Lyman Howard, the Deputy City Manager for Sammamish, was named May 19 to succeed retiring Ben Yacizi as City Manager March 1.
Due to the unusual way in which the Council handled the matter, there’s a question whether the appointment followed legal procedure, however.
The City Council emerged from an executive session and voted that Howard would be the next city manager. Although the appointment was made and a starting date announced, there appears to be a foggy area whether this strictly followed the state law governing hiring staff, according to one public official not associated with the City who wishes to remain anonymous because of the position held.
There was no public discussion about why Howard was appointed, nor about the internal search process and Howard’s winning qualification. The Council emerged from executive session and immediately went to a vote.
Here is a transcript of the action, taken from the video of the May 19 meeting:
Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay:
I move to appoint Lyman Howard as city manager effective March 1, 2016.
This appointment is subject to negotiation of a mutually acceptable contract and approval of that contract by the city council at a subsequent City Council meeting.
Council member Nancy Whitten seconded.
Mayor Tom Vance:
We have a second. I don’t think there is any discussion of this. All in favor say Aye. (Voice vote taken.) Any opposed? It is unanimous decision. Thank you. This is a nice appointment but it is subject to more negotiation.
State law allows for executive sessions to discuss personnel:
RCW 42.30.110 states: (1) Nothing contained in this chapter may be construed to prevent a governing body from holding an executive session during a regular or special meeting…[Section] (g) To evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for public employment or to review the performance of a public employee. However, subject to RCW 42.30.140(4), discussion by a governing body of salaries, wages, and other conditions of employment to be generally applied within the agency shall occur in a meeting open to the public, and when a governing body elects to take final action hiring, setting the salary of an individual employee or class of employees, or discharging or disciplining an employee, that action shall be taken in a meeting open to the public….
RCW 42.30.110 doesn’t explicitly state that the reasons and qualifications shall be discussed in open session, and Yacizi told Sammamish Comment that the appointment is subject to negotiating a contract, and final action will be taken in a public meeting.
When Yacizi was appointed City Manager in January 2001, proper procedure wasn’t followed and The Sammamish Review sued the City, forcing a do-over to follow state law. Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay, who made the Howard motion, and Council Member Don Gerend, were on the City Council at the time of the Yacizi issue, and are on the Council today.
There is no question over Howard’s credentials and he is well regarded in the City. But there is a question over the speed in which an “internal search” was conducted and disposed of. It was only two weeks ago that the Council voted, upon Yacizi’s recommendation, that the City forgo a national search and conduct an internal search. According to one person with knowledge of the situation, Howard was the only internal candidate to apply.
But no member of the public would know this from last Tuesday’s vote. No one from the City said anything at any time during the public City Council meeting. Nor did anyone explain the process or qualifications because there was no discussion.
“It was politically inept” of the leadership, Vance and Huckabay, and of the Council itself one council member agreed later. “There should have been a discussion.”