Past catches Sultan official

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

SULTAN — The city is embroiled in another round of political battles after the council recently found out its newest city administrator has a troubled past — and the mayor knew about it before the hiring.

After eight months on the job, city administrator Roy Bysegger’s work history has come to light: He was fired by two cities and in another was charged with five felonies for alleged misuse of a city credit card after buying tickets to an Oak Ridge Boys concert and a Cal-USC football game.

Mayor C. H. Rowe knew Bysegger was fired from city jobs in DuPont and in Crescent City, Calif. And in Susanville, Calif., he was charged with, but never convicted of, alleged misuse of credit cards. He resigned, but ended up staying six months before a replacement was hired.

Rowe said the criminal charges were in the background report, and it was available to any council member who asked for it.

"We knew about all that," Rowe said. "I made calls to both places and spoke to the people he worked with about those things, and I felt comfortable that I wanted to hire him. He came highly recommended."

Bysegger was confirmed by the council after a background check by Sultan police.

Council members say they like the work Bysegger has done, but some say they weren’t told the full story before his hiring.

"We had been told that his previous firings were politically motivated," councilman Mark Raney said. "We should have been told about this (the felony charges) from early on, and we weren’t. It’s the sort of thing that fires up folks who are so angry that they’ve almost ground the city to a halt with lawsuits and document requests."

"Thanks to some bad decisions by the mayor, a lot of folks will now unjustly judge a man and a community," Raney said.

But Raney said Bysegger "has made a positive impact on the city as a whole."

Councilman Perry McPherson agreed.

"So far Roy’s done a good job," McPherson said. "But as a council person I didn’t know his history. If someone else knew about all this, they should have been up front with us. If the mayor knew, he should have told us so we weren’t blindsided."

Despite the problems, a majority on the council said they are happy with Bysegger and have no plans to ask the mayor to remove him.

Bysegger said he doesn’t know why his past is surfacing now, other than some people may not like his work. But he said that comes with the job.

"My suspicions are that this is coming up now because there are certain people in this city who aren’t happy with the direction things are going."

In the past year, Sultan government has been a hotbed of controversy. Former city administrator Bill Trippett resigned, then sued the city over what’s been called a sexually charged workplace. A potential replacement, Brian Olsen, didn’t get the job because he had been fired twice and had an assault conviction in his past.

Also, there have been heated debates about annexation and growth. There was missing money tied to a city official, a pricey council retreat that was rejected, a resignation and an audit.

Most recently, Bysegger was involved in a discussion about disbanding the city police department in favor of using Snohomish County sheriff’s personnel.

And now, Bysegger’s work history.

According to newspaper accounts and court documents, Bysegger was fired in Crescent City, where he was city manager from 1984-87. Some accounts say he was fired because he was ineffective in a fire investigation.

Three volunteer firefighters pleaded guilty to setting that fire. A dock was supposedly torched after the city wasn’t able to get the needed permit to tear the dock down and replace it with a $1.6 million sports-fishing pier and tourist attraction.

"I had no part in the fire," Bysegger said, adding he just directed the police chief to do the investigation, and the information was turned over to the prosecuting attorney. "What was really underneath all that was that the council was divided on the issue of redevelopment in Crescent City."

He said he was leading the redevelopment with city staff while a majority of the council favored consultants doing the work.

In 1990, Bysegger went to work as city administrator in Susanville. He was being charged with five felony counts of theft for personal use of a city credit card. The charges were dropped when he agreed to resign.

"I’ve never been convicted of any crime," Bysegger, 61, said, adding he won’t use a city credit card in Sultan.

Bysegger said Susanville didn’t have a policy on credit card use, and it was common for him, council members and department heads to use the cards for personal items and then pay for them later.

Records show that Bysegger paid his personal purchases prior to the bill arriving at city hall.

In one case, his daughter had been along on a business trip and her dinner was charged to the city because the restaurant wouldn’t separate it out from the check, he said. He repaid that amount.

In other cases, he paid for motel rooms and tickets to an Oak Ridge Boys concert and a Cal-USC football game, all of which were repaid before the purchases became public.

Nonetheless, Bysegger said he resigned "because they needed a scapegoat."

He then worked as city administrator in DuPont until he was hired in Sultan last February. He left DuPont when he was terminated by a new mayor who wanted to hire her own administrator.

Despite all the turmoil, Bysegger said he plans to continue his work in Sultan.

"What seems obvious to me is that this is a political situation, and that’s always to be expected when you are a city manager or city administrator. We do the best we can in public life to serve the public.

"Controversy is always going to come up."

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