Local politics Facebook group vows to remain open and be censorship-free

By Miki Mullor
Editor

A relative newcomer to the local social media scene, the Facebook group Sammamish Central, takes a different direction than other Facebook groups. 

Kerry Boswoth, the group’s administrator, says it intends to keep it “open,” as opposed to other groups which require permission to join in order to see the content. 

Originally named Sammamish Election Central, the group renamed itself to Sammamish Central after the November city council election.  Anyone with a Facebook account can view the content, post or comment without having to join the group. 

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City Council tables action on City Manager to January 4, for new council to handle

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.

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Council extends deadline for Rudat to respond to proposed suspension

Dec. 9, 2021: The Sammamish City Council Tuesday extended to Dec, 13 the deadline for city manager Dave Rudat to respond to a notice of a 30 day suspension, adopted by the council Nov. 16.

Rudat had been given until Nov. 30 to respond to charges he breached confidentiality of executive sessions and other improprieties.

Rudat attended the Nov. 16th meeting but did not ask for an extension at that time. He went on vacation beginning Nov. 22 for the rest of the month. Upon his return, he asked for an extension of the deadline to respond, citing a personal leave.

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Deadline today for Rudat’s response; incoming Council Member Lam appears to be swing vote on discipline

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 30, 2021: The fate of Sammamish City Manager David Rudat may rest with Amy Lam, the City Council’s newest member.

Lam was elected Nov. 2 to fill out the remaining term of Jason Ritchie, who resigned early this year. Tom Odell was appointed to fill the position until the election. Lam defeated planning commissioner Josh Amato. The election was certified Nov. 23, at which time Odell left the council.

Lam hasn’t been sworn in yet. If she isn’t by the city clerk before the Dec. 7 council meeting, the next one after the Thanksgiving holiday, she will be then.

And one of the first decision she faces is whether to vote to suspend Rudat for 30 days without pay for mishandling confidential information and for other transgressions.

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Council move to fire City Manager fails, but 30 day suspension passes

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 17, 2021: The Sammamish City Council split Nov. 16 over whether to fire City Manager David Rudat or suspend him for 30 days without pay.

The motion by Council Member Tom Odell to notify Rudat, who was present and listening to the debate, that he would be fired for cause failed on a 2-5 vote. Council Member Pam Stuart supported Odell. Mayor Karen Moran, Deputy Mayor Christie Malchow, and Members Ken Gamblin, Kent Treen and Chris Ross opposed the move.

Ross then moved to suspend Rudat for 30 days without pay, after allowing Rudat to first respond to allegations of improprieties. Malchow seconded this motion. They were joined by Gamblin and Moran. Odell, Stuart and Treen opposed this motion.

Rudat has until Nov. 30 to respond before the suspension potentially is enacted.

Months of investigation

The actions come following months of investigation “To Evaluate Complaints or Charges brought against a Public Officer or Employee pursuant to RCW 42.30.110 (1)(f)” against Rudat. The probe was conducted by an outside attorney retained specifically for the investigation.

Moran, Gamblin and Treen voted months ago against launching the investigation. Sammamish Comment learned that Moran and Gamblin were concerned that the probe and any action that might result could have a detrimental effect on Moran’s campaign for a second term in the November 2 election. She won with 75% of the vote against a token opponent.

The investigation falls under the Executive Session provisions of state law, in which the city council discusses personnel matters. The council has held multiple executive sessions before last night’s action. The discussions within the sessions are not public. But debate over the two motions hinted at what was behind the moves to fire or suspend Rudat.

The investigation involved people outside the city government and centered on alleged improprieties of Rudat.

The motion to fire

Odell moved to adopt a resolution to notify Rudat that he would be terminated for cause, following an opportunity allowing him to respond in 30 days. Stuart seconded.

“I make this motion because the city manager has failed to adequately protect sensitive information from disclosure and failed to follow code of conduct,” Odell said.

“I support this motion. We’ve been conducting this investigation for quite some time. There is a pattern of behavior. There is a failure to protect sensitive information. I have lost confidence” in Rudat.

Moran kept interrupting Stuart, charging her with “pontificating” and not making her point. Moran characterized Stuart’s comments as “opinion.” Stuart objected to Moran’s frequent interruptions and characterization of her comments as “opinion.” The independent legal investigation was based on factual findings that drove Stuart’s decision and rationale.

“There is a pattern of behavior,” Stuart said.

“I am not going to support the motion for termination,” Malchow said. She said the report did not specify whether failure to safeguard information was tacit. Malchow instead supported a reprimand.

Moran opposed firing as well. “It’s against the spirit of any contract we have with the city manager. It’s premature. What we have, we were just starting to look at it and requires an explanation.”

“We have facts,” Stuart replied. “We have facts that the city manager failed to safeguard information.” Rudat, she said, violated the code of conduct of the International City/County Management Association and of the city’s code of conduct. The facts, Stuart said, also pointed to the city manager not protecting himself from undue influence of “outside people,” whom she did not identify.

Gamblin said “The entire investigation got off on the wrong foot. There was not enough discussion with the city manager. The preponderance of evidence points to lapses in judgment. It doesn’t rise to the level of termination. I think it’s laughable.”

Motion for suspension

Following the 2-5 vote for termination, Ross moved for a 30 day suspension without pay. Ross felt Rudat’s actions fell short of termination but “some sanction is appropriate given facts and information. It doesn’t say we lost confidence in the city manager. He’s a very talented individual. This gives us the opportunity to work with the city manager going forward for a positive relationship.”

Stuart, however, noted that the council terminated two city managers in the last 3.5 years “for far less,” and “We have evidence he lied to the investigator.”

A grim-faced Rudat was mute throughout the debate.

At the root of the investigation

What’s at the root of the investigation, in a confidential complaint filed by Miki Mullor, the editor of The Comment, is evidence that Dave Rudat was sharing confidential city information with his daughter, Stephanie Rudat. Stephanie Rudat is an administrator-moderator of several Sammamish-oriented Facebook groups. Criticisms of Dave Rudat and of council members she supports are often deleted, or threatened with deletion, from these groups. But one member of these groups, who uses the screen name David Benedet, is freely allowed to criticize Mullor and council members opposed to David Rudat. (This writer was thrown out of Save Sammamish today for criticizing one of the administrators, Kartik Mithal, for allowing Benedet’s latest rant and for Mithal posting his own allegations toward Mullor.) Mullor has evidence that Benedet receives talking points from Stephanie Rudat.

After Mullor in late May confidentially circulated  alleged malfeasance evidence to the council, which ultimately led to the 4-3 decision to hire an outside investigator, Moran immediately leaked the existence of the document to Stephanie Rudat. Two days after the leak, a Dave Rudat supporter filed a dozen or so public records requests targeting Mullor, who is a private citizen, and his wife, insinuating an undue influence on city council members. Some of the PRRs also named this writer, who had virtually no contact with council members or staff since the 2019 election.

In the months since the investigation began, Moran, Gamblin and Treen have through action or inaction moved to delay the probe.

The investigation’s report remains, for the moment, sealed in executive session deliberations.

Update: Administrators have now blocked the writer from Vote Sammamish and Sammamish. The administrators include Mithal and, for Vote Sammamish, Stephanie Rudat.