Liias’ receipt, transcript are now in city’s hands

State senator also requested severance payment be lump-sum
By Brandon Gustafson | Aug 29, 2018
Marko Liias

Former Mukilteo Policy Analyst Marko Liias’ UW  transcript and tuition receipt have finally been shown to Mukilteo City Councilmembers three weeks after the topic first came up.

In recent weeks, it has been made public that a few former city employees received severance payments that went against the city’s policy. Now, all severance agreements will have to be approved by the council, whereas Mayor Jennifer Gregerson had been approving them. That motion was approved 6-1 at the Aug. 6 meeting.

The city of Mukilteo’s policy for severance payment to employees was that they were allowed to receive two months of wages, paid monthly, if terminated without cause.

The Beacon obtained severance paperwork for four former city employees where that policy was not followed.

One of those former employees was Liias, the state senator for the 21st Legislative District who was Mukilteo’s policy analyst for just over three years.

Liias and former Human Resources Manager Julie Good each received a third month’s pay in their severance payout, and the payments were lump-sum payments, ie; paid up front in one payment.

The other issue council had with Liias’ payout was with his tuition reimbursement for the University of Washington, which totaled $6,355.

The city has a tuition reimbursement program in which the city reimburses city employees who go back to school if they give a receipt for their tuition as well as proof that they passed the course.

In the documents obtained by The Beacon, the city didn’t receive a receipt or transcript from Liias’ time at UW.

Councilmember Anna Rohrbough asked Gregerson at last Monday’s council meeting if the city had received the receipt and transcript, and after Gregerson said she did not, Rohrbough filed a motion for a vote of no confidence in Gregerson’s leadership, which passed 4-2.

Subsequently, in emails obtained by The Beacon on Monday, Aug. 27, Gregerson emailed copies of Liias’ UW transcript and receipt to all councilmembers.

Liias’ tuition did cost $6,355, and he did pass his coursework.

Copies of Liias’ specific requests in his severance package also were included in Gregerson’s email.

In an email to Management Services Director Steve Edin, Liias asked for his severance to be a one-time payment.

“I would also prefer a lump sum-payout if that is possible, rather than continuing to pay it out over a few months,” Liias said in a Dec. 5, 2017, email.

Councilmember Scott Whelpley, who brought the severance issue to the council at the Aug. 6 meeting, felt Liias had too much influence in negotiating his severance agreement.

“I don’t know of any other company/organization that can have an employee set their severance, tuition assistance, and payment terms that violates city policy to the tune of $30,000. Do you?” Whelpley said in an email. “Next time I think we should elect/hire someone who is a little smarter on city policy and what is best for the citizens they serve.”

In that same Dec. 5 email, Liias told Edin he had a copy of his tuition statement if the city needed it.

In an email to The Beacon on Aug. 27, Liias said his request for a one-time payment was due to the way he was dismissed, which was through a council vote on Dec. 4.

“I asked for the lump-sum payment because I was pretty disappointed in the way my position was eliminated, and I was ready to move on,” Liias said. “I also thought it would be simpler and easier for me and the city to wrap things up and move on.”

Liias said he wasn’t aware his request could potentially violate the city’s policy.

“I had not read the relevant personnel policy since my arrival in May 2014, so it didn’t occur to me that this might violate city policy,” he said. “It was also a request, and had Mr. Edin reminded me of the city policy, I would have understood and complied.”

Liias said he worked exclusively with Edin on his agreement.

“Because of his HR expertise, I assumed Mr. Edin was vetting my agreement with the policies, which was why I asked if he needed a tuition statement and accepted his answer when it wasn’t deemed necessary,” Liias said. “I guess in retrospect, I should have independently confirmed with the finance director, but since Mr. Edin was my only point of contact as we negotiated my agreement, I worked exclusively through him.”



Comments (1)
Posted by: Denise Sackner | Aug 29, 2018 19:36

You are putting the blame on a city worker for your lack of compliance and understanding of policy? Tell me why as a voter I should trust you. Shameful.

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