Haakenson requests city legal representation for Haines Wharf Project


Former Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson has sent a letter to Mayor Mike Cooper and City Council President Strom Peterson requesting that the city provide legal representation for him related to any claims related to the Haines Wharf Park project.

Such representation is typically provided by the city attorney unless a conflict of interest exists, Haakenson wrote. “Clearly such conflict exists in this case, as your city attorney has advised you that I have ‘clearly broken the law,'” according to allegations made by Councilmember DJ Wilson, he added.

“Since my actions took place while I was mayor, I am entitled to said representation,” Haakenson wrote. “And I shall choose my own counsel with reimbursement from the city according to code.”

City Attorney Jeff Taraday told the Edmonds City Council during the Aug. 23 meeting that city policy limits the mayor to signing construction contracts up to $100,000 without Council approval. While the policy doesn’t specifically address change orders, “my opinion is, once you are over that $100,000 threshold, any change order on that contract would need to come back to city council,” he said.

Wilson, running for election to his second council term, said he believes that “there has been an organized and methodical effort to mislead the City Council.” Wilson also sent out an email his supporters calling for a formal investigation into what he called “unauthorized expenditures.”


23 Replies to “Haakenson requests city legal representation for Haines Wharf Project”

  1. I’m curious about how My Edmonds News obtained a copy of Mr Haakenson’s letter.

    Edmonds Municipal Code 2.06specifies that in no event shall the officer or employee be indemnified for attorneys’ fees in excess of the hourly rates established by the city’s contract with its city attorney. This becomes interesting because the contract with Lighthouse Law Group does not specify an hourly rate. So what hourly rate would Mr. Haakenson be entitled to?

    Is Mr. Haakenson entitled to legal representation during the investigation? I would think he would only be entitled if the city decides to file charges or a lawsuit. Neither has happened.


    1. A couple of things related to the Haines Wharf Park. First, I asked the ex-Mayor for a copy of the letter because the issue had already been aired in the Beacon and no one from any side of this issue had offered to supply it to me out of “political motivation,” so I thought I’d ask for it. Second, I am posting the transcript of Gary Haakenson’s explanation of this issue, as recorded during an interview with Harry Gatjens. There is no political motivation for that either, other than my ongoing desire to ensure that everyone is heard. As always, I am delighted to post others’ thoughts as well.


      1. Posting of this transcript has been delayed until early October at Mr. Haakenson’s request, based on the advice of his attorney.


  2. EMC Chapter 2.01 – Mayor, documents the duties of the Mayor. It is the Mayor’s duty to see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced and that law and order is maintained in the city.

    2.01.010 Duties.
    The mayor shall be the chief executive and administrative officer of the city, in charge of all departments and employees, with authority to designate assistants and department heads. The mayor shall see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced and that law and order is maintained in the city, and shall have general supervision of the administration of city government and all city interest. [Ord. 2349 § 2, 1983].


  3. Ron, I did read the entire 2.06 section of the EMC and included a link to it in comment #1 above so interested readers could see the context of my quote. I limited my questions because the answers to those could render many other questions irrelevant.

    You points and questions are good ones, and I agree that this section of the code could use some serious revision.

    The information published here in My Edmonds News must have come from Mr. Haakenson, Mayor Cooper, or a City Councilmember. Teresa (and the Beacon) may have legitimate reasons for not wanting to disclose their source. The publication certainly appears to be politically motivated.

    Ken, whatever point you were trying to make in comment #3 was lost on me.


  4. Ron W, if you wish to comment on what I have to say here, I’ll be happy to respond. As I’ve said before, I’m not going to respond to your questions about my personal life. Please move on. Your queries have gone beyond merely annoying.


  5. Joe:

    I’m simply trying to determine if you are a registered voter in Edmonds. The only Morgan that is a registered voter in Edmonds is J. Kent Morgan, and that person did not vote in several elections immediately prior to the last Primary Election.


  6. Ron B, you’ve made an excellent point. City Council would probably be wise to not make any requests of Mr. Haakenson. The likelihood of getting any useful information from him at this point is probably nil.

    And I think everybody here realizes we’re not going to get any answers from anyone in Edmonds City Government. Once people start lawyering up, everybody gets gagged.


  7. Hi Joe, my point regarding the Mayor’s duties is just to make reference to the fact the Code requires the Mayor to see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced and that law and order is maintained in the city. In my opinion, that places a high level of responsibility on the Mayor to make sure before he does something that what he is doing is allowed under the State and City law, as well as under City Ordinances.

    The thought simply popped into my mind after reading the exclusions documented in EMC 2.06.020. On a related note, I wonder how one determines whether a course of conduct by a City Official was willful or intentional? I believe EMC 2.06.020 is another example of how our City’s codes and laws need to be improved in many areas.

