Humann won’t speculate on what led to her firing, but confirms state auditor investigation

So far, no one that My Edmonds News has spoken with is willing to go on the record about what led to the firing of City of Edmonds Human Resources Director Debi Humann last Thursday.

Here’s what we do know: The Washington State Auditor’s Office is currently investigating a complaint filed by a City of Edmonds employee into another employee’s conduct. Humann herself, in an interview Saturday morning, confirmed that the State Auditor’s Office “did contact me regarding an issue happening at the city. My understanding was that it was the result of a whistleblower complaint.”

Off the record, employees we spoke with said that Humann was fired because she was assisting the state auditor with the request, which involved inaccurate recording of work time sheets. Humann would not confirm that, but she did say: “All allegations of wrongdoing, whether they are correct or incorrect, come to me. I’m in charge of compliance with city policy.”

As for Cooper’s motivations, Humann would say only this: “The mayor was my supervisor. I respected him as such, but I have to do my job.”

In a statement released on Thursday, Cooper said that the level of trust and confidentiality between himself and Humann “has deteriorated to a place where I no longer had confidence in her ability to do the job and to work effectively with me.”

Humann said she can’t comment on reports that Cooper offered her a settlement. She did say that after she was fired Thursday morning, she was escorted out of City Hall by one of the city attorneys who was in the building. She also said a rumor that an Edmonds City Councilmember was present when she was fired “was not true. Most of the councilmembers were unaware that this was taking place.”

While she is considering hiring an attorney because “I really want my job back,” Humann said that to her surprise, she’s had “two job offers in two days.” However, she is not going to start job hunting right away. “I’m going to take a couple of weeks off,” she said. “I just need a little bit of time to get my feet under me.”

While she described the experience as “tough,” Humann said she’s been amazed by the outpouring of support. “I’m absolutely speechless, overwhelmed and touched,” Humann said. “My phone has been going dead twice a day because of the number of voice mails, phone calls and text messages I’ve received. I went down to City Hall Friday to turn in my Blackberry and walked to Starbucks, and people were coming from every direction to give me a hug. I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate everybody.”

And despite being suddenly unemployed, Humann was quick to offer her thanks to the city employees left behind who have stepped in to assist with personnel matters: her assistant, Mary Ann Hardie, who has been promoted to human resources manager, and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite, who has also been helping in Humann’s absence.

“That’s what city employees do. We just pull together and do the best we can,” she said.

She was also reflective about lessons learned in the past two days. “I won’t tell you that this hasn’t rocked my world because it has,” Humann said. “As an HR person, our job is people. So every experience you have…you can turn around and use. You are more empathetic. This is a huge one for my experience pool.”

  1. Ron B I was never talking about you just wondering where my edmonds news gets this stuff. I just think the mayor needs to explain his actions that was a good paying job. There had to be a reason and it by rights should be a good one. As far as Ron Wombolt goes he can do whatever he wants,but I will say this there is more to retirement than the city of edmonds

  2. There are always two sides of a story and the truth usually lies in the middle. In this case we will never know the truth unless this goes to litigation. However, I do know that firing someone at this level is not a snap decision. And, it sounds like Mayor Cooper consulted City Attoneys who escorted Ms. Hunnan off City property. That ways as a large deciding factor in my mind.

  3. Let me ubderstand all of this: The mayor is under investigation by the state auditor because an employee “blows the whistle” on him for paying another employee who doesn’t work.
    The mayor and DJ Wilson cook up a scheme to blame our previous mayor for wrong doing and hire an investigator. That comes apart at the seams last week, so the mayor fires the HR director because she won’t cover for him?
    Haven’t we all seen this movie before? How sad this is happening in our town.
    Well Mr. Cooper, you have six weeks before you’re thrown out — unless you are escorted out of city hall by some “attorneys” first.
    By the way, DJ Wilson makes a terrible G. Gordon Liddy.

  4. I am confused. Humann herself ‘confirmed’ that the State Auditor’s Office is doing an investigation from one employee about another? Saying the Auditor “did contact me regarding an issue happening at the city. My understanding was that it was the result of a whistleblower complaint.”

    Well, not really confidence inspiring. Whistleblower division of the auditor governs state workers, unless the local government is out of compliance with the law by not having their own. Would she be in charge of that?

