Stories differ in Lynnwood mayor investigation

LYNNWOOD — The latest salvo in the aftermath of an investigation into Mayor Don Gough’s dealings with his former top assistant comes from an unlikely source: the consultant herself.

Lead investigator Kris Cappel of the Seabold Group this past week fired back at Gough’s lawyer’s version of what happened during the five-month investigation into the work relationship between the mayor and Stephanie Simpson, his former executive assistant.

Councilman Jim Smith read Cappel’s letter aloud during Monday’s City Council meeting.

In a three-page letter to City Attorney Rosemary A. Larson, Cappel responded to what she wrote were “key factual errors” about the investigation contained in a Sept. 13 letter written by Gough’s lawyer, Sidney J. Strong of Seattle.

“It is not our general practice to respond to these types of letters,” Cappel wrote. “However, in this instance, we would be remiss if we did not address the inaccurate allegations that are contained in the letter regarding how the investigation was conducted.”

Simpson in February accused Gough of harassing and belittling her as a working mother as well as retaliating against her for seeking a promotion. In mid-March, she reached a $49,500 severance agreement, agreed not to sue and worked from home until she left the city June 1.

The city made a report of that investigation public Aug. 12.

Seabold found no evidence to support Simpson’s allegations that she was passed up for a promotion because of her gender. Its investigation also was inconclusive as to whether Gough harbored a bias against women. It concluded that Gough repeatedly attempted to interfere with the investigation, allegedly using his job to intimidate and pressure witnesses against him.

Based on the investigation, the City Council in August called for Gough to resign and changed the city’s employment policies and practices to require virtually all hiring, promotion or disciplinary action be submitted for review and confirmation by the council.

Strong’s letter was Gough’s first public response to the investigation’s conclusions.

In an e-mail to The Herald late Tuesday, Gough wrote, “I stand by Mr. Strong’s letter.”

Cappel focused most of her comments on Strong’s account of what occurred during interactions she had with Gough on May 27 and 28.

Her investigation alleged that Gough showed up at the city’s human resources office to search for information May 28, even though he’d been told Seabold would be using the offices for interviews with employees.

In his letter, Strong asserted that Cappel knew Gough would show up because he mentioned it during the interview the day before. “By coincidence the interviewer was at the HR department at the same time,” Strong’s letter said. He also alleged that Cappel, in a second interview with Gough May 27, demanded that “any documentation Mr. Gough had, or could get, needed to be provided immediately, in order for the report to be completed.”

Cappel alleged in her response that events didn’t happen that way.

“Contrary to Mr. Strong’s repeated representations, I was not informed on May 27 that Mayor Gough planned to visit or work from HR’s offices on Friday, May 28, 2010,” Cappel wrote. “If I had known of his intentions, I would have attempted to persuade Mr. Gough not to work at that location or I would have changed the location of the previously scheduled interviews, as I was ultimately compelled to do the next day when I became aware of Mayor Gough’s presence in the office.”

Cappel also took issue with Strong’s claim that investigators demanded the mayor find documents supporting his side of the story immediately.

“Rather, at the conclusion of Mayor Gough’s interview on May 27, 2010, I asked Mayor Gough to provide me with copies of his calendar and relevant email communications he referenced during his interview, neither of which required Mayor Gough to go to HR,” her letter said.

Katherine Weber, assistant city attorney, said the city’s law firm, Inslee Best Dozie &Ryder PS, did not ask Cappel to write a letter in response to Strong.

“That follow-up letter is her response for information purposes but it does not alter the findings set forth in the original report,” she said. “Any additional information is certainly noted but it doesn’t change the report, nor does it require any further action on the part of the city with respect to Ms. Simpson’s allegation. We do consider that investigation to be concluded.”

Oscar Halpert: 425-339-3429;

Talk to us

More in Local News

Arlington woman dies in crash on Highway 530

The Washington State Patrol says a Stanwood man ran a red light, striking Zoey Ensey as she turned onto the highway.

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)
Monkeypox case count rises to 6 in Snohomish County

Meanwhile, cases in the state have roughly doubled every week. Most of those have been in neighboring King County.

Farmer Frog employees sort through a pallet of lettuce at their new location on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At Farmer Frog’s new pad, nonprofit helps feed 1.5M Washingtonians

The emergency food distribution network began amid the pandemic. Demand was high — so high, the truck volume led them to move.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Snohomish County, cities announce $9.6M for mental health, shelter

Projects span from Edmonds to Sultan. Each city is using American Rescue Plan Act money, with the county contributing, too.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Suspect in custody after man’s gunshot death, standoff

Deputies responded to a domestic violence call and found the suspect barricaded on the property near Snohomish.

A view of the proposed alternative station location to Everett Station located east of the current BNSF rail tracks in downtown. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could light rail station under Pacific Avenue and over railroad work?

A group representing people around Everett Station wants Sound Transit to study the idea.

Jon Elmgren, president of the Everett Rock Club, talks with two club members while out searching for olivine and other minerals on Saturday, July 22, 2022, along the Nooksack River near Deming, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett rockhounds dig in for shiny, rare, ‘ugly as sin’ treasure

This club has been around for 83 years. They’ll tell you what rocks their world — and how to identify “leaverite.”

State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)
In GOP battle of Sutherland vs. Low, Democrats may tip the scale

The state lawmaker and Snohomish County council member are vying for a House seat. Democrats make up roughly 40% of the vote.

Two students walk along a path through campus Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. The college’s youth-reengagement program has lost its funding, and around 150 students are now without the money they need to attend classes. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Monroe nixes college program, leaving 150-plus students in the lurch

For years, the Monroe School District footed the bill for “U3” students, who have gotten mixed messages about why that’s ending.

Most Read