MILL CREEK — The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to draw up paperwork to fire its top administrator, who has been on paid leave since June and trailed by staff complaints.
All seven council members agreed to put the question of terminating Rebecca Polizzotto to a vote at their next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday. They took action after retreating into an executive session for nearly three hours. After the vote, city attorney Scott Missall forbade the city’s elected officials from discussing the issue publicly.
“It’s imperative that you say nothing,” Missall said. “… If someone asks you a question, say nothing. No comment.”
Council members Tuesday also extended Polizzotto’s paid leave for another week. Her leave had been set to expire that day. Additionally, they instructed Missall to reach out to Polizzotto’s attorney “about resolution of this matter.”
The city manager did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. Her attorney, Joel Nichols of Everett, declined to respond to the council’s action.
It was unclear whether the proposed resolution referred to Polizzotto’s employment with the city, a potential lawsuit she’s preparing, or both. In July, Polizzotto filed a $1 million damage claim against Mill Creek, a potential step toward suing. The claim alleges breach of contract, violation of due process rights, defamation and interference with her supervision of employees.
The city manager has been away from the office since April, on sick leave and working from home before the council placed her on leave. Polizzotto has described her medical condition as severe bronchitis.
A former assistant attorney general in Alaska and city manager in Georgia, Polizzotto started working for Mill Creek in 2015. Complaints from staff have been surfacing since early in her tenure. This spring, a state audit questioned alcohol and meal charges on her city credit card.
The City Council placed her on paid administrative leave in June. That decision followed whistleblower complaints filed this spring by high-level managers in the city, including the police chief and human resources director. The council has extended her leave several times.
Polizzotto receives an annual salary of nearly $174,000 plus a car allowance.
Former city employees and people from the community filled council meetings this summer to demand that the City Council fire her. Some council members urged them to be patient, citing the need to finish an internal investigation into the complaints.
It’s unclear whether that investigation is complete. No action to approve that work has taken place in public. In documents released to The Daily Herald under state public disclosure laws, Missall said it was he, and not the council, who retained the investigator.