Lynnwood mayor faces revolt by City Council

LYNNWOOD — The City Council is expected to vote Monday on a resolution reprimanding Mayor Don Gough and urging him to resign from office.

It would also limit the mayor’s authority over personnel decisions.

The proposal comes after the City Council was briefed on a consulting firm’s investigation into the mayor’s conduct. The briefing occurred at an executive session July 23.

The council doesn’t have the authority to force Gough’s resignation.

“If he was any other employee in the city of Lynnwood, he would be fired,” Councilwoman Kimberly Cole said Thursday. “This was the best we could come up with and stay within the limits of the legislative branch.”

None of the council members contacted would provide details of the investigation into the mayor. The resolution says the council reached its conclusions after the group “evaluated the findings of the investigator, which have also been made available to the public.”

City officials refused Thursday to release a copy of the investigation.

The council sought the investigation of Gough in April after his administrative assistant, Stephanie Simpson, accused him of demeaning and belittling her. The city paid the woman $49,500 and three months of benefits and she left her job.

Gough was called several times Thursday about the council’s resolution, but did not respond to requests for comment.

In the resolution, the council lists a host of concerns.

The resolution states that some employees could be worried Gough may retaliate against them for participating in the council’s investigation.

It also says Gough interfered with the council’s inquiry, conducted his own parallel investigation “and attempted to contact witnesses while the investigation was underway.”

“Further, based on the Mayor’s conduct in attempting to undermine the integrity of the investigation, he allowed his own personal interests to take precedent over the City’s best interests,” the resolution says. “We believe the Mayor’s conduct violates his oath of office to faithfully carry out the duties with which he was charged.”

The resolution says the city’s hiring and promotional process and impartial evaluation of applicants “has been compromised on occasion” when Gough contacted applicants, telling them a “decision on their application had already been made.”

The resolution calls for sweeping change in the city’s employment policies and practices, requiring virtually all hiring, promotion or disciplinary action now under Gough’s control first be submitted for review and confirmation by the council.

“While the Council has not removed or modified the Mayor’s decision making authority, this process will ensure the hiring, promotional, employee discipline, layoff, job re-assignment or change in job duties is based on sound business reasons, which are objectively supportable, rather than a retaliatory reason,” the resolution says. “Such a review of the Council will also ensure the City’s policies and procedures for hiring, promotions or employee discipline (if any) are followed.”

If he refuses to resign, the resolution recommends Gough attend at least five anger management and sensitivity trainings through the city’s employee assistance program.

Gough’s relationship with the council has been tense since he became mayor in 2006. Council members repeatedly accused Gough, who was re-elected last year, of withholding or delaying requested information, claims he has denied.

Tensions with the council escalated earlier this year, when budget projections revealed the city faced a $5.5 million budget hole through 2010. Finance director John Moir resigned in March, after particularly heated council budget meetings.

Council President Ted Hikel and Councilman Mark Smith declined a request for an interview about the resolution.

Councilman Jim Smith, a frequent Gough critic, said the mayor put his interests ahead of the city’s.

“This is a case where ego is getting the better of good judgment,” he said. “The mayor only wants to get his name on a bunch of plaques.”

Oscar Halpert: 425-339-3429; ohalpert@heraldnet.com

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