Correction from The Seattle Times: Cole says information about protection order against ex-boyfriend shared

1110
43

Editor’s note. We included a link to this story from our online news partner The Seattle Times on Wednesday, Oct. 6, but on Thursday, The Times issues the following correction:

“The Oct. 6 story about Kimberly Cole resigning as the mayor of Edmonds’ executive assistant, incorrectly said the city personnel office gave out information about her medical condition to other employees. Instead, Cole said information about a protection order she obtained against a former boyfriend was shared among employees.

We have changed our headline above and the excerpt below to reflect the correction.

Our online news partner The Seattle Times has detailed information not reported elsewhere about the resignation of Mayor Mike Cooper’s executive assistant, Kim Cole, including ongoing tension between herself and ex-Human Resources Director Debi Humann — whom Cooper fired Sept. 21.

According to the Times report, “the two departures were the culmination of over a year of tension in Edmonds City Hall, where Humann had worked for 12 years.”

Cole said that the City “began to keep surveillance over her work hours and activities, even though she was answerable only to the mayor and worked on salary,” the Times said, and added that Humann began to increasingly complain about her to Cooper.

You can read the complete Seattle Times story here.

43 COMMENTS

  1. The article does not allege that Debi Humann did anything wrong or knew of any wrongdoing. Nor do I. But if she even knew that employee medical information was being passed around and did nothing to stop it, then going silent and hiring an attorney was a very smart thing to do.

  2. An $84,000 severance for a secretary employed for one year, thank God the city council found it to be illegal. It will be interesting to see how this soap opera gets resolved, but right now it looks like Debi Humann is the employee who has been treated most unjustly.

  3. Darrol, a bit of research indicates that other news sites have reported that she hired one, but My Edmonds News has only reported that she was considering doing so. I trust Teresa far more than I trust the other sites, so Id like to apologize for my statement implying that she hired one. I really just don’t know.

  4. Ron, if employees were really passing around information about Ms. Cole’s medical history, and management knowingly failed to take action, the damages provable in court could be far in excess of that settlement amount. Remember that Ms. Cole is studying to take the Bar Exam, so the provable damage to her future earning power could be quite high.

    It looks to me like $84,000 is going to seem like a bargain by the time this is done.

  5. Mr. Wambolt, if you know of evidence that the Mayor knew of the situation before taking action, please enlighten us. If not, I think it is fair to consider your remarks to be nothing more than political rhetoric.

  6. Ms. Cole, Ms Humann, and Mayor Cooper were not unionized. If any unionized employees were involved, that does not appear to have been reported.

  7. During my career I learned a whole lot about salary administration. One thing I learned is that generally more important to employees than how much they are paid is to know that they are being paid equitably. Mayor Cooper initiated the Ms. Cole issue by over paying her and thus creating inequities.

  8. Mr. Wambolt:
    You seem to be saying that some city employees are justified in feeling underpaid. Can you tell me which employees that would be?

    And can you please explain how those feelings justify disclosing another employee’s personal medical history?

  9. There’s no question about whether employee medical history is confidential information. State and/or Federal law cover that. I think most people understand that. Anyone in management must understand that.

  10. This mornings Seattle Times carryed a correction on what Ms Cole has said about the release of medical information. The Times now reports..”Instead, Cole said, information about a protection order she obtained against a former boyfriend was shared among other employees.” Is there a differerence in medical information and protection orders related to the “duty” to be silent? Are protection orders public record? If so, the police and other people nearby able to help with any publicly obtained protection order it would only add to her safety to have others know of its existance.

  11. The Times has a couple of on line versions. The version that is open to the public does not yet show the correction. I tried to use this site and serach but not luck. The other version of on line is an actual copy of the pages of the paper. That version has the correction on page A2 4th col under NWThursday. If you do not believe what I wrote above then I will type the entire 15 lines. Just say so.

  12. Here is the exact wording under Corrections in Todays hard copy and electronic full news paper.

    “NWTHURSDAY: A story Thursday about Kimberly Cole’s regnation as the Edmonds mayor’s executive assistant incorrectly said the city personnel office gave information about her medical condition to other employees. Instead, Cole said, information about a protection order she obtained against a former boyfriend was shared among employees.”

  13. As this story unfolds, I make a respectful request to many of the frequent flyers on this blog to refrain from allowing your personal bias’ from slanting your comments. Darrol H has shown that the story is already being corrected and thus many of the accusatory posts in this section, by many of you pointed towards many individuals only distantly associated with the story are moot. Let us wait to see what develops here and then we can begin the bashing you all seem to love so much.

  14. Also, Ron B. you are dead wrong regarding the salaries of Ms. Carl and Ms. Cole. I am not sure where you get you “facts” but I can guess. Just because you want something to be true, doesn’t make it so.

