Lake Stevens redacts entire 60-page report on public works director

Eric Durpos is no longer a city employee. An investigation report obtained by The Herald was completely blacked out.

Eric Durpos in a Lake Stevens City Council meeting Jan. 26, 2021. (City of Lake Stevens)

Eric Durpos in a Lake Stevens City Council meeting Jan. 26, 2021. (City of Lake Stevens)

LAKE STEVENS — Public Works Director Eric Durpos’ last day was Thursday, but the city of Lake Stevens will not disclose the findings of an investigation that might have played a role in his resignation.

A 60-page report prepared by a law firm hired by the city’s insurer was released with almost every word redacted, in response to a public records request from The Daily Herald. The subject line reads, “Re: October 14, 2021 Incident,” but page after page is blacked out.

The city clerk, Kelly Chelin, cited “potential litigation” as the reason for not disclosing the contents of the report, but that she didn’t have further details about the redactions.

Durpos was placed on administrative leave following a grievance meeting Oct. 14 with public works crew member Mike Bredstrand. There, Durpos “raised his right arm in front of himself as for defense, made a fist with his left hand, leaned back in his chair then quickly came forward … and almost half over the table in an attacking manner,” the crew worker wrote in a statement filed in Snohomish County District Court.

In November, Bredstrand was granted a one-year protection order, barring Durpos from contacting or coming within 15 feet of Bredstrand or his family.

Under Durpos’ separation agreement approved by city council last week, the city will pay Durpos for 250 hours of unused vacation, 80 hours of management leave, 16 hours of holiday pay and remaining sick leave on his way out. He will not return to work for the city in any capacity, the agreement states.

The agreement suggests he will not receive any other severance pay.

The Washington Cities Insurance Authority arranged for an investigation of Durpos and Bredstrand by an outside party, Mayor Brett Gailey told The Daily Herald last year. He said he didn’t know the specifics of the probe conducted by Bellevue lawyer Richard H. Kaiser.

“We’re staying out of it,” Gailey then told The Herald.

Efforts to reach Gailey Thursday were unsuccessful.

This investigation contains “notes, memoranda, statements, records that reveal factual or investigative information prepared, collected, or assembled in litigation or in anticipation of litigation,” according to a note included in the report.

Last week, City Administrator Gene Brazel told the Herald “because this is a personnel matter, it’s not my practice to discuss with the press or the public.”

City employees have complained about working conditions under Durpos for years. The complaints, including those from a Lake Stevens police officer and public works inspector, began just weeks after Durpos was hired in 2017.

Throughout his tenure at the city, Durpos was accused of skirting permits, creating unsafe working conditions and threatening employees. In his off-time, he was convicted of driving under the influence.

Last week, Gailey said the city is continuing efforts to obtain accreditation through the American Public Works Association, “and a big part of that is figuring out the management, asset maintenance and new permitting software.”

Durpos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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