Council, Mayor continue to discuss resignation and “transition”

A week ago, Council member Lorena Gonzalez called on Mayor Ed Murray to step down in light of revelations of an Oregon CPS file in which a case worker found the sexual abuse charges against Murray to be credible. She later clarified her original statement, saying that the situation is unprecedented and she wants to make sure that the Council understands the procedures and protocols for continuity of government no matter what happens.

Last Friday, the Mayor responded to Gonzalez and her colleagues.

Murray sent a letter to the Council clarifying his intent to stay in his office and affirming that his administration is “absolutely focused on the remaining five months of my term in office,” with a list of policy objectives they hope to push forward during that time. He did make an interesting offer, though: creating a joint Mayor-Council transition coordination committee to ensure that with a new Mayor and at least one new City Council member being elected in November, the transition is handled smoothly.

This wasn’t exactly what Gonzalez was looking for, since she is more concerned with what happens if the Mayor’s office becomes vacant before the election.

Yesterday, Gonzalez sent a reply to Murray. Acknowledging that she cannot compel Murray to resign (and implying that the Council may not have grounds to impeach him), she pressed him to refrain from attacking his accusers or the case workers who investigate child sex abuse allegations.

I hope that, consistent with Council President Harrell’s and Councilmembers Bagshaw, Herbold and Juarez’s statement of last week, you will endeavor to refrain from using the court of public opinion to disparage your alleged victims of sexual abuse. I also encourage you to refrain from categorically attacking the credibility of caseworkers and institutions, who are charged with the difficult work of investigating serious child sex abuse allegations. These are often times the only entities available for a child to report possible sex abuse to and I am sensitive to the chilling impact that the words of highly-elected officials can have in this context.

Gonzalez goes on to voice support for Murray’s proposal for a transition coordination committee:

Your proposal assumes that there will be no vacancy in the Office of the Mayor between now and December 31, 2017. While I continue to have grave concerns about Oregon’s Child Protective Services’ findings, I believe that you have listened to my broader governance concerns in light of these allegations. At this juncture, I would like to communicate my support of your proposed joint Mayoral-Council transition coordination committee for the following core reasons:

1. The proposed joint coordination committee is unprecedented. I am not aware of another time in modern City of Seattle history in which the Mayor voluntarily agreed to jointly coordinate with the legislative branch the transition of power from one executive
administration to the next. This unprecedented proposal signals to me that you take the implications of these allegations on governance seriously and I view it as commensurate response to the unprecedented nature of the allegations lodged against you.

2. The proposed joint coordination committee will provide the Executive and Legislative branches of our City government the opportunity to collaborate in a manner that will maximize transparency regarding pending policies, procedures and operations. This will advance the goal of providing the Council with a way to independently evaluate whether the Executive is indeed effectively governing in spite of being under the cloud of these serious allegations. Additionally, there will be a significant benefit to our overall understanding of the state and condition of the Executive branch that will facilitate a smooth transition from your administration to the next. I believe this level of coordination while minimizing transition disruption.

She concludes her letter by reiterating her belief “that the Council has an independent duty to prepare contingency plans to prepare for all possible scenarios, and that “it is of critical importance that we remain focused on ensuring effective governance and a coordinated transition of Mayoral administrations.”

In this morning’s Council Briefing, Council President made several points:

  • He apologized for doing a poor job of leading last week’s discussion.
  • He doesn’t yet understand exactly what the Mayor intends in his proposal for a joint transition committee, but intends to speak with him about it.
  • He is working with the law department on a memo outlining succession plans. He hopes to circulate it on Wednesday.

And just to round out the letter-writing, four former Seattle mayors sent a joint statement supporting Murray’s decision not to resign, while the LGBTQ Commission sent a letter requesting his immediate resignation.