By Scott Hamilton
Dec. 15, 2021: The Sammamish City Council last night tabled until Jan. 4 action on whether to suspend city manager Dave Rudat.
Last night was the last meeting of the year for the current council. The next council, seated Jan. 4, includes three new members elected Nov. 3. A fourth member elected then, Amy Lam, was sworn on Nov. 24, filling a seat once held by Jason Ritchie. Ritchie resigned in January after moving to California. Former council member and mayor Tom Odell was appointed to Richie’s seat until the November election and certification on Nov. 23.
Rudat, the subject of a lengthy investigation, gave his first public response to the investigation. His response also included the first specific details released publicly of the probe. Council members previously discussed the investigation in general terms in open sessions, but details remained sealed in executive session deliberations.
Investigation report is supposed to be released today
The reports, in response to several public records requests, including from Sammamish Comment, are scheduled for release today. The city, however, has a history of extending release dates for public records requests.
Rudat’s statement criticized the investigation, charging it didn’t properly interview him; for relying on information provided by a “resident blogger” who had influence over several council members; and he singled out Odell for criticism.
Rudat didn’t identify the “resident blogger” by name, but it’s well known that this is Miki Mullor, editor of The Comment. The investigation followed a complaint Mullor made to the council, alleging Rudat failed to protect confidential city information from his family, specifically daughter Stephanie Rudat.
Dave Rudat denied any deliberate actions. Dave Rudat was temporarily lived with his Sammamish-resident daughter while transitioning from California to Sammamish. Dave Rudat acknowledged there may have been times Stephanie overheard information while Dave was working at home during the COVID pandemic lockdown and subsequent restrictions on the use of large public buildings like city hall.
Dave Rudat also denied allegations that Stephanie Rudat exerted undue influence over him or that she drafted any emails for the staff other than esprit de corps messages, another allegation. He said the investigation came to this conclusion.
Undue influence lay elsewhere, Rudat says
Dave Rudat charged that the “resident blogger” was the one exerting undue influence on council members, and specifically Odell, who, he says, was the leader on the council in initiating the investigation. Rudat also inferred Odell had other motives. Rudat noted that Odell had been considered as city manager before he, Rudat, was employed. He said he was told—without saying by whom—that Odell offered to become interim city manager once he, Odell, left the council following the November election if Rudat was fired. Odell made the motion to fire Rudat, which was defeated on a 2-5 vote.
Rudat’s full statement may be accessed here. In it, he cites events concerning the “resident blogger” that appear to come directly from a June email written by Sammamish resident Michael Scoles. That email charged Mullor with vowing to destroy Dave Rudat and make Stephanie Rudat feel the pain in the process, among other claims cited by Dave Rudat. Dave Rudat claimed the “resident blogger” has a “vendetta” against him because he refused to be influenced by the blogger—another claim in the Scoles email.
Mullor emailed the council for equal time to refute Rudat’s statement last night. Mullor also just filed a pubic requests request for all emails between Stephanie and Dave Rudat.
Requests public hearing
Rudat charged the investigation was biased, that unidentified council members (other than Odell) were unduly influenced by the resident blogger, that the investigation concluded there was no intent to release confidential information and allegations he pointed to in his statement were unfounded. The investigative report includes an executive summary, a 44 page short version and a longer document. The Comment requested all three documents in its public records request.
Rudat said the investigation and its bias didn’t support a suspension, which the council voted in lieu of firing him. The council held off implementing the suspension until after Rudat had a chance to respond.
Rudat said that if the council wanted to proceed with suspension after hearing from him, he requested a public hearing.
Because last night was the last meeting of the year and by the current council, the members voted to table action until Jan. 4 when the new council is seated. Other than Lam, who took office Nov. 24, the three new members will need time to be briefed on the reports before they can make any decisions.
A public hearing is not required for an administrative action (firing or suspending an employee). But given the high profile and politics involved in the long and costly investigation, the new council may elect to schedule a hearing.