Ex-Mill Creek manager gets $92K severance after rocky tenure

Deputy City Manager Martin Yamamoto has temporarily taken over after Michael Ciaravino’s resignation.

Michael Ciaravino

Michael Ciaravino

MILL CREEK — After suddenly stepping down last week, former Mill Creek City Manager Michael Ciaravino will get a severance package worth more than $100,000.

The city will pay Ciaravino $91,651, equal to six months’ salary, plus $15,939 to continue his medical benefits until mid-May, under the terms of an agreement made public this week.

In his time as city manager, Ciaravino’s decisions have at times drawn controversy. But his departure was voluntary, according to the separation agreement, and “shall not be construed” as an admission of wrongdoing or poor performance.

On Tuesday, the Mill Creek City Council appointed Deputy City Manager Martin Yamamoto to take on Ciaravino’s regular duties until the city chooses a long-term replacement.

After Ciaravino told the council he was resigning for critical family medical reasons, the Mill Creek City Council approved the separation agreement on Nov. 16.

Ciaravino and City Councilman Brian Holtzclaw, who is also the mayor, signed the contract that night. It was Ciaravino’s last one as an official city employee.

Holtzclaw said the council intends to put together a plan, either late next month or early January, for picking a manager. The council will also consider whether Yamamoto is a good fit for the role, he said.

Ciaravino’s departure comes during an incredibly close city council race, where Holtzclaw held a 15-vote advantage over his challenger, Eric Cooke. The margin between them is 0.31%, which is in the range for an automatic machine recount. Voters will know who won for sure on Dec. 10.

During his tumultuous time working for the city, Ciaravino faced blowback for laying off longtime employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, a city employees’ union accused Ciaravino of showing favoritism to two top staffers. The bargaining unit also declared no confidence in the city manager and urged the council to remove him.

The council instead worked with Ciaravino to address some of the problems and find long-term hires for his executive team. However, Ciaravino’s Oct. 5 performance review cited ongoing issues with communication and low morale at City Hall.

“The City is grateful for Mr. Ciaravino’ s dedicated service as City Manager for the past two and a half years,” city officials said in a press release issued Tuesday. “During that time, Mr. Ciaravino helped the City through a challenging financial reorganization and complex litigation and charted its course during an unprecedented global pandemic.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Ciaravino must remain “reasonably available to the City and its counsel” to assist with pending projects, litigation and other city matters during the transition. He will also be compensated for any such assistance on an hourly basis, consistent with his annual salary, the contract says.

He agreed to not sue the city in the future for wrongful termination, discrimination or other claims, and to not make any disparaging comments about the city.

Ciaravino’s original employment contract, approved by the council in April 2019, set his salary at $175,000 per year. It also provided a vehicle allowance of up to $450 per month and an annual salary bonus of up to 5 percent, based on merit.

According to the city press release, terms of the separation are consistent with the original contract.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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