Some additional information related to the change order issue that has been swirling around the Edmonds City Council and former Mayor Gary Haakenson: First, Mayor Mike Cooper and City Attorney Jeff Taraday told the City Council Tuesday night that the state auditors had reviewed the situation regarding Haakenson’s approval of change orders for the Haines Wharf Project and the auditor stated the city does not currently have a change order policy and will need to implement one.
Councilmember DJ Wilson has held that state law legally required City Council consent on the $725,000 change orders, which Haakenson approved without Council approval. The Council voted two weeks ago to begin an independent investigation into the matter, a move that Haakenson and others have called politically motivated because Haakenson is openly backing candidates running against some of the current councilmembers (four are up for election this November) and is also supporting mayoral challenger Dave Earling’s bid to unseat Cooper.
“That message from the auditor, the city attorney and the mayor clearly says that during the Haines Wharf and 76th Avenue Sidewalk project there was no policy in place requiring City Council approval on any change orders,” Haakenson said in an email to My Edmonds News Wednesday morning. “With the admission by the city attorney and mayor that no policy existed, and the confirmation by the State Auditor, I would expect that this would put an end to their investigation, will stop any unnecessary spending at taxpayer expense and will allow city government to get busy on more important things.”
The Council on Tuesday night did discuss a proposed policy regarding change orders but agreed to send it back for further work from city staff and the City Attorney before taking action on it.
Also on Tuesday, City Attorney Taraday sent a letter to Cooper stating that if the city did decide to take legal action against Haakenson, the city would not be required to provide the former mayor with legal representation. Haakenson had sent a letter to Cooper and Council President Strom Peterson last week, stating that “since my actions took place while I was mayor, I am entitled to said representation.”
In response to Taraday’s letter, Haakenson said: “I appreciate the timely response to my request. I look forward to a timely disposition of their investigation of the matter as well, which was authorized on September 6th.”