An Edmonds man who was rejected for a position on the City of Edmonds Salary Commission said he was “stunned” that a majority of councilmembers would vote against his appointment because of his connection to the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank.
During the June 6 Edmonds City Council meeting, Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas argued against the appointment of 31-year-old Tyler Nebeker to the city’s newly-formed salary commission, which will be responsible for reviewing the salaries of the mayor and city council. Her stated reason: Nebeker said during his interview that he supported the policies of the Washington Policy Council (WPC), where he used to work.
The specific policy cited by Fraley-Monillas was a WPC publication addressing why it opposes Equal Pay Act legislation that has been under consideration by the Washington State Legislature. The policy center publication argues that the proposed legislation — which has passed the Democrat-controlled House but not the Republican-controlled Senate — “seeks to fix a problem that does not exist. Wage discrimination based on sex has been illegal since 1963.”
Nebeker, who has an MBA from Brigham Young University, worked as a communications assistant for the Washington Policy Center from December 2010-July 2013. He now is an operations/readiness manager at Microsoft but belongs to the WPC’s Young Professionals group.
Candidates for the all-volunteer city salary commission were interviewed first by Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, then were referred to the City Council for an additional interview. During the June 6 council meeting, five names of candidates who had been interviewed were on the consent agenda for confirmation to the salary commission. But Fraley-Monillas asked that Nebeker’s name be pulled from the list so the matter could be further discussed.
In response to Fraley-Monillas’s comments, Councilmember Dave Teitzel said during the June 6 meeting that the council didn’t specifically asked Nebeker about his position regarding equal pay for equal work, so it was unclear what his stance was on the issue. Teitzel added that Nebeker was “a very bright individual” who had many attributes to bring to the commission.
In the end, the council voted 5-2 (Councilmembers Fraley-Monillas, Diane Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson, Tom Mesaros and Mike Nelson supporting and Councilmembers Teitzel and Neal Tibbott opposed) to reject Nebeker’s appointment to the commission.
Nebeker said Saturday night that he was “stunned” at the council’s decision. “I absolutely do not support gender discrimination in pay,” Nebeker said. “Had anyone cared to ask me about that I would have gladly cleared up the misunderstanding then and there.”
Nebeker, who lives in Edmonds with his wife Stephanie and 20-month-old daughter, said that during his May 9 council interview, councilmembers were “complimentary that I would step forward and volunteer, particularly from a younger generation.” During that interview, he said, Fraley-Monillas asked “whether I would ‘generally support’ the policies of the WPC, a statement with which I can ‘generally’ agree,” he said.
“To take the couple minutes from that cursory conversation and then use the intervening weeks to dig for reasons to object to someone volunteering is unfathomable,” Nebeker added. “And for elected officials to further make untrue claims about me in a public meeting is even more alarming.”
Paul Guppy, the Washington Policy Foundation’s vice president of research, said in a statement Monday that “it is mean-spirited and narrow-minded of Councilmember Fraley-Monillas to apply an arbitrary litmus test to Edmonds citizens who express interest in doing volunteer work for their community.
“Councilmember Fraley-Monillas’ harsh standard will discourage others, especially young people, from volunteering for city commissions out of fear of what this judgmental councilmember may say about them.”
When asked if the Washington Policy Center supports pay equity, Guppy said the organization “strongly believes that all employees should be fairly paid for the work they do.
“Reasonable people disagree about whether enacting a Gender Pay Equity bill is good public policy, and in fact a majority of the legislature has rejected it,” Guppy said in his statement. “So Councilmember Fraley-Monillas should not use it in a knee-jerk reaction against someone who used to work for Washington Policy Center, just because we don’t agree with her on this issue.”
The council on June 6 did approve the appointment of four other individuals to the five-member Salary Review Commission: Ava Dubno, Carl Zapora, Don Hall and Jay Grant. The council is scheduled to interview Jeff Hodson for the fifth position during a special meeting prior to the June 13 business meeting. Hodson’s confirmation is listed for approval on the meeting’s consent agenda.
— By Teresa Wippel