Mill Creek police chief may be on leave, but city won’t say

The city manager and other officials would not confirm the department head’s employment status.

MILL CREEK — Police Chief Greg Elwin is reportedly on administrative leave, but Mill Creek city officials are not sharing his employment status with the public.

The Daily Herald has for days sought to confirm that Elwin has been put on leave, as was first reported by the Mill Creek Beacon. As of Friday night, officials had not confirmed the fact. However, the city manager referred to Deputy Chief of Police Scott Eastman as “acting chief” in a Friday news release about the department’s vehicle fleet.

Eastman said City Manager Michael Ciaravino appointed him acting police chief on Jan. 17 but would not confirm that Elwin had been placed on administrative leave. Eastman said he was not told how long he would be serving as the head of the department. He referred all other questions to Ciaravino.

“This is a confidential personnel matter and it is not appropriate for the City to comment at this time,” Ciaravino wrote in a Thursday email to The Herald.

Ciaravino did not respond to additional questions.

Mill Creek Mayor Pam Pruitt and Communications and Marketing Coordinator Meredith Cook also did not respond to requests for comment.

Elwin couldn’t be reached.

Uncertainty about the chief’s employment status is the latest sign of municipal trouble in the Snohomish County city of roughly 20,000 people.

In April 2018, the police chief was one of four high-level city officials who highlighted issues with a past city manager’s behavior.

The city cut ties with former City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto in fall 2018 amid allegations that she misused her city credit card and bullied staff. Mill Creek spent nearly $50,0000 on probes that found Polizzotto charged personal expenses on the credit card, manipulated reimbursement files and created a toxic work environment at City Hall.

Polizzotto has denied those conclusions, saying she “did not engage in abusive behavior.”

Another one of the four city officials who complained about Polizzotto’s behavior is following through with a threat to sue Mill Creek.

Former city spokeswoman Joni Kirk alleged she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for reporting the ex-city manager’s misconduct.

Her lawsuit, filed in Snohomish County Superior Court in December, says the mayor wanted to oust her and three other “whistleblowers.” Pruitt wrote “negative articles” regarding the four of them that were published in local newspapers and addressed them “in an antagonistic manner” during meetings, the lawsuit alleges.

The City Council hired Ciaravino last spring. The new city manager had a “close working relationship” with Pruitt, according to the lawsuit. He informed Kirk of her termination on Aug. 2, the lawsuit says.

Ciaravino said in an email that the city “is not able to comment on ongoing litigation.”

The city previously denied Kirk’s claim that she was wrongfully terminated, saying in a past news release that she “showed poor judgment in the handling of an employment situation, including recording a private meeting on her personal cell phone without consent and failing to disclose the recording to the public records officer when records requests were made.”

Months before her termination, Kirk fired a subordinate in the communications office. When she terminated the employee, she recorded the meeting with him because the city’s human resources manager couldn’t be present, her lawsuit states.

State law requires consent from everyone involved in a private conversation between two or more people before making an electronic recording.

The lawsuit says that she didn’t ask the employee’s permission to record him before she fired him but that she didn’t break the law by recording the meeting. Everett police investigated her actions, and she did not face criminal charges, the lawsuit states.

Kirk filed another lawsuit against Mill Creek in Snohomish County Superior Court last September, alleging that the city’s refusal to provide her with a third-party investigative report, regarding her actions, violated the state Public Records Act.

The two other top city staffers who raised concerns about Polizzotto’s conduct no longer work for the city, according to the wrongful termination lawsuit. One, a human resources director, retired; the other, a finance director, resigned after Ciaravino became city manager “because of a hostile work environment he created for her,” the lawsuit alleges.

Kirk’s lawsuit also says she suffered defamation as a result of public statements that city officials made after her removal. She is being represented by attorney Rodney Moody of Everett.

The legal complaint’s list of demands includes a jury trial, back pay, damages and reinstatement to her position as the city’s communications director.

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

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Fatal 2-car crash closes Highway 99 in Lynnwood

Police closed off Highway 99 between 188th Street SW and 196th Street SW while they investigated.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read