Lynnwood mayor created intolerable environment, 5 female employees say

LYNNWOOD — Five top-level City Hall employees who are women say the work environment under Mayor Don Gough has become intolerable, saying they’ve been subjected to “hostile and harassment-based working environments.”

One of the five, court administrator Jill O’Cain, read a letter publicly on Monday after the council voted 6-0 to place restrictions on Gough’s hiring, firing, disciplinary and promotional authority and urged his resignation.

“The environment has deteriorated for us, morally and emotionally, to the point that it has become intolerable for many of us who deal with the Mayor on a regular basis, to come to work at all,” O’Cain said. “Excellent employees that have their time in for retirement purposes are leaving and those that can’t desire to leave.”

Other employees who signed the letter include Katie Anderson, assistant director of Parks and Recreation, and Vicki Heilman, assistant finance director. O’Cain also signed the letter on behalf of Emily Yim, director of the Office of Neighborhoods and Community Affairs and Deputy Police Chief Karen Manser.

In the letter, the women said the work environment has hurt the city’s ability “to attract top notch employees, of either gender, for key positions.” They urged the council to take quick action to “resolve the situation for us and the City as a whole,” and paraphrased the city’s workplace harassment policy.

“Standard policy should include protecting employees from their alleged abuser, including acts of retaliation, during the investigation and if the investigation is sustained, removing the abuser rather than leaving the person in place to continue victimizing the same and/or other employees,” the letter said.

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