’re all getting behind because of emails,” he said.
As for the emails they’ve received on Armacost, Ferrell said they felt like a “gotcha format” and he can’t read them anymore.
“I have to get back to business,” he said.
“I want you all to understand. I’ve said this since day one. There are 7,860 people in this town. I’m guessing almost all of them want us to get back to business.
“Be productive and focus on economic development and safety: that’s going to be my focus.”