April 26, 2022: Some on the Sammamish City Council just don’t get it. Mayor Christie Malchow and Member Karen Moran sure don’t.
Members Amy Lam, Kali Clark, and Karen Howe get it, especially Howe. Howe provided an eloquent argument for why the Rudat ethics investigative reports should be made public. She is providing leadership that is, sadly, absent from Mayor Malchow, who now flip-flops her votes. She did so twice in last week’s meeting.
Sammamish Comment has written much about the Rudat probe and why the reports of his misdeeds should be made public. We won’t repeat these long details. Last Tuesday’s city council meeting brings up new issues in the debate over releasing the reports.
Keep the “dirt” private
Malchow expressed doubts about releasing the reports because they contain “dirt” (which she did not define) about why Rudat was let go. She worried that releasing the dirt would be demoralizing to the staff. She may be right, or she may be wrong. But this is the price of living in a democracy and working in government. History, including current history, is replete with politicians trying to cover up “dirt” and embarrassing information revealed in an investigation. One need look no further these days than the investigations into the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Nearly all Republican members of Congress opposed a bipartisan investigation of the greatest threat to democracy since the Civil War. As information emerged, identification of those in government involved, as well as key public figures outside government, was “dirt” and embarrassing. But democracy dies in darkness.
This is not to suggest that covering up the dirt in Sammamish is a grave threat to democracy. But from little acorns, oak trees grow. Regardless, the principle is the same. Malchow, who should know better, has become too personally involved and too directly under pressure to recognize this.
Malchow is a good and well-meaning person and public official. However, she has lost her way over the Rudat ethics investigation, and she lost her way in following the transparency that once was the hallmark of her public service. We can only hope that Malchow’s compass can once again find North.
As for Moran and Treen, their opposition remains an entirely different story. Their opposition to even investigating Rudat’s ethics lapses has been steadfast. They were joined by Ken Gamblin, who resigned from the council in January—creating the 3-3 deadlock that has existed since then.
The backroom talk is that these ethics reports contain information that is politically damaging to Moran and Treen. These are unconfirmed allegations, as are those leveled against Malchow, Treen, Moran, and others that they, too, leaked confidential information from Executive Sessions, one of the charges against Rudat. Releasing the reports would confirm or refute these allegations.
Moran, and to some extent Malchow, claim to release the reports creates a precedent. The entire situation involving serious ethics charges against a city manager is unprecedented. Tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on the probe. Rudat received a $300,000 golden parachute plus continued benefits to leave his job. Why? Taxpayers don’t know why because the reports continue to be blocked from public release. Malchow is the swing vote blocking release.
If there is “dirt” associated with Rudat’s tenure as city manager that is so bad that Malchow is opposed to releasing the reports, why in the world was Rudat paid $300,000 to go away? Taxpayers have a right to know.
Transparency is paramount
Moran rapped “two bloggers” who don’t live in Sammamish as stirring up trouble. One is Miki Mullor, who splits his time between Sammamish and Spain. Mullor owns a home in Sammamish, pays taxes here, and is registered to vote here. He is also the complainant about Rudat, which prompted the investigation. Accordingly, he recused himself from writing on this issue. Writing fell to this author, the founder and long-time editor of Sammamish Comment. This writer moved from Sammamish in 2016 after 21 years, including eight serving on committees appointed by the Council.
This is a story that needs telling. This is an issue that needs pursuing. There is no local paper and the Sammamish Independent isn’t up to the task. The Seattle Times and KIRO TV provided some coverage, but not much.
It should be noted that The Seattle Times and KIRO TV reported on the Rudat investigation and neither reporter lives in Sammamish.
Moran’s statement is nothing more than an attempt to divert from the issues surrounding the Rudat probe. Releasing the reports is about transparency. Moran claims that doing so for the public or even the council members create a precedent. A precedent already was created with the breadth, depth, and scope of the Rudat ethics investigation. Furthermore, Moran’s statements often are at odds with behind-the-scenes activity.
Text messages obtained through Public Records Requests reveal that Moran was trashing Mullor to Rudat in April 2021. Yet a few months later, she asked Mullor for help with her reelection campaign in 2021. Moran’s self-interest is paramount. Transparency is not. This lends to the question of why Moran has been so adamant in opposing the investigation and release of the reports.
Putting the scandal behind the city
As we have editorialized before, the only way the Rudat scandal will be put to sleep is to, as one council member put it, rip the band-aid off by releasing the reports. If the city is sued—a prospect Moran cites if the reports are released—so be it, as Howe said. Rudat’s administration resulted in several lawsuits, including the retaliation of a whistleblower over a freedom of speech issue ($85,000 paid out) and $65,000 to those involved in that freedom of speech issue, among others. Rudat’s leadership merited firing anyway. Let’s see why it was worth $300,000 plus benefits to bribe him into leaving.