Aberdeen City Council re-affirms Tesla contract

New vote was required after it was discovered Mayor Erik Larson violated conflict-of-interest rule

The Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday unanimously reaffirmed the city’s contract with Tesla Motors for the Supercharger station on the northwest corner of Wishkah and F streets.

This action was deemed necessary after Mayor Erik Larson announced two weeks ago that he inadvertently violated the state ethics code regarding conflicts-of-interest, specifically section 42.23.040, which focuses on remote interests a public officer would have in a contract involving the city they represent. He neglected to report in meetings minutes or other records that he owned some Tesla stock — less than 1 percent of the company’s shares — before the City Council approved the contract last year.

Larson told the council Wednesday that he owned the stock, then added that Council President Tawni Andrews would lead the meeting for this vote, then he left council chambers.

“It’s less than 1 percent. It’s very small, but it places the lease in question,” Andrews explained after Larson left the room.

Council member James Cook asked City Attorney Eric Nelson whether Tesla was receiving special treatment because only Tesla vehicles can use the eight charging stations on a piece of city-owned property. The lease, Nelson said, received valid consideration and allows the city to add additional charging stations for non-Tesla vehicles.

“They don’t control the entire lot,” Nelson explained.

He also stressed the process between the city and Tesla Motors began before Larson became mayor.

The Supercharger station has been operating since mid-December and is located in what will be part of the parking area for the proposed Gateway Center, now being planned as a 20,000-square-foot building housing a visitors and enterprise center.

Larson said earlier this month that he would pay a $500 fine to the city for violating the conflict-of-interest rule, even though he thought that he was exempt from it because he didn’t vote on the contract last year, but was only involved in its negotiation.