Attorney releases statement, says Cole faced ‘hostile work environment’

Kim Cole

The attorney for Kim Cole, Mayor Mike Cooper’s former executive assistant and a current member of the Lynnwood City Council, has released a statement on Cole’s behalf regarding her resignation, stating she faced a “hostile work environment created by certain employees in the City of Edmonds.”

Cole resigned her position Sept. 22 but noted in an email to My Edmonds News that she was under instruction from her attorney not to comment further. On Friday, Attorney James W. Spencer issued the following statement, adding that Cole “will elect when and where to make her side of this story public.”

“Kimberly Cole sought our services to address the hostile work environment created by certain employees of the City of Edmonds. Unfortunately, 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. Throughout her public career, Ms. Cole has championed transparency in government. While she is currently unable to comment on the circumstances that led to her resignation, she is confident that the truth will become public in due course.”

The attorney’s statement also had some pointed comments for the news media, which we are reprinting because we believe that full disclosure is important regarding this issue:

“While we respect the media’s interest in this story, it is our hope that the media will responsibly report on this matter. Even in today’s instant news environment, legitimate press has an ethical obligation to exercise due diligence in researching facts rather than taking as gospel the misleading statements of individuals that may have a political or personal agenda. We encourage the media to craft its language carefully, paying attention to terms that are not really interchangeable. “Whistleblower investigation”, for example, is not a proper substitute in this storyline for “routine state audit”.

Media reports on this matter have run the panoply from thoughtfully-researched reporting to unsubstantiated rumors backed by “anonymous” resources. We thank those in the media who have acted responsibly, and remind those that have not that continued mischaracterization of the nature of this matter has the potential of irresponsibly portraying public individuals in a negative light. A long and historic body of law protects the free speech of individuals and the press, but holds both accountable when that freedom impinges on the freedom of another. We are confident that all those involved in publicly airing this story will strive not to defame any of its individual players.”

  1. The truth of this report is sadly quite obvious. We have a small noisy clique of city employees who are apparently feeling a bit too big for their britches. They seek to use their positions to politically undermine those appointed over them. That is dead wrong. Their superlative pay and benefits hasn’t always been appreciated by this very few. They have forgotten that they serve at the pleasure of our elected officials and citizenry.

    The trouble is created by only a very few misguided employees. The majority continue to do their best as always.

    Political candidates, especially David Earling, should cease to involve himself with this clique and instead should begin to encourage and support the democratically chosen individuals, including our current mayor, Mike Cooper.

    I beleive that a majority of citizens will generally support these thoughts at election time next monrh.

  2. Based upon my considerable experience working with city hall employees, it’s likely that if Ms. Cole experienced a hostile work environment she is the cause of it.

    When I was on city council I voted against a COLA increase in 2009 for non-represented employees.Nevertheless, the strong cooperation and help that I always had received from those employees was not diminished in any way.

    Obviously city employees do not establish their compensation levels. If any compensation levels are too high, that’s the responsibility of the elected officials.

  3. Ron B. Does this include two of are city coincil members who treated a director in a hostile manner. Dont you have anything better to do but come up with comments about our ex mayor and a citizen who disagrees with you. Lets try to stick to facts and I dont mean just you. I for one no longer read comments by some of the contributors.

  4. Ron B does this also include city council persons who treated a director unfairly. Dont you have more to do with your life than pick on an ex mayor and citizens who disagree with you. Its getting to the point that some of the people who make comments arent worth reading as it is the same old rehash no matter the topic

  5. Darrol,

    Yes, it’s fair to say that that is my opinion on how things usually and/or should work in our society

  6. How can anybody comment on this when you do not even have all the facts. All it says is that she the person quit states she was treated unfairly, well thats what she says and she quit. The fact of the matter is is that she did quit, and you know what now she has to live with that decision. She would be in a whole lot better position if she had stayed and worked it out, and she will find that out. When you are the employed the employer has a certain responsibility to the employees but when you quit all that responsibility is gone, she will find out the hard way.

  7. Ray, thanks for your answer about “democratically chosen”. it always helps to understand the other persons view point if one understand how they are using terms. You have always responded to my questions that are simply trying to understand your terms. It would be helpful if some of the others on this and other responses on MEN would first listen to one other, try to understand what is being said and then comments. Not likely but one can always hope.

  8. Don Hall is a good citizen and has volunteered his time, talent and energies for the Economic Development Commission. He also serves on other groups who are trying to help the city. Don was a regular in attending the latest levy committee to learn more about city finances and needs. If all who post here would do just half as much as Don our city would be a better place.

  9. Ron B. Yes I am referring to Mr . Hines complaint Complaint against appointed council person Buckhnis and councilman Plunkett. The investingating lawyer found the following in his conclusions. Granted certain of the communications and comments at issue may be construed as rude or uncivil and such conduct may violate a City employment policy if committed by an employee, but as the council members are not employees, this investigation did not address whether there was any violation of any of the Citys emploment policies. My comments We pay there salaries and benefits that to me makes them City employees. Ron stick to facts not assumptions > I have never treated you with disrespect but if you keep disrespecting me I will have to change my attatude. Disregard that I wont stoop that low

  10. Ron B what are you talking about I get it just fine. The women quit plain and simple. Was she treated bad don’t know and don’t care If she was the only thing I can say just handle it. My point is she quit and now the city doesn’t have to do anything . You know your such a self claimed expert on EVERYTHING why don’t you just go to work for Edmonds?

