Council approves contract for outside legal services

Kenyon Disend will review spending by mayor
By Brandon Gustafson | Dec 05, 2018

The Mukilteo City Council’s ongoing investigation into alleged misappropriate spending by Mayor Jennifer Gregerson took another step on Dec. 3 as they approved a contract with Kenyon Disend, PLLC.

The contract is for up to $40,000 through Dec. 31, 2019, and the legal counsel will be directed by the council president after receiving direction from other councilmembers.

A majority of councilmembers found it necessary to retain outside legal help due to alleged misspending by Gregerson in severance agreements with former city employees.

Some former city employees received more pay than they were entitled to under the city’s policy when they left the city.

As these agreements differed from the city’s policy, some councilmembers felt those agreements should have come before the council as it had to do with contracts, which is one of the council’s responsibilities.

Councilmember Bob Champion had some reservations with approving the contract, because he wanted to wait for the state auditor’s office report before making a decision. Councilmember Scott Whelpley, who discovered the severance agreements via a public records request, noted that Washington’s assistant attorney general is now reviewing this issue.

“If this issue has gone all the way to the attorney general’s office, it’s an issue,” Whelpley said. “All of us have had talks with the auditor … There are conflicts currently happening right now between attorneys … I think the council needs to protect themselves, and I also do believe the council needs to be reimbursed for those funds that were misappropriated.”

Councilmember Richard Emery agreed with Champion, and wanted to wait until the attorney general’s office gave its  report. Emery said he feels there’s nothing more unbiased than the auditor’s report or the assistant attorney general’s report, and that by approving this contract, they’re potentially spending money when they don’t need to.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me at this point. I can’t vote for it,” he said.

Whelpley, clearly frustrated, responded, saying the city’s policy was clearly violated, and that it’s been happening for years and needs to stop. He took it a step further, telling those who opposed the motion to publicly say they support city money being spent inappropriately.

“$200,000 out the door,” Whelpley said. “If you’ve done your homework, and you’ve read the emails, and you’ve read all the documentation, you’d know this is wrong and it’s been wrong for a while now.”

Emery said he doesn’t see it as clearly as Whelpley and some other councilmembers do, and made a motion to delay the contract until the report from the attorney general’s office was released. The motion failed 2-4, with Emery and Champion voting for it.

Council Vice President Christine Cook chimed in, noting in at least one instance, money was paid to a former employee because of fear of litigation against the city.

“If the mayor believed that there was an increased liability to the city enough that she offered these people who were leaving more money and made a severance agreement asking them to not talk about their time here, why wasn’t the council ever consulted about that?” she asked.

Emery said if the findings from the auditors and the assistant attorney general show what Gregerson did was illegal, he would then support a motion like this.

Ultimately, the main motion to obtain the services of Kenyon Disend passed 4-2, with Emery and Champion voting against it.

 

 

 

Comments (1)
Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Dec 05, 2018 14:24

Brandon;

Thanks for the report.  You're filling the huge shoes of Sara Brusetle in my opinion.

 

Joe



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