  15. I have to say, I’m a little angry right now. Not at anyone in Edmonds, but at the Seattle Times. They made a serious mistake when they reported facts that were wrong, and they couldn’t be bothered with either saying they’re sorry or explaining how it happened.

    I think we all had every reason to believe the original story was true, so I don’t feel I owe any apology for that. But I still wish I could take back some of comments I made based on those facts. To some, it may not seem significant whether other employees were talking about medical information or court orders. But it’s important to me.

    Disclosing medical information is a clear violation of law. I’m not sure that disclosing a court order is anything more than mean-spirited gossip. It’s certainly wrong, but it’s not so certain how much liability the city has in controlling gossip.

    Shame on you, Seattle Times for unrepentantly adding so much confusion to this story. Thank you, Edmonds readers for letting me blow off a little steam.

  16. Darrol, I normally wouldn’t comment about any of this, but since you politely asked for my comments, I’ll say a little. First of all, I think your comments here are above reproach. I rarely disagree with you in any substantial way, and to the best of my recollection you are always thoughtful and civil. I’ve learned a lot from you.

    To the others, I’ll just say that while I respect all of you for thoughtful and civil comments in the past, the tone and content (I’m using that word generously) of yesterday afternoon’s comments is really sad. I hope everybody can just move on.

  17. Teresa,

    The retraction by the Seattle Times makes the headline and the content of this article factually wrong. I’m concerned that the ongoing comments are causing this wrong information to be repeated over and over in the “Recent Reader Comments” section on your front page.

    Does it make sense to change the headline and put a correction in the body of the article for those who don’t read through all the comments?

  18. From 17 above:
    “First, he made a big issue out of the salary paid to Ms. Coles when the truth is she was not being paid anymore than Haakenson’s executive assistant. Haakenson also took his assistant with him when he went to the county. Anyone want to guess what she’s making at the county today? AND I can ensure you, all the deal making regarding his and her salaries was worked out before Haakenson accepted that county job.”

    Kim 79 Linda 73. Kim more not less
    Linda 73 at city 71 at county. Dont have to guess anymore.

    Glad Gary spoke up to clear up the facts.

    Our public employees sure have to put up with a lot of stuff that in the private sector is pretty carefully controlled. Maybe they should get hazardest duty pay.

  19. And sorry for my reply being out of order above. I posted it once and ended up accidentally deleting it, so reposted it. (It originally appeared before Darrol’s comment.)

  20. Oh how many times I wish I had access to that delete button. (I know that you’ll delete messages for people when they have a legitimate reason, but clicking the submit button before engaging my brain is not a legitimate reason.)

  21. Ron B Have you looked into the Haines Wharf change orders, You keep bringing that up was wondering if you looked into it. I not certain if they were changes but things they had to do to just finish the job, and mistakes made in the construction. My personal feeling is that its a nice park looking at a wharf falling into the Puget Sound and the council rejected a proposal on that a few years back.

  22. Ron B: In the interest of transparency, here’s an excerpt of that email conversation between you and me when you sent me the salary schedule on Sept. 22:
    From Ron B. to Teresa:
    “I thought you should have a copy of this. Whether you think it would be appropriate to publish it is up to you. However, I wonder if this was made public what the residents of Edmonds would think.

    When you compare this to the average “household” income (source: city-data.com) you begin to know what I mean when I call it the “cancer” in our city government. Edmonds is a shining example of the disparity between public and private income.

    I can see department heads making these salaries, but it appears second and even third line staffers are making well over $100K

    Then, take a look at the planning performance on these projects and all the cost over runs, and unscheduled change orders, etc. I have to ask the question – are these people really worth this much?.”

    From Teresa W. to Ron B.:

    “I had this discussion with Ron Wambolt earlier this year when he asked me to do a public records request on salaries by name but I included a range of salaries without names instead. I think it’s bad form to call employees out by title with their salaries. It just seems mean-spirited to me, as if we are somehow putting them on display because of their salaries or blaming them because of what they make. They didn’t create those salary ranges. I know that people want to know where their dollars are going, but I believe that by seeing the range, you are able to tell that we have some well-paid folks.”

    From Ron B. to Teresa W:
    “I totally agree with you that including names is bad form. Of course, for the department heads it is pretty obvious, but they are already in a gold fish bowl. Second and third staff should expect to enjoy more privacy. You have to do what you think is best for everyone involved and MEN.com

    Ron B., after Ron W. made his request, I posted the salary ranges without specific names. I compared it against what you sent me, and it is basically the same information, so I am including it here.

  23. Ron W.,

    Please advise the Citizens of Edmonds what is so significant about public voting of items discussed in Executive Session. Without public disclosure of the details of what was discussed in Executive Session and a chance for the public to make related comments, my opinion is that a public vote related to something the public has little to no information often means very little if anything.

