Top left: Paul McIntyre, Donna Cross and Jack Broyles, Jr. Bottom left: Larry Jones and Dean Lotz. (Alderwood Water & Wastewater District)

Top left: Paul McIntyre, Donna Cross and Jack Broyles, Jr. Bottom left: Larry Jones and Dean Lotz. (Alderwood Water & Wastewater District)

With manager departing, Alderwood staff takes aim at board

The union said the water district commissioners let conditions worsen with Dick McKinley in charge.

LYNNWOOD — A staff union for a major utility provider in south Snohomish County has “overwhelmingly” voted no-confidence in the special district’s Board of Commissioners, blaming its members for “strife and turmoil” among employee ranks.

On Monday, the Alderwood Water and Wastewater District’s local bargaining unit sent a letter informing the board of the vote, taken the same day the union unanimously voted no-confidence in beleaguered General Manager Dick McKinley.

“A change in philosophy is long overdue,” the letter reads. It was written on behalf of AFSCME Local 1811-A, which represents roughly half of the some 160 employees who work for the Lynnwood-based utility.

The letter is a last resort by the union to call the board’s attention to high turnover and all-time-low morale among staff, said Car Duffy, the union’s president.

McKinley is on “paid administrative leave” and will retire Sunday , according to the district’s attorney.

For months, employees have repeatedly complained that McKinley’s behavior has created a “toxic” workplace where staff don’t feel valued.

“If employees’ concerns were taken seriously, I don’t feel that we would be in the situation that we are in,” said Duffy, a senior utility worker.

The commissioners serve five-year terms. Some of them have been on the board for decades. The members and their current terms, according to awwd.com:

•President Paul McIntyre, 2020-25, first elected in 1995.

•Vice President Jack Broyles Jr., 2018-23, appointed in 2018.

•Donna Cross, 2022-27, first elected in 1991.

•Larry Jones, 2018-23.

•Dean Lotz, 2020-25.

The board did not respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment.

Since February, multiple investigations into employee complaints have found McKinley made disparaging remarks about staff members while other employees were in earshot, in violation of the district’s ethics code, The Daily Herald previously reported.

Frustrated by a lack of action from the board, several staff members have confronted the board about the problems during its public meetings.

On Oct. 24, McIntyre told staff in a memo that Engineering and Development Director John McClellan would be the district’s acting general manager “until further notice.” McIntyre did not mention McKinley in the memo.

Dick McKinley (Alderwood Water & Wastewater District)

Dick McKinley (Alderwood Water & Wastewater District)

On Friday, after the Herald contacted McIntyre for comment on the no-confidence vote in McKinley, an attorney for the district responded at about 5 p.m. The lawyer, Joe Bennett, said in an email that McKinley had informed the board he was retiring Nov. 6, and that the general manager would “be on paid administrative leave until that time.”

The news of McKinley’s impending departure marked a resolution to months of uncertainty for district staff members, who questioned whether the board would act on the widespread employee complaints.

“The combative style of the General Manager led employees to feel unwelcome and unsure whether their contributions were valued or not,” says the union’s Monday letter to the board, signed by Roger Moller, a staff representative of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees.

Since early this year, the board has repeatedly convened closed-door sessions to discuss “personnel matters,” then stated publicly that no decisions had been made — a pattern that “simply added to the disregard of the employee concerns,” the union said in the letter.

The letter also says the the district has failed to pay wages competitive enough to attract and retain talented staff, leading to vacancies. Salaries at Alderwood are within seven percent of “mid-point” wages for similar positions on the local job market, according to the union.

“As the largest special purpose district in the area, we should strive to be the best,” Duffy said, “and not the average.”

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

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