    Did the Auditor triage Humann information to conduct a whistleblower ‘investigation’ in Edmonds under our law? If so, I would hope she fully ‘understood’ before she began! Makes her quotes odd.

    Or is the Auditor doing it and she was contacted to ‘assist’ them as quoted. Is Edmonds considered a state now? Something is off. Most alarming to me “Off the record, employees we spoke with said that Humann was fired because she was assisting the state auditor with the request, which involved inaccurate recording of work time sheets.” If the woman gave several employees that much information while she assisted or conducted a whistleblower investigation, she should be fired!

    Everyones anonymous except Humann and Haakenson, who point at the Auditor, who is not even a source. Worries me. I followed Ron’s link and looks as though Humann did the same sort of smokescreen there. Its fishy. Or catty. Both.

    Other report says the lady these ‘anonymous’ folks are targeting wasn’t fired as Humann was, but the lady quit. She isn’t ‘considering’ a lawyer like Humann, she has one. Go figure!

  5. So, this is the only remark in the Herald attributed to Humann: “I think that’s reasonable for people to (ask), ‘How’s that working?’ said Debbi Humann, Edmonds’ human resources director.” How do you get this as being a “nasty remark”? Talk about spin.

  6. It has been reported elsewhere that Mr. Haakenson posted details about Ms. Humann’s severance package on Facebook within a day of her firing. This indicates she is still maintaining a line of communications with Mr. Haakenson. I’m not questioning her right to talk to whomever she wants, but note that :

    1. Ms. Humann worked with and for Mr. Haakenson for a long time.
    2. Mr. Haakenson is aggressively trying to get Ms. Humann’s boss removed from his job.

    I can see how Ms. Humann’s boss could be pretty unhappy about the situation. I could create a movie plot around this information as Rick Sowell did above, but I think I’ll let other folks create the fantasy scenarios.

  7. Does anybody have knowledge of the City’s Severence pay policy and/or past examples of severence type payouts?

    Ron W. – Do you recall if severence payouts have to be approved by the City Council?

  8. I know Kimberly Cole, personally I not spoken to her and will not ask her about this because I respect her privacy. However, I know that I would absolutely trust Ms. Cole with anything. She is a single mother who worked her way through law school. She is tough and honest and could kick anyone’s ass in a verbal dual. I find it offensive so many are throwing stones at Ms. Cole when, in reality, we don’t know the story. I am proud of Ms. Cole and proud to call her a friend. She is a true gentlewoman and scholar.

  9. My first sentence above should have read “I know Kimberley Cole personally. I have not spoken to her about this and will not ask because I respect her privacy.”

    Hit submit too fast.

  10. Searching through the City Council Meeting Minutes, I just noted the following in the August 24, 2010 Edmonds City Council Approved Minutes:

    2009-2010 Mid Year Budget Adjustment -08/24/2010

    Under a section titled “Revenues & Expenditures that do not effect ending fund balance due to offsetting revenues or expenditures:”, are the following 2 items:

    N. Miller Payout $52,000
    L. Carl Payout $16,800

    Does anybody know if these two payments were severence type compensation paid to these two former City employees after their employment ended?

    It would be very helpful to know the City’s policies related to severence pay.

  11. Those payments would have been for outstanding sick leave, vacation, or accumulated compensatory time that was owing to the employees. Not severence pay.

  12. Generally there is no “severence” pay. To determine what their payouts would be, you’d have to look at the labor contract under which they worked. Depending on whether they quit, retired, or got fired, will determine what kind of payout they received. If “severence” pay is offered in addition to the contractual payments, you’ll have to make your own conclusions as to why.

  13. I heard she got offered $50 grand 50 grand and fired sounds to me like they the city wanted her out of there. There hiding something, that she can dig up or knows.

  14. Does any know of credible information about the alleged $50K offer? To be credible, it would have to include actual evidence or come from someone trustworthy who is not actively supporting Mr. Earling’s campaign.

  15. @Mr. McCarthym, thank you for throwing some more heresay into the mix. However, assuming, arguendo, that there was severance paid, that pay is not indicative of anything. other than the parties wanting to get on with their lives.

  16. Severance pay has been given in situations like this in the past (in Edmonds) and is common both in the Public and Private world, at least in regard to non represented situations. Priya’s comments are right on regarding that part of the situation.

