Let’s be clear: Mayor Gregerson violated state law

By Steve Schmalz | Jul 10, 2019

I wanted to give my thoughts regarding the investigation of Mayor Gregerson’s unauthorized power to approve employment agreements, severance agreements and separation agreements with departing City employees.

Let’s be clear, no matter how some want to spin it, defend it, or use some excuse blaming her ignorance or on her predecessor, Mayor Gregerson violated State Law RCW 35A.11.010, which states, “By and through its legislative body (The Mukilteo City Council), each municipality (City of Mukilteo) may contract or be contracted with…” Absent a delegation of power to the mayor (which this council nor previous councils did not), the mayor has no authority to enter into contracts on his/her own.  

One would think with Mayor Gregerson’s 10 years experience as a City Council member and five years as mayor, she would know state law.  The mayor by this law was required to come to council and ask for approval of these contracts, and then the council would vote to approve (or not) these contracts in open public session. Like, you know, transparency.

But instead, these unauthorized contracts were negotiated behind closed doors without any knowledge of either the City Council or the public. To simplify it even more, it is illegal by state law to do what the mayor did.

To hide these severances and payments from the City Council and the public, these payments were put into the salaries and benefits portion of the budget; thus the council had no knowledge that these payments were made.

Over $200,000 was paid out to employees leaving the City, including one of the mayor’s best friends, political ally and then Policy Analyst Marko Liias. Mr. Liias received three months severance and tuition reimbursement (close to a $30K pay out).

None of this was approved by the council per state law. Another severance agreement was former Management Services Director Chris Phillips who left the City in February of 2017.

Mr. Phillips resigned and yet received five weeks in severance pay. In both cases, the mayor ignored advice from our City attorney and a former City employee that these separation and severance agreements needed to be approved by the City Council.

There have been questions on why did the majority of City Council vote to retain its own independent attorney. For myself, this was an easy decision.

The council needed to have an independent investigation of the facts of a very serious matter involving not only a possible conflict in the balance of power in our local government, but also to look at the potential misappropriation of public money.

I am proud of my fellow councilmembers who also voted to retain an outside attorney. They chose to take this issue seriously and not to look the other way as some have done. We, along with our attorney, looked at the facts. Once all the facts were presented, it was pretty clear that the mayor violated RCW 35A.11.010.

Although the state auditor reported it could not conclude whether the mayor had delegation from the council whether to approve these contracts, our attorney did not find any evidence that there was any delegation. So, it’s pretty clear to me that the mayor was required by state law to present these contracts to council for approval.

And finally, the mayor said she was “shocked” that the council retained its own legal counsel and spent $12,000, yet she and her supporters do not have a problem with her spending $200,000 of taxpayer money on these unauthorized contracts. Give me a break.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss this or other issues regarding City Council matters.

 

Steve Schmalz is a Mukilteo City Council member. His email is sschmalz@mukilteowa.gov.

 

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