So far, no one that My Edmonds News has spoken with is willing to go on the record about what led to the firing of City of Edmonds Human Resources Director Debi Humann last Thursday.
Here’s what we do know: The Washington State Auditor’s Office is currently investigating a complaint filed by a City of Edmonds employee into another employee’s conduct. Humann herself, in an interview Saturday morning, confirmed that the State Auditor’s Office “did contact me regarding an issue happening at the city. My understanding was that it was the result of a whistleblower complaint.”
Off the record, employees we spoke with said that Humann was fired because she was assisting the state auditor with the request, which involved inaccurate recording of work time sheets. Humann would not confirm that, but she did say: “All allegations of wrongdoing, whether they are correct or incorrect, come to me. I’m in charge of compliance with city policy.”
As for Cooper’s motivations, Humann would say only this: “The mayor was my supervisor. I respected him as such, but I have to do my job.”
In a statement released on Thursday, Cooper said that the level of trust and confidentiality between himself and Humann “has deteriorated to a place where I no longer had confidence in her ability to do the job and to work effectively with me.”
Humann said she can’t comment on reports that Cooper offered her a settlement. She did say that after she was fired Thursday morning, she was escorted out of City Hall by one of the city attorneys who was in the building. She also said a rumor that an Edmonds City Councilmember was present when she was fired “was not true. Most of the councilmembers were unaware that this was taking place.”
While she is considering hiring an attorney because “I really want my job back,” Humann said that to her surprise, she’s had “two job offers in two days.” However, she is not going to start job hunting right away. “I’m going to take a couple of weeks off,” she said. “I just need a little bit of time to get my feet under me.”
While she described the experience as “tough,” Humann said she’s been amazed by the outpouring of support. “I’m absolutely speechless, overwhelmed and touched,” Humann said. “My phone has been going dead twice a day because of the number of voice mails, phone calls and text messages I’ve received. I went down to City Hall Friday to turn in my Blackberry and walked to Starbucks, and people were coming from every direction to give me a hug. I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate everybody.”
And despite being suddenly unemployed, Humann was quick to offer her thanks to the city employees left behind who have stepped in to assist with personnel matters: her assistant, Mary Ann Hardie, who has been promoted to human resources manager, and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite, who has also been helping in Humann’s absence.
“That’s what city employees do. We just pull together and do the best we can,” she said.
She was also reflective about lessons learned in the past two days. “I won’t tell you that this hasn’t rocked my world because it has,” Humann said. “As an HR person, our job is people. So every experience you have…you can turn around and use. You are more empathetic. This is a huge one for my experience pool.”