"I am not running with any vendetta in mind," Thelma "Jean" Hansen likes to tell reporters. She wants back into Everett City Hall because "this is my home."
The voters who threw her out of office two years ago might partly agree: There were times when she apparently treated City Hall's treasury like her own stash of mad money.
In 1996, during her first term as an Everett City Council member, Hansen was charged with first-degree theft for using a city credit card to obtain $4,300, spent on a gambling trip through Nevada and Arizona.
At first Hansen blamed her glasses—she wasn't wearing them when she grabbed the wrong Visa card for nine cash advances at three casinos. She also said she had bought a totem pole with some of the money.
Hansen was acquitted in 1997 after a jury found that the city's credit card policy was inconsistent and that council members could use cards for some personal purchases as long as they repaid the funds, which Hansen did.
She nonetheless finished third in her three-way reelection race, which was won by Boeing engineer David Simpson. Now she is the outsider trying to unseat longtime council incumbent Bob Overstreet. Hansen, 52, wants to clear her name after "the media crucified me" over the credit card scandal, she says.
Failing her return to city government, she has a cash claim (a lawsuit-to-be) against City Hall to fall back on. Hansen is seeking almost $500,000 in damages for alleged slander as well as "malice and political favoritism" that supposedly prompted the card lawsuit, according to city documents.
But, as an Everett Herald editorial writer noted recently, "It's rare for a candidate to begin a campaign with an outstanding claim of nearly a half-million dollars against the city he or she seeks to represent."
Among the questions her candidacy raises is "What are her ideas for the city's spending priorities?" In other words, will that be cash or credit?