Beliefs prevail over state law l Council Corner

By Council Vice President Anna Rohrbough | Feb 06, 2019

The following column is the opinion of Council Vice President Anna Rohrbough and may not represent the opinions of her fellow Mukilteo City Councilmembers.

 

In the exit interview presenting the auditor’s draft it was reported that since the current Mukilteo mayor, Jennifer Gregerson, took office in 2014, there have been 12 severance contracts negotiated and implemented without any Council knowledge or approval. Mayor Gregerson signed off on all 12 for a total of $252,936.

Here are the other facts:

1: RCW 35A.11.010 expressly reserves the power to “contract and be contracted with” to the legislative body (in this case, the City Council).

2: The Mukilteo City Council has never delegated severance contracts or litigation agreements to the Executive Department or mayor, therefore it is assumed that the RCW is the permanent law and authority in force across the state on this matter requiring no special code amendments or ordinances to reaffirm.

3: The previous mayor in his eight years of service had zero severance contracts.

4: In the past five years, the mayor was informed by her own city attorney in writing and

city employees that these contracts needed to go to the City Council for contract approval. She chose to disregard their legal advice.

During the requested follow up meeting with the auditors’ legal counsel with the intent to clarify their report, the Council was informed that the standard of law the auditors used was based on the mayor’s belief rather than state law, therefore they did not find any evidence that the mayor knew she was violating RCW.

They weren’t arguing the RCW; they were stating that they believed the mayor didn’t know better because she said she just followed what the previous mayor had done regarding severance contracts (please read #3 above).

This caused some confusion as to the basis they used in their report. Our own City Council attorney asked them if they could clear up any confusion. She asked if they agree that “its not that the law is unclear, its that you believe the Mayor when she said she believed she had authority rather than the black and white letter of the law?”

Those representing the auditor’s opinion all verbally agreed to our council attorneys question that this was their basis for the lack of findings (please re-read #4 above stating she knew she didn’t have authority).

In reading the documents and facts as I have seen them, it is my opinion that the mayor had clear intent to hide the severance contracts, NDA and separation agreements.

In these past five years we have had the positions of finance director and management services director (MSD) turn over a combined 10 times. On Feb. 7, 2017, a previous MSD voluntarily resigned his position requiring no severance or separation agreement.

I have learned that in order to receive his sick and vacation pay, which was threatened to be withheld by the mayor, he had to seek his own legal counsel.

On Feb. 14, 2017, this same director signed a non-disclosure agreement requested by the mayor and an additional bonus of which totaled over $11,000.

In total, 87 employees have left in the past five years. I believe there is a pattern of behavior that has been followed up by a pattern of violations of the law to cover up the reasons for this mass exodus.

As a Councilmember, I am continually being asked to be quiet, to let it go and remain apart of the status quo. For those very few that are asking me to do so I want to say this - I took an oath to uphold the laws that govern this office under the State of Washington, to do otherwise would be against my character. I did not choose nor create this situation but I will continue to report the facts to you. I remain anchored in integrity.

I believe when we don’t uphold the consequences to laws consistently broken we make them irrelevant.

As the reporting auditors stated: “If you want a resolution you should move forward on your own.”

The statements and quotes were combined from my own very detailed notes and the recollection and detailed notes from Councilmember Scott Whelpley who added, “As well as you all I am shocked by the junior varsity reasoning that the auditors used in justifying their reasoning for a blatant violation of state law. Choosing to believe what the mayor said over what the facts supported.”

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