Former Mill Creek director rejects appointment to top role

Jeff Balentine declined the job for “personal reasons.” That’s all he can say under a city contract.

Jeff Balentine

Jeff Balentine

MILL CREEK — The city’s former finance director turned down a high-ranking position at Mill Creek for “personal reasons” after the city announced in a press release that he would soon assume the new post.

That’s according to an eight-page legal agreement, signed by Jeff Balentine and City Manager Michael Ciaravino on Feb. 5.

The contract, which Balentine provided to The Daily Herald, clarifies that Balentine did not accept the deputy city manager and internal auditor role after he was appointed to it in early January.

Ciaravino did not respond to multiple emails requesting comment on Balentine’s departure.

The turn of events is another sign of tension in Mill Creek government as Ciaravino works to cement the city’s leadership team.

Last year, the city manager pledged to improve communication at City Hall and find permanent hires for several high-ranking positions after a union of city employees urged the City Council to fire Ciaravino over his controversial staffing decisions.

Balentine resigned from his position as finance director in mid-August due to “philosophical differences” with municipal leadership, he told The Herald at the time.

He soon returned, saying he would at least work until the city approved its next biennial budget, spent federal coronavirus relief funding and completed a routine audit.

“I do see some good positive things going on, so that’s why I’m back,” Balentine said in September. “If we keep moving forward in this positive way, I’m hoping it’s long-term.”

For several months, he juggled his Mill Creek duties and a full-time job at the city of Granite Falls, where he accepted a job in early August.

Under the recent contract, Balentine and Ciaravino both agreed to stick to a set of “talking points” while publicly discussing the former director’s departure.

According to that narrative, Balentine was a full-time employee of the city from March 9 to early 2021.

“Due to the new Finance Director’s hire on December 7, Jeff agreed to use personal leave and support the City’s transition until Jeff took preapproved sick leave,” the agreement states.

Then, a Jan. 11 city news release announced that Ciaravino had “assigned” Balentine to the deputy city manager and internal auditor position “effective January 1, 2021.”

On Jan. 19, a day after The Herald published a story stating Balentine would soon assume the new role, Balentine contacted the reporter to make it clear that he had not accepted the position.

He parted ways with the city on Jan. 21, according to the agreement.

The contract prohibits Balentine and the city from making any disparaging comments about one another.

It also bars Balentine from elaborating on his decision, beyond the statement that he did not accept the appointment “due to personal reasons.”

He received no severance pay under the agreement.

“Jeff remains in good standing with the City,” the agreement says. “The City is grateful to Jeff for his service.”

Balentine continues to oversee finance and human resources at the city of Granite Falls, where he was recently promoted to deputy city manager. He was offered that promotion in December and started the new job in January.

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

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