By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
MUKILTEO — Recently married Mayor Jennifer Gregerson is planning a European honeymoon with stops that could include German breweries, brunch in Paris and a drive on the Le Mans Formula One racetrack.
Prior to her wedding, a city of Mukilteo employee emailed coworkers, soliciting donations for Gregerson’s honeymoon fund. At a Web registry site, honeyfund.com, donors could earmark money for various European stops.
The email was sent by Carmen Roberts, an accounting technician in the finance department, on July 3 via her city email account to other city email accounts. “Mayor is tying the knot this month,” it begins. “She and her husband-to-be set up a honeymoon fund that allows them to make their European honeymoon that much more enjoyable,” including spa treatments, a visit to Mont Saint-Michel, driving Germany’s Autobahn or a day in Monaco.
Copies of the email and responses to it were acquired by The Herald through a public records request.
Although requests for donations to events such as weddings, graduations and births are common in many offices, the question of city employees giving money to an elected official has raised some eyebrows.
In an interview, Gregerson said it’s not unusual for city employees to inform coworkers of life events. A baby shower was recently held for a coworker at lunch. “I think that’s part of a friendly workplace, where people can share each other’s lives and connections,” she said. “I think that’s reasonable.”
But there’s a difference between a request for financial donations to Gregerson’s honeymoon fund and someone announcing that their kid is, say, selling Girl Scout cookies, said Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. Nixon was once appointed by the Kirkland City Council to draft an ethics and conduct policy for council members and boards and commissions.
“Is there an implied threat that if you don’t contribute to the boss’ gift, then that’s going to be a problem?” Nixon said. “That’s why it might be slightly more of a concern than the more routine socializing type of things.”
Gregerson and her husband, Jeff Wakeman, were married July 12. Gregerson said the dates of their honeymoon trip have not been set, but it will probably occur next year.
Roberts, the city employee who sent the email, declined to comment, referring the matter to Rex Caldwell, the city’s acting management services director.
Caldwell said that employees donated about $200 to the fund, and all donations were made anonymously. The money was collected by Carl Grimes, an accounting manager who is Roberts’ boss.
Gregerson “had a registry like everybody else in America,” Caldwell said. “I can attest to the fact that she knew nothing about it” beforehand. A wedding card for Gregerson was sent around to employees, he said. “I can’t say there was any pressure.”
Asked about the solicitation for gifts to a publicly elected boss, Gregerson said: “I don’t know the names or whether anyone participated or didn’t participate. I wasn’t aware that the staff had decided to make that request” until later. “They followed the city policy as far as the email system goes.”
“I would hope any of our employees who feel any pressure to participate or felt it was inappropriate” would contact the city human relations manager anonymously “and express that concern,” the mayor said. “We would certainly consider a new direction” were that to occur.
Gregerson, 36, said she and her husband decided to set up the trip registry because “at this stage in my life I didn’t think we needed a bunch of kitchen supplies. You can create a registry and brainstorm fun things that people could contribute to.”
There was only one response to Roberts’ email soliciting donations to the mayor’s honeymoon fund. It came from a member of the police department who said that another officer was getting married and he was sure that the employee “would appreciate any donation to help with his honeymoon also.”
Roberts responded that she would definitely like to contribute to that fund, too, and thought other employees would as well.
In a July 24 “thank you” email to city employees, Gregerson noted that the donations by city employees to the honeymoon fund were anonymous.
Caldwell said he didn’t think that the city needed to make changes to rules regarding email use. “I believe this to be perfectly innocent on the part of Carmen (Roberts) and her boss,” he said.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.