By Christine Awad Schmalz
The hiring of Sen. Marko Liias as a full-time policy analyst by Mukilteo, a city he also represents in the state Senate, has caused quite an uproar among City Council members and residents alike.
Liias was hired even though he could not meet the full-time requirements of the position, as he would miss at least 105 days a year while serving in Olympia.
At first he was offered a total compensation package of $83,505 for full-time work. Only after the hire, and after I raised my concern to the City Council and the mayor, explaining that Sen. Liias could not meet the full-time job requirement, was his pay adjusted downward to reflect his required annual leave of absence.
The 14 other applicants who could meet the full time requirements did not stand a chance. Since the city does not have a human resources manager, an employee of the Mukilteo School District human resources department reviewed the initial applicants. One has to question why Liias was allowed to move on when it was clear he could not meet the full time requirements? Read on and you may understand why.
Gregerson and Liias have had a long-standing friendship and have been involved in each other’s political campaigns. They served on the Mukilteo City Council together; sat on the 21st Legislative District Democrats executive board together; they donated money and campaigned for each other. By convoluted means, Liias infused about $6,000 into Gregerson’s mayoral campaign. According to Public Disclosure Commission documents, Liias’ campaign surplus fund donated $11,000 to the 21st Legislative District Democrats victory fund in October 2012. At that time Gregerson was the chairwoman and Liias was first vice chairman of that organization.
On Oct. 15, 2012, the executive board of the 21st District Democrats approved a $10,000 donation from its victory fund to the One Washington Political Action Committee. Liias was the campaign director of the PAC and authorized how the money was to be spent.
In October and November of 2013, the PAC spent $5,750 on direct mailers supporting Gregerson’s mayoral campaign.
The money spent on Gregerson’s campaign was substantially higher than that of any other candidates to which the PAC donated. The maximum donation that an individual can give to a campaign is $950. By the circuitously directing of $5,570 to the Gregerson mayoral campaign, one could conclude that Liias donated six times the maximum donation allowed.
When Gregerson won her mayoral race, Liias was immediately named to her transition team. Duties of the transition team include assessing jobs such as city managers and other key personnel and deciding who to keep and who to fire.
In April of 2014, the mayor asked the City Council to approve a new position of policy analyst. This would take the place of the executive assistant to the city administrator, a position that the mayor eliminated without cause. In May, Gregerson hired her close friend and political ally, Liias.
I voted for Gregerson and supported her campaign after my husband, Steve Schmalz, lost his mayoral bid in the primary. Steve voted for her as well. This is not sour grapes, and we are not a “dogged duo” as Jerry Cornfield wrote in his July 31 article, “Dustup in Mukilteo could leave imprint on allies’ elections.” I was enthused about Gregerson being Mukilteo’s first female mayor and liked some of the changes she first made, but when she headed down the road of “old fashion cronyism” and “political payback” as part of the “good ole boy club” in politics, she lost my trust.
Christine Awad Schmalz is a Mukilteo resident.