Everett council investigating mayor’s relationship with deputy mayor

Mayor Cassie Franklin promised to “fully participate” with investigation into whether any laws broken or public resources misused.

Cassie Franklin

Cassie Franklin

EVERETT — The Everett City Council voted Wednesday night to hire a law firm to investigate a personal relationship between Mayor Cassie Franklin and deputy mayor Nick Harper.

After about 50 minutes in executive session Wednesday, the council unanimously authorized Council President Brenda Stonecipher to enter into a contract with law firm Stokes Lawrence to conduct an investigation if the relationship violated any laws or policies or city resources were misused.

“I hope and truly expect that this work will reveal no wrongdoing,” Stonecipher said Wednesday. “But I do believe it’s important as council members to conduct this investigation to ensure that our government is operating effectively and lawfully so that we can preserve and protect our collective faith in the integrity of our municipal government.”

Franklin did not attend the meeting, which the council held remotely.

Other than Stonecipher, the only council member to speak about the decision was Liz Vogeli.

“It is difficult but necessary,” Vogeli said.

The council also hired attorney Lisa Marshall of Kenyon Disend as outside legal counsel to oversee the work.

Franklin on Thursday said she would not comment on the council action but would be responsive to lawyers if contacted.

“If there is anything they want to talk to me in the course of this, I am available and will fully participate,” Franklin said. “My focus is to continue to do the work for the community and take care of the city. I look forward to continuing to work with the council to run the city.”

Franklin declined to answer if she has been or is now in a relationship with Harper.

Nick Harper (City of Everett)

Nick Harper (City of Everett)

“My personal life is my personal life,” she said.

The mayor also said she reached out to the city’s human resource officers last summer after separating from her husband and was told “no city policies would be broken if I were to be in a consensual relationship with a city employee.”

A reporter’s messages to Harper were not immediately returned.

In November, Franklin filed for divorce from her husband after 14 years of marriage. They have a daughter and, according to Skagit County court filings, started living separately in July with the marriage “irretrievably broken.”

In 2017, Franklin was the first woman elected as Everett’s mayor after serving on the city council. She won reelection in 2021. Prior to elected office, she was the executive director of Cocoon House, a nonprofit that houses homeless youths.

Harper is married and has two children.

The former state senator rose to prominence as a progressive champion in the Democratic Party after winning election in 2010. He resigned from office in 2013 at the end of a special session amid rumors of an extramarital affair, The Herald reported. At the time, Harper declined to respond to the allegations or if the rumors were part of his decision and instead said he left office to spend time with his family.

Franklin hired Harper in 2018 to join her administration as deputy mayor.

The mayor is an elected office and the city’s top executive. The deputy mayor is a position appointed by the mayor. Under the city’s charter, similar to a constitution, the mayor can appoint and remove all appointive officers and city employees with some caveats.

In a press release, Stonecipher wrote that there is “no firm timeline on this investigation. We will follow the advice of our legal counsel and allow the process to unfold as it must.”

Herald reporter Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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