  17. Thanks for the information Mr. Miller and Mr. Fiene.

    Thanks to Mr. Miller, it is clear that outstanding sick leave, vacation, or accumulated compensatory time is paid at the time of employment seperation.

    Furthermore, per Mr. Fiene it sounds as if there is precedent for also paying severence pay in certain situations.

    It would be great to get a copy of the City’s policy related to Severence Pay. I’d also like to know if Severence Pay requires City Council Approval or if the Mayor has discretion to pay Severence Pay as the Mayor sees fit….or possible up to a certain dollar limit, or perhaps a percentage of pay.

  18. Ken, I’m no legal expert, but as far as I can tell, the only ways in which the Mayor could legally offer a severance package are:

    1: If it is spelled out in the City of Edmonds Employees Benefit Plan. EMC2.30.010 says you can see a copy by asking the Edmonds City Clerk.

    2. For nonexempt employees in the collective bargaining agreement (Ms. Humann was exempt.)

    3. In an employment contract that was reviewed and approved by City Council.

  19. Thanks for the very helpful information Joe. If I get time, I’ll request any related info from EMC2.30.010.

    I imagine we’ll be hearing more about severence pay and how it may or may not relate to this situation in the near future.

  20. Priya, I not only heard that 50 grand number twice I also read it in one of the other local papers. If all that is true I find it amazing that the mayor can just fire somebody offer them another 50 thousand dollars and not explain anything to anybody. Its not like the city of Edmonds is his own private company.

  21. Mr. McCarthy, Again, you have told me anything other than hearsay. For your information, hearsay means that you have no personal knowledge of what actually happened. That is, you are not a direct witness. Please refer to my second second sentence above.

    Yeah, what Mr. Tupper said in #31.

  22. Priya your right 100 percent correct but I read it in a newspaper article so its probably true and Im not in court. Go ask Cooper won’t be hearsay from him. I could go on a nice vacation for $50 thousand dollars. I also read where ms human stated she already had two job offers buts thats probably hearsay the only thing Im saying is thats what I read.

  23. I just want everybody to know that my comments have nothing whatsoever to with the elections. The only thing I know about these elections is that as soon as they are over all these signs can go away what a waste of money.

  24. Let’s not lose sight of the fact “Debi Humann” was abruptly fired…my hope is that she can last until November 9th when she will then receive a call to, again, head up the City of Edmonds.

  25. Oops! for got the “Humann Resource Department” –mis-spelling is my issue BUT I beleive it is deserved here.

  26. Everytime Ive been around anybody that was fired there was a reason given. There was no reason given. Hasn’t been and probably won’t be, Its not my fault that we have a mayor that hides behind lawyers , if he had any guts at all he would come out and tell us what happened after all we are paying him. Don’t get me wrong I like the mayor but you have to answer to the people paying you and thats the citizens.

  27. @ 8, Ron I don’t see the attitude you assign to Debbie Humann’s comment; a comment anyone would make looking @ the Herald article. Professional politicians often create their own confusion and this is such a case. But more perplexing is Ms. Cole’s comment that her Edmonds job is that of a $79,000 secretary! Now this is something to get excited about given our current budget/financial issues. A good admin assistant can be had for half the price and the difference going to create a much needed job elsewhere. Time for someone to evaluate the position and make the change. As to the Mayor’s explanation for the firing, more details are necessary as nothing to date shows why he lost confidence in her abilities. Show time…

  28. No raking here, just taken back by the description of th job as ‘secretarial’ and agreeing with your comment that for this work, the salary is too high. Whether Council can address this, I dunno, but someone needs to soon.

  29. Ron, sure, I’ll look at how much Linda was making while working full time as Gary’s full time assistant. Then I’ll compare that to how much Kim was making as Mike’s part time assistant. That’s a big disparity – each salary directly attributable to the respective mayor. So don’t act like there is no correlation.

    And if salaries aren’t the subject, why are you even continuing to discuss the subject. Your logic is as loose as your facts.

  30. Actually Ron I do know their salaries. However I thought you said the amounts weren’t germaine to the subject. Yet you brought them up. Which is it?

    Or will my silly numbers get in the way of your specious logic and snide innuendoes?

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