The Edmonds City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution voiding two “purported separation agreements” that Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper entered into with his former executive assistant, Kim Cole, who resigned Sept. 22.
The resolution read by Council President Strom Peterson noted that the mayor had no authority to enter into such agreements. A mayor can contract “for goods and services valued at less than $100,000,” but the agreements with Cole did not fall into either of those categories, the resolution said.
The resolution was discussed in executive session with Cooper and the City Attorney prior to the council meeting, with councilmembers voting to approve it immediately after leaving the session. No dollar amount for the separation agreements was disclosed. Prior to the resolution’s passage, Councilmember Michael Plunkett called acting City Finance Director Jim Tarte to the podium and asked him if he understood “if council passes this resolution you will not cut any checks to Ms. Cole?” After Tarte answered yes to that question, Plunkett also asked Tarte if he had issued any checks to former Human Resources Director Debi Humann “in any amount for a settlement?” Tarte replied that there was no settlement check cut to Humann, whom Cooper fired Sept. 22 after stating he no longer had confidence in her work.
Here’s the full text of the resolution as transcribed from Peterson’s reading Tuesday night:
A resolution of the City Council of the City of Edmonds, Washington declaring void two purported agreements that were signed by Mayor Mike Cooper and Executive Assistant Kimberly Cole
Whereas the document entitled CR2A agreement between the City of Edmonds and Kimberly Cole was signed by Mayor Mike Cooper and Kimberly Cole on Sept. 22, 2011.
And whereas the second document entitled separation agreement general release between Kimberly Cole and the City of Edmonds was signed by Mayor Mike Cooper and Kimberly Cole on approximately Sept. 23, 2011.
And whereas pursuant to RCW 35A.11.010, the City Council is vested with the authority to contract on behalf of the City of Edmonds
And whereas the City Council has delegated some contracting authority to the Mayor, specifically the authority to contract for goods and services valued at less than $100,000.
And whereas the two purported separation agreements are not contracts for goods or for services
And whereas the City Council has not delegated any other authority for the Mayor to enter into employment separation agreements on behalf of the City
And whereas the CR2A agreement between the City of Edmonds and Kimberly Cole signed on September 22, 2011 and the separation agreement and general release between Kimberly Cole and the City of Edmonds Sept. 23, 2011 were signed by the mayor in the absence of such authority
Now therefore the City Council of the City of Edmonds, Washington hereby resolves as follows:
Section 1: Ultra Vires Acts. The mayor’s actions in purportedly executing two separate agreements with Kimberly Cole are ultra vires actions in that he had no authority to enter into such agreements notwithstanding initial advice to the contrary.
Section 2: Agreements Declared Void. The Sept. 22, 2011 CR2A agreement between the City of Edmonds and Kimberly Cole and the Sept. 23, 2011 separation agreement between Kimberly Cole and the City of Edmonds ab initio are void, have no legal effect and the City of Edmonds shall not be bound by them.
Section 3. No Payment. Because the two purported agreements are void, the city shall not make any payments pursuant to the two purported agreements.
Cole’s attorney said in a statement released last Friday that Cole, who is also a Lynnwood City Councilmember, faced a “hostile work environment created by certain employees in the City of Edmonds.” Attorney James W. Spencer noted that “satisfactory resolution was not to be had, and Ms. Cole made the very personal decision to resign her position as Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Edmonds on September 22, 2011.”
In other Council action Tuesday night, the Council:
– Approved a city policy. presented by City Public Works Director Phil Williams, that addresses how city staff handle change orders on construction projects. Williams took the lead in developing the policy following cost overruns associated with the recently completed Haines Wharf project. The policy states that anytime there is a change order of over $50,000 on a project, the City Council will be notified by email.
In addition, council approval is required for
– Any project change order over $100,000
– Any change order which puts the total dollar amount on a project over the designated management reserve. “If we get to point where a change order is going to exceed the management reserve, we are obligated to tell you,” Williams said
– If council approval is required for any of above reasons but circumstances require a speedier approval, the mayor is authorized to approve the required work — provided that the change order and the written statement of the circumstances requiring council approval is placed on the next city council agenda for review. As an example of such a special circumstance, Williams described being “out in middle of project, with a hole in ground, an intersection is shut down and something needs to be done right now.”
– Recognized the month of October as National Arts and Humanities Month, with many volunteers from local arts organizations looking on.
– Heard a positive report from Edmonds Center for the Arts Executive Director Joe McIalwain, who cited the ECA’s $3 million annual impact on the local economy, its increase in season ticket sales from $110,000 last year to $180,000 this year; its successful Arts Crush fundraiser that reported a $75,000 increase in revenue; and recent $1 million gift to the ECA and the Cascade Symphony Orchestra from Edmonds business owner Rick Steves that will translate to $50,000 to $60,000 net revenue for the next 10 years. However, due to the continued declining sales tax revenues, the ECA will need additional funds from the city in 2011 to help cover a portion of the center’s bond debt, McIalwain said. It’s estimated the ECA will be asking for $145,000, which is in addition to the $83,185 the City paid toward this debt in June.
– Held a public hearing on the Capital Facilities Plan Element Update for 2012-17, which includes a variety of infrastructure projects that may be undertaken in the next several years. Whether to proceed with a roundabout at Five Corners was discussed, along with other projects that some councilmembers thought might be unwise to pursue during lean economic times. The next step is for councilmembers to work with staff on refining the proposed list of projects.