    Since this voting must be done in public after the Executive Session has been held, and “no votes can be taken in those sessions”, would it be legal for the Mayor and/or council to discuss the need or make a recommendation to rally votes for or against an item in the days before it is discussed in Executive Session?

  24. Ken:

    I have not spoken for or against executive sessions, which are controlled by Wa State law. They are not unique to Edmonds. Any citrizen who wants to learn more about them should read RCW 42.30.110

  25. Thanks Ron….I’ve read RCW 42.30.110 in detail. Fascinating law. I see the need for executive sessions but also believe they are misused. I hope to discuss Executive Sessions more soon……

    I know the following concept is a tough one and somewhat off topic under this heading….but I would sure like others thoughts on whether or not it would be legal or appropriate for a Mayor and/or member(s) of the council to discuss the need or make a recommendation to rally votes for or against an item in the days before it is discussed in Executive Session?

    I’ll check in tomorrow and see if anybody has any thoughts related to discussions of Executive Session Issues outside the meeting in the days before the related Executive Session.

  26. Yes to appropriate and I think it is legal so long as 4 council members are not in the same place at the same time or on a round robin email to do the discussion. Executive sessions ususally involve legal and some times delicate issues. I would want someone who were to sit in on such a session to be well prepared and do some homework before the session in order to do the best job possible at the session.

  27. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Darrol. I think the problem with even two council members discussing the need to rally votes for or against an item in the days before it is discussed in Executive Session, is that they may be attempting to obtain a head start on establishing a quorem before all related information is disclosed during the related Executive Session. Preparation is one thing, but discussing the need to rally votes before the item is fully disclosed and discussed in Executive Session is different…….in my opinion.

    What are your thoughts related to a Mayor recommending a Council Member consider the need to rally votes before an item is fully disclosed and discussed in an executive session? The Mayor is the Executive and does not have a “Legislative” vote. What would constitute an acceptable reason for a Mayor to discuss how to vote on an Executive Session topic in the days preceeding the Executive Session?

  28. Sounds good Darrol. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

    On a related note, the Citizens of Edmonds are 29 days away from a very important Mayoral election, made more complicated due to the termination of the former Human Resources Director and the resignation of Mayor Mike Cooper’s former Executive Assistant.

    Rumors are flying everywhere, local media has published statements made by those requesting anonymity, and the leading newspaper in the region, the Seattle Times, has already had to correct a major story it published related to the situation.

    The bottom line is that if the election were held today, many voters might allow their perception of the facts related to the Humann/Cole situation to influence their vote, whether their perception is right or wrong.

    Certainly it can be argued that there are always uncertainties related to issues heading into most elections. However, I would argue that this situation is far more significant than most as it directly relates to a Mayor seeking re-election and his former top Aide. Mayor Cooper has expressed frustration related to his inability to disclose the facts to the public as the situation has evolved into what looks to be a complicated legal issue. As a citizen I am frustrated that citizens don’t know what exactly took place.

    I think the City has a duty to do everything in its power to make full public disclosure related to the Humann/Cole situation well before November 8, 2011 so that the voters will know the facts before they vote. Doing so would provide at least two benefits:

    1. Full disclosure will promote Open Government and Transparency, and voters will have factual information to consider during their deliberations over whom to vote for Mayor.

    2. The associated legal costs will be minimized if this is fast tracked. Legal bills tend to accumulate higher and higher the longer disputes linger without resolution.

    Perhaps the above is too idealistic, but I thought it worth mentioning.

  29. A small correction for you, Ken: The Mayor does have a legislative vote if needed to break a tie in a Council vote. With 7 Council members, that can obviously only happen if one or more Council members does not vote.

  30. Thanks Joe,

    I think history shows the Mayor’s legislative tie breaking vote occurs somewhat infrequently. Do you think the Mayor’s legislative tie breaking vote authority justifies Mayoral influence related to a need to rally votes before an item is fully disclosed and discussed in an executive session?

  31. I’m against the idea of off the record vote rallying by any elected city official. I think it flies in the face of transparency. But I have little understanding of what the law allows.

    I’m not aware of any instance where any Mayor of Edmonds has cast a tie-breaking vote, but I haven’t done any research on the question.

  32. Thanks Joe for your thoughts.

    I have seen a Mayor vote in open Council session….it does happen but I believe it to be infrequent.

    Joe, I’d love to know your opinion about the contents of my post 59 above.

  33. I would love to see this case resolved before the election, too. It seems unlikely that will happen. All of the parties have a right to see this case take as long as fairness dictates. As long as it is unresolved people are going to be unfairly hurt by it because of the secrecy that is necessary and appropriate.

  34. I fully agree that the two private citizens involved have every right to a fair legal process no matter how long it takes. The conundrum is the election may be impacted by the voter’s lack of factual information about the related events.

    I wonder if there is an option available which would allow for the facts to be released before we vote. Of course, delaying the mayoral election opens up another huge can of worms.

LEAVE A REPLY