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.

City Council tells the County to assign zero growth target to Sammamish, cites lack of infrastructure

By Miki Mullor
Editor

The majority of the Sammamish City Council voted last Tuesday to tell King County the City cannot take anymore growth. 

The 5-2 vote came after council members highlighted an overall lack of infrastructure, citing traffic, schools overcrowding and stormwater problems. 

King County planning staff presented to the Council the process of assigning growth targets to cities, a process that takes place every 10 years. “The ultimate [growth] target is that that a jurisdiction [city] determines is a good fit for itself. It doesn’t necessarily have to fit within that [proposed county’s] target,” explained the County’s staff. 

Growth targets dictate the minimum number of housing units the city’s zoning of available land must accommodate in its comprehensive plan, which is due by June 2024, according to the County’s staff. 

Continue reading

Black Lives Matter; is defunding the police a solution to misconduct?

By Scott Hamilton

Commentary

Black Lives Matter.

By Scott Hamilton

Thanks to everybody carrying a camera in their pocket via cell phones, the world now sees just how common police misconduct toward blacks remains.

Whether it is excessive use of force or gunning down someone, cell phone videos make it clear and unequivocal there is a systemic problem in law enforcement.

This problem doesn’t stop with police agencies. We now can see that all too often, prosecutors are complicit in covering up these police crimes, either by commission or omission of investigating and prosecuting.

Continue reading

City Council faces a pivotal decision on Town Center; STCA proposal reveals phase II details

By Miki Mullor
Editor

UPDATE: tonight’s City Council meeting has been cancelled.

The new majority on the  Sammamish City Council will face its first major decision tonight on the Town Center – whether to revamp the Town Center plan, or focus on adjustments. This decision comes as new details on further phases of Town Center are revealed in an unsolicited proposal developer STCA made to Sound Transit to place a “transit center” on one of its properties. 

STCA’s proposal details a total of 2,000 homes (6,000 residents), 2,000 employees and 11,000 daily customers in the area west of 228th Ave, above the Met Market complex.

Tonight’s meeting is closed to  public attendance due to the coronavirus but will be broadcast live on Channel 21 and on Facebook, starting at 6:30pm:

Continue reading

City’s emergency manager transferred amid controversy

By Miki Mullor
Editor

The Sammamish emergency preparedness manager was transferred to Fire District 10 on March 2 amid controversy that goes across a broad spectrum. The transfer is unrelated to the Coronavirus outbreak.

  • Complaint of harassment and political retaliation levied against council member Pam Stuart by the City’s Emergency Preparedness Manager employee, Andrew Stevens.
  • Stuart subsequently levied a charge of making a threat against Stevens.
  • Stuart complains of Stevens’ wife’s involvement in a Facebook election-oriented group and being “very mean.”
  • Roots date to 2015 during the administration of then-Mayor Tom Vance and then-city manager Ben Yazici, when neglect and equipment failure was revealed.
Continue reading