MUKILTEO — Marko Liias, a state senator who also held the job as Mukilteo’s policy analyst for the past three years, has been cut from the city’s payroll.
His last day at work was Dec. 29. The decision was made by the City Council as it discussed its 2018 budget. Liias’ salary and benefits totaled $89,000.
“I think it was a mistake,” Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said of the decision to cut Liias’ job. “I think we’ve been lucky to have Marko. He’s got great expertise.”
Liias joined the city in 2014 in what Gregerson said was a change in job titles and duties from what previously had been called assistant to the city manager.
The move to eliminate Liias’ job was suggested by Steve Schmalz, the council’s vice president.
“We didn’t fire him,” Schmalz said. “We’re doing our due diligence as council members to balance the budget. That’s what (the voters) elected us to do. We’re not playing politics with it.”
Schmalz said he questioned Liias’ hiring in 2014, because he felt it was a conflict of interest for him to both be employed by the city and to serve in the Legislature.
He said that some council members also felt that the city’s executive branch was top heavy.
Schmalz was joined by council members Ted Wheeler, Scott Whelpley, and Christine Cook in eliminating the policy analyst job.
Bob Champion, council president, and councilmen Richard Emery and Randy Lord voted against the move.
Schmalz said he felt Liias’ hiring was political pay back for his support in Gregerson’s initial run for mayor in 2013.
In the primary election that year, there was a three-way race for mayor between Schmalz, Gregerson and the incumbent Joe Marine. Gregerson was elected in the November general election. She was re-elected this past November for a second term.
Though both she and Liias attended Kamiak High School, Gregerson said she didn’t meet him until 2003 when she ran for City Council and he ran for the Mukilteo School Board.
Gregerson showed her frustration over the council’s decision to terminate the position at the Dec. 4 meeting. She questioned how interested Liias might be in representing Mukilteo’s interests in the Legislature after being fired by the city.
Gregerson later apologized to the council for the comment.
“I was really mad,” Gregerson said. “I was just expressing my frustration in the moment. I tried to explain that the council had never done that before, eliminated a position like that. I felt like it was shocking.”
Liias took unpaid leave from the city during the legislative session, which allowed the city to save money and have someone on staff who was well qualified for the job, Gregerson said.
Schmalz questioned whether part-time work was being done in a full-time job.
Liias said he has enjoyed working for the city for the past three-and-a-half years.
“I’m disappointed I don’t get to return to my position, but public service is not an entitlement but an unique opportunity,” he said.
Liias will be majority floor leader in the state senate during its upcoming session. He makes $47,776 a year in the Legislature, noting that it’s not a full-time job.
“I’ll look for another part-time job to go with my work in Olympia,” he said.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.