Public process l Council Corner

By Council Vice President Christine Cook | Aug 22, 2018

To most effectively represent the residents of Mukilteo as your councilmember, I have always emphasized the importance of an open and transparent public process when making key decisions.

Recently, after a public records request by a fellow councilmember, we learned that the mayor negotiated, signed, and implemented severance contracts for several employees without approval by the council. The terms of these separation contracts were not consistent with what other exiting employees have received.

The mayor informed the council upon questioning, that the increased severance amounts were negotiated due to potential litigation by exiting employees. The council had not been made aware of this concern however, thus not following important protocol.

City staff morale is of great importance and as can happen in any organization, when there is a perception of special treatment of some employees it may lead to discontent among others. The mayor broke existing contracts and implemented new ones without council approval. These contract negotiations would have benefited from and should have included the views of councilmembers as additional representatives of the taxpayers.

The council is the policymaking body of the city. According to state law (and our council handbook), the role of city council includes adopting the budget, approving contracts, expenditures, and claims against the city, determining compensation, and developing personnel policies.

Because the council passes the budget each year, it is our responsibility to oversee both revenue and expenditures, specifically how the taxpayer’s money is spent and the effect that spending has on our city’s budget.

To ensure proper public process, which protects the taxpayers, it is necessary that the council insist on authorizing all employee exit contracts, as we do other city expenditures.

While it is the mayor's role to manage daily operations of the city, my role as your councilmember requires ensuring that policies are implemented properly and transparently, and taxpayer’s money is spent appropriately.

I have requested a council worksession with our HR director to discuss the latest information regarding best practices moving forward.

I am optimistic that this additional oversight and an increased level of awareness will help the city council continue to represent you well and I am honored to do so.

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