    2.06.020 Exclusions.
    A. In no event shall protection be offered under this chapter by the city to:

    1. Any dishonest, fraudulent, criminal, willful, intentional or malicious act or course of conduct of an official or employee;

    2. Any act or course of conduct of an official or employee which is not performed on behalf of the city;

    3. Any act or course of conduct which is outside the scope of an official’s or employee’s service or employment with the city; and/or

    4. Any lawsuit brought against an official or employee by or on behalf of the city. Nothing herein shall be construed to waive or impair the right of the city council to institute suit or counterclaim against any official or employee nor to limit its ability to discipline or terminate an employee.


  8. I’m smart enough to know that I’m not nearly smart enough to figure out whether Mr. Haakenson broke the law. I do think that any attempt to prosecute him or bring a lawsuit against him is almost certain to fail. That’s because he was acting on the advise of an attorney. Even if you could prove in court that Mr. Snyder was wrong, no court would hold Mr. Haakenson responsible for assuming or knowing that.

    I think the investigation by council is warranted so they can have reasonably reliable facts before they attempt to change the law, which is clearly in need of revision.


  9. Ron W, I’m sorry to hear that. I have appreciated your responses when you’ve avoided personal attacks. In the past few months you’ve resorted to them on a number of occasions, and not just toward me. Your comments toward Betty Larman are a prime example.

    But thank you for offering a workable solution to your dilemma. In the future, I hope you consider this solution with other commenters before attempting to discredit them.


  10. Joe, I understand your point to a certain extent, but what do you think about the precedent established related to the much smaller change orders submitted to the City Council in the past on other jobs, as well as the Change orders submitted to the City Council related to the Gray and Osborne Contract related to the Haines Wharf project?

    This is over my head and it is not our job to decide this, but I would think prior submission of other change orders to the City Council implies a knowledge of the laws.

    Also, a long experienced Mayor may have understood the 10% contingency fund concept, specific “do not exceed” professional service contracts, what type of work may have been outside the scope of the original project requiring new competitive bids, as well as what REET 2 funds can and cannot be used for.

    I strongly agree with your point that part of this process has to result in an improvement to the City’s Code to prevent these types of things from happening again.


  11. I don’t think you can infer that because Haakenson sometimes kept the City Council in the loop that he knew he was legally bound to always keep them in the loop.

    Ron, I think you hit on the heart of the problem. To put it more simply, Haakenson was being a jerk. The Mayor took the attitude that he wouldn’t tell City Council anything unless his lawyer, er I mean the City Attorney, told him he had to. I’m not going to try to analyze how our City Government became so dysfunctional, but it clearly was.

    I think he knows he was being a jerk, so now he’s playing the victim as a deflection. I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for him.

    Having said all that, I thought he was generally a pretty good Mayor for most of his tenure. Maybe his ultimate arrogance is simply a sign that no one should be mayor for that long. I think this election is about how transparent we want our government to be. The longer anyone is in office, the less important transparency will seem.


  12. Teresa, it occurs to be now that my phrasing may have caused some to think I was accusing you of political motivation. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have utmost confidence in your fairness and journalistic integrity and have never had any reason to question it. I also appreciate your efforts to use first-hand information to keep us informed with verified hard facts.

    Where I said “The publication certainly appears to be politically motivated” I should have said “The release of these letters appears to be politically motivated”. I would like to take back both my original bad phrasing and what I really meant to say. While I do think Mr. Haakenson politicized the issue prior to the release of the letter, I respect that he has every right to ask for legal representation and may be entitled to get it.


  13. Apparently my remarks in comment #17 got more attention than I expected. They were arguably rude. Please allow me to rephrase:

    Mr. Haakenson, I’m willing to accept that you believed council approval was not required for the Haines Wharf change orders that exceeded $100,000. Mr. Snyder informed you of that and you had every reason to believe him. The policy is not clear. It also appears that the change orders were unanticipated, reasonable and necessary. The project should have been better vetted, but that’s a separate issue.

    Why didn’t you inform City Council in a timely way what was going on? Clearly they would want to know and clearly they were going to find out eventually. Isn’t this common professional courtesy?


  14. It flat isn’t appropriate for D. J. Wilson to be blabbering away with his accusations pointed at our former mayor. With potential litigation inviolved complete with reputations, Council members should definitely not be engaged in making stupid statements that may prejudice the case in a very real way.

    And it isn’t too cool to be whacking your former mentor either.


  15. Joe,

    A humorous story for you. While attending a candidate’s forum at the Methodist Church in 2009, Ron Wambolt walked up to me and asked where I live. I told him that I lived in Lynnwood and he immediately said, “Well, I don’t have to talk to you,” and promptly walked away.

    Saying you live outside of Edmonds is Wambolt-repellent.


  16. Ray, I am taken back by your comments in #23, an honest observations of how DJ Wilson works..someone who is only interested in the betterment of his own political aspirations with complete disregard for the impact to our city or the people he represents. Thank you


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