Ketchikan City Council Member Russell Wodehouse resigned his position Thursday following a storm of criticism stemming from a damaging document that circulated soon after his appointment.
During its regular meeting, the Council voted 5-1 to accept Wodehouse’s resignation, with Marty West voting no. Earlier in the meeting, West read a statement from Wodehouse announcing his decision to resign.
“I understand how the document being circulated can be confused as something legitimate or even of a legal nature,” she read out loud. “It is not. It merely states the accusations that were made. The same accusations that were concluded to be without merit when I left the Kennewick School District.”
The document from the Washington department of public education revokes Wodehouse’s teaching license. He was the Kennewick High School drama coach, and the document alleges that after cast parties or plays, Wodehouse would let students stay at his home, that a male and female student shared a room on one occasion; and that Wodehouse called, and sent notes and gifts to a female student, and allegedly kissed her intimately in his school office.
Wodehouse strongly denies the accusations, and in an interview Friday with KRBD, said he is working with his attorney, Keith Stump, to resolve the issue.
“My mistake was I didn’t realize this was there,” he said. “I had dealt with it. When I left the school district originally, they couldn’t fire me because everything was unfounded. I had the union on my side, and they helped represent me. The school district couldn’t get rid of me. They quit offering my class, so I just left. My license expired that year. One of the things we’re looking at is how does the state of Washington revoke a license that’s already expired?”
Wodehouse said he would have stayed on the Council, but his son is moving here from Washington, and Wodehouse wants to focus on his family and clearing his name. He said he hopes to be able to run for City Council in next October’s election.
Wodehouse said he has received support from many people.
“When I was at work today, several people had come by and said, ‘I wish you’d have stayed on because we think you could have done some real good there,’” he said. “They didn’t feel the same way as some of the public comment that was made. I’ve gotten a lot of messages and calls and texts and people tracking me down and saying, ‘Keep your chin up, keep up the fight, you don’t have anything to worry about.’”
There was public comment at the Council meeting related to Wodehouse and the document. Most addressing the issue suggested that the Council change its selection process to include a background check when appointing new members.
At the end of the Council meeting, West noted that the gossip on social media about her, connected with the Wodehouse issue, had been vicious. She added that she received an email from Borough Assembly Member Agnes Moran questioning whether West was a registered voter, which is required for elected Council members.
West said she interpreted the email as a warning.
“I really felt like, now they’re looking at me,” she said. “Have at it. I’ve got enough skeletons in my closet to form my own cemetery. Every one of those bag of bones comes with a story. This has really been an eye-opening experience, and it has not been good. I’m disappointed.”
West noted that she is in her fifth term on the Council and is a registered voter.
The City Council will advertise again for candidates interested in the position, left vacant after Sam Bergeron resigned due to a work conflict.