  11. Don Hall’s comments about the Hines/Plunket/Buckhnis isses are what I recall as well.

    Mike M. I have invited Ron B on several occasions meet and get involved but my invitations have not produced any results. Edmonds is blessed with so many engaged citizens who care about a numvber of issues. Too bad we cannot get all the concerned citizens to get involved and try to make a positve difference instead of just taking shots at each other.

  12. Darrol It seems to me we should learn from the past, not put are energy into critizising the past and take that energy and put it to use to solve the problems of today we could solve them in half the time. why not just work for the good of Edmonds. Oh if life could be so simple. I think I will go have a glass of wine. Way off the topic

  13. Mr. Wambolt:

    “Based upon my considerable experience working with city hall employees, it’s likely that if Ms. Cole experienced a hostile work environment she is the cause of it.” And, if she were raped would you say it was her fault? WOW! Your remarks never fail to amaze me.

    And, although I hate doing it, I gotta agree with Ray Martin on this one.

    Enough speculation! There is more to this case then any of us are aware of.

  14. Don, a couple of comments:

    First, I have to disagree with your interpretation of the Hines investigation. It was clear to me that the investigator was not alleging any rude or uncivil behavior. His statement that “certain of the communications and comments at issue may be construed as rude or uncivil” should not be interpreted as “certain of the communications and comments at issue were rude or uncivil,” as many have interpreted it. The investigator was simply clarifying that the scope of his investigation was limited to behavior that violated city policy and he found none.

    You’ll note that the investigator did not claim that Hines was innocent of stubborn or uncooperative behavior. Many of us would like to know what actually happened, but the investigation doesn’t reveal that, so I think we’ll all have to accept that we’ll never know. There are no city policies prohibiting an employee from being stubborn or a councilmember from being rude.

    Second, you stated that we should learn from the past. I couldn’t agree more. The best first step in learning from the past is often a thorough investigation so that we are learning from a set of facts, and not just speculation. That’s why I agree with the investigation of the Haines Wharf project. This who have proclaimed the ex-mayor guilty and those who have called him innocent are both demonstrating prejudice.

  15. Priya – right on!

    The objective evidence so far shows Ms. Humann, Ms. Cole, and Mayor Cooper to all be good people. All of the attempts to point blame at one or more of them are prejudicial and destructive.

  16. Just noticed a typo in the last sentence of comment #25. It should have said:

    Those who have proclaimed the ex-mayor guilty and those who have called him innocent are both demonstrating prejudice.

    And Ron, by saying “There must be a price to pay for that kind of behavior” I think you are calling the ex-mayor guilty. While the evidence shows a dysfunctional relationship with City Council, I don’t think it’s clear that Haakenson violated law or policy. Nor is it clear he didn’t.

    I am far more interested in seeing policy fixed than in seeking punishment.

  17. Joe We can agree that interpretation can and will be different, You will notice I used the word critize because so many comments are personal. I have not made any comments for or against anyone in the recent events . Investigations are warrrented as long as the facts are given to the public . I think we will find that the public will never know as it is hidden under executive privilege and executive sessions. Hope I am not right

  18. Ron B. If your first sentence is directed at me , and other such comments in previous post it just goes to show how little you know about me. Gary is probably very surprised we are such buddys and I have lived here for over 20 years

  19. Ron, I have never said that what the ex-mayor did was OK. At best he was being rude toward the Council.

    All that’s required to exempt the ex-mayor from punishment for violating the law is to assume that the city attorney advised him that he was acting legally and that he believed that advice.

    I’m not making those assumptions, but I don’t think they’ve been proven invalid.

    If you are aware of a law he violated that is clear enough to be beyond differing legal interpretation, I’d appreciate a citation.

  20. Mr. Wambolt – you have disclosed no verifiable facts that would support you conclusion. You appear to be wanting us to believe that your facts are accurate and the conclusions you draw from them are fair.

    Given your comments over the past couple of months, I don’t think you’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. Unless you disclose hard facts, I don’t think your opinion of Ms. Cole deserves anything but condemnation.

  21. Ron B, we can certainly agree that the ex-mayor should have disclosed those change orders to the City Council in a timely manner.

    As to why he didn’t and whether his actions violated policy, I agree we need to wait for more facts.

  22. Mr. Wambolt:

    Posters on this blog have repeatedly asked you for the information you “know” and to disclose your sources. You have failed to do so. You are neither a credible historian or witness.

  23. Mr. Wambolt:

    You haven’t told us anything. You have done nothing except spread gossip. There is no way to verify anything you say because it is ALL hearsay. That make you an inaccurate historian. To that point, even my seven year old knows that if comes to me to tattle, he better have his facts and sources in order.

  24. I have met Priya’s seven year old and Ron Wambolt and I would characterize Priya’s statement as a fact.

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