Mill Creek official placed on leave; no explanation given

The council’s move followed an executive session partly about potential legal action against the city.

Rebecca Polizzotto

Rebecca Polizzotto

MILL CREEK — The City Council emerged from a long executive session Tuesday evening and placed city administrator Rebecca Polizzotto on paid administrative leave.

They declined to explain why they took the move, after their recent public support for the city manager.

“I have no comment,” Mayor Pam Pruitt said afterward.

Polizzotto has been absent from work since April, when city officials have said she got sick and took medical leave. Pruitt has said that she has been bringing documents to Polizzotto at home during that time to work on city business.

After placing Polizzotto on leave Tuesday, the council appointed police Chief Greg Elwin as the city’s acting manager, effective immediately, until an interim manager can be found. They signaled interest in contracting with Bob Stowe, a former city manager for Mill Creek and Bothell, for the interim job during Polizzotto’s absence, if he’s available.

All six council members at the meeting voted in support of the actions, which followed an executive session that lasted nearly 2 hours and 45 minutes. There was discussion about whether Polizzotto’s leave should start right away, or next week, to allow her to sign contracts.

The executive session included two separate topics: the performance of an unnamed employee and potential legal action against the city.

Only City Councilman Jared Mead wasn’t present for the special meeting, which replaced the regular meeting scheduled for the following week.

On June 8, a Friday evening, the City Council called an unusual meeting to issue a statement defending Polizzotto from allegations of impropriety. Much of the statement dealt with an article in a weekly newspaper.

“The council looks forward to Ms. Polizzotto being able to return to work soon,” the statement read, in part.

A lawyer with a master’s degree in public administration, Polizzotto worked as an assistant attorney general in Alaska and managed a small city in Georgia before coming to Mill Creek in mid-2015.

She’s the highest-ranking employee for the city of 20,000 with 54 full-time employees, about half within the police department. Another 12 city workers are part time or seasonal.

The city manager draws a yearly base salary of $173,825. The contract also includes a $300 monthly car allowance. She received an extra $16,000 last year that the HR department described as an “employee award.”

Most of the council has stood by Polizzotto since she joined the city, despite numerous clashes with staff. Former city workers have accused her of creating a toxic workplace that drove many of them to leave.

The action against Polizzotto came a day before an exit interview for a yearly state accountability audit. A spokeswoman for the state auditor’s office has characterized the process as a risk-based accountability audit. It’s unclear whether there’s any connection the council’s action and that process.

Auditors last year flagged trouble spots with the city’s bookkeeping. Areas for improvement included the regular use of city funds to buy employee-appreciation gifts such as gift cards, pens and jewelry, a practice that predated the current city manager and continued after her arrival. Auditors noted lax documentation for meal and other credit card purchases, many made by Polizzotto.

Polizzotto at the time defended her spending and said she was working to develop new city policies to avoid confusion.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Driver arrested in fatal crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

The driver reportedly rear-ended Jeffrey Nissen as he slowed down for traffic. Nissen, 28, was ejected and died at the scene.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
3 charged with armed home invasion in Mountlake Terrace

Elan Lockett, Rodney Smith and Tyler Taylor were accused of holding a family at gunpoint and stealing their valuables in January.

PAWS Veterinarian Bethany Groves in the new surgery room at the newest PAWS location on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Snohomish hospital makes ‘massive difference’ for wild animals

Lynnwood’s Progressive Animal Welfare Society will soon move animals to its state of the art, 25-acre facility.

Traffic builds up at the intersection of 152nd St NE and 51st Ave S on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to weigh in on how Marysville will look in 20 years

Marysville is updating its comprehensive plan and wants the public to weigh in on road project priorities.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyko Matsumoto-Wright on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With light rail coming soon, Mountlake Terrace’s moment is nearly here

The anticipated arrival of the northern Link expansion is another sign of a rapidly changing city.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
1 dead in motorcycle crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

Authorities didn’t have any immediate details about the crash that fully blocked the highway Friday afternoon.

Photographs in the 2024 Annual Black and White Photography Contest on display at the Schack Art Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Black and white photos aren’t old school for teens at Schack Art Center

The photography contest, in its 29th year, had over 170 entries. See it at the Schack in Everett through May 5.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett mom charged with first-degree murder in death of son, 4

On Friday, prosecutors charged Janet Garcia, 27, three weeks after Ariel Garcia went missing from an Everett apartment.

Dr. Mary Templeton (Photo provided by Lake Stevens School District)
Lake Stevens selects new school superintendent

Mary Templeton, who holds the top job in the Washougal School District, will take over from Ken Collins this summer.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.