If only the elected just followed the law... l Council Corner

By Council Vice President Anna Rohrbough | Jan 31, 2019

Editor's Note: The following is a column from Council Vice President Anna Rohrbough regarding the draft audit report that was released in an exit interview on Monday, Jan. 28.

 


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. For reference the previous Mayor had zero.

Mayor Gregorson signed off on all 12 for a total of $252,936.

During this time period city staff had informed her that these contracts needed to go to Council for approval. There is also a clear email correspondence between our city attorney and the mayor letting her know that these should go to council for approval. The auditors were given this information.

RCW 35A.11.010 expressly reserves the power to “contract and be contracted with” to the legislative body (in this case, the City Council). This state statute and case law are very clear.

At the beginning of the exit interview, the auditors stated that it is important to have accountability, “Should we find anyone that doesn’t fulfill compliance with state law.” However, auditors then went on to share they could not report any findings in city accountability regarding non-compliance with state laws.

Their explanation was that “it was tough to make a distinction of the law because there was no previous CASE law to support it.”

This is a complete cop out. The only reason you have CASE law is if the law is ambiguous, confusing or unclear.

I want to be extra clear here that the reason there is nothing in our own Mukilteo codes and in other municipality codes throughout the state is because the state RCW law is very forthcoming and not up for interpretation. This Council has never, not once, delegated their responsibility to the mayor to negotiate and implement severance or separation contracts.

State law is the permanent law in force and authority across the state on this matter.

It became obvious to me during the audit exit interview - that the body of accountability that is supposed to up hold the proper adherence to laws is the same body of accountability that is dismissing them as not good enough.

In Mayor Gregerson’s statement after the auditors report she stated that she was glad to move forward “in helping the City Council establish a clear procedure and policy for the departure of employees.”

This is the last thing that she wants or is willing to do. I know this because we tried to find a resolution last year and she refused to take any responsibility nor offer any amenable solutions.

This rhetoric is clear she wants to now blame the Council for the clear violation of the laws she knowingly and willing broke again and again.

The mayor went on to say that the council had given “good guidance” when reaffirming the state law last August.

It is already law. A law is a law is a law.

Telling a lie to cover up a lie does not make it okay. What we did in August was reaffirm the state law that has always ruled this cities government.

It wasn’t guidance it was to bring transparency to the actions of this mayor to try and assure proper governance going forward.

I will never stop believing that we should hold our leaders, especially elected leaders, to a high standard. There is, and never should be, a grey area in leadership.

I ran for office because I fundamentally believe we need to elect leaders with high integrity, ethics and moral standards.

Despite all of this I still believe politics can be done differently.

It is not easy to share with you such negative ongoings. I took an oath to uphold the laws that govern this office under the State of Washington. To do otherwise would be against my integrity.

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

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

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