The Edmonds City Council discussed a range of agenda items Tuesday night, from possible ways to staff a new Edmonds Citizens Housing Commission to options for reducing traffic accidents on Highway 99. But the breaking news came at the end of the evening, when Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling announced the resignation of Human Resources Director Mary Ann Hardie — and intimated it was due to the way she was treated by the city council during a May 7 discussion about raises for city department heads.
At that meeting, the council by a 4-3 margin voted to oppose Earling’s recommendation for a 5 percent salary increase for the city’s director-level employees.
Earling said he believed it was necessary to correct the record after a councilmember “unfairly disparaged” Hardie. The mayor pointed to councilmember accusations that Hardie had failed to perform her job duties and “had acted out of her own self-interest” by conducting research that concluded salary increases were warranted for the department directors and two assistant police chiefs.
While Earling did not name the councilmember in question, during the May 7 meeting Councilmember Diane Buckshnis suggested that Hardie’s work on the study should have been conducted by an independent party.
“I being a former regulator, when I see an HR person –which we all know what ethics and conflict of interest is — she goes and creates new steps and creates more money for herself,” Buckshnis said during the meeting.
Earling went on to say that as the director of human resources, Hardie was “expertly trained in evaluating compensation levels,” and was “only doing her job by following the council-approved policy and procedure in providing well-researched director salary information and recommendations to council for their review.”
While it is the council’s prerogative to make recommendations based on the information they receive, “to insult the city staff member who is tasked with providing that information — let alone questioning the director’s integrity — is simply unacceptable,” he said.
Earling then read an announcement from Hardie stating that she was submitting her resignation “with a heavy heart” effective June 21, 2019.
A former HR analyst for the City of Edmonds, Hardie was made interim Human Resources manager following the firing of the city’s then-Human Resources Director Debi Humann on Sept. 22, 2011 by former Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper.
Earling defeated Cooper for mayor later that year, and made Hardie permanent human resources manager in April 2012 after the council eliminated the HR director position for budgetary reasons. She was promoted to HR director in 2016 after the council reinstated the director position.
In other action, the council heard a report on — and later approved — the city’s 2020-2025 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program. During a discussion of that plan, the council talked about options for improving the safety of the Edmonds stretch of Highway 99 — a top priority for both the council and staff. City Transportation Engineer Bertrand Haus noted that the city is considering the possibility of installing median barriers along the highway’s center-turn lane to reduce the high number of traffic collisions there. However, such work would have to be approved by the Washington State Department of Transportation, since it owns the highway. The city also is looking at proposing to the state that the Highway 99 speed limit in Edmonds be reduced from 45 mph to 40 mph. That’s the current speed for the portion of 99 running south through the City of Shoreline.
Making the two miles of Highway 99 through Edmonds a safer place for both pedestrians and drivers has been a key component of the city’s plan — approved in 2017 — to revitalize the roadway and nearby neighborhoods. But finding funding for the entire project — estimated to cost nearly $173 million — will take time and so the city is now looking at shorter-term safety improvements.
On another transportation-related matter, Haus announced that the long-awaited trackside warning system at the Dayton and Main Street railroad crossings, designed to significantly reduce train horn noise along the waterfront, should be activated on June 5. The system is installed, but the city is now waiting for BNSF railroad officials to complete their final testing.
The council also discussed options presented by Development Services Director Shane Hope for staffing the new Edmonds Citizens’ Housing Commission. Hope noted that the city has received 90-plus applications so far for the commission, with representation from across the city. The citizens group will be charged with developing housing policy options for city council consideration to expand the range of housing in Edmonds.
In looking at the commission’s workload, Hope determined that the group would need a meeting facilitator and a community engagement person. Hope presented three different options for the council to consider that could involve hiring part-time temporary staff, a consultant or a combination of those options for the work to run through 2020. There were also discussions about whether official meeting minutes should be taken or if staff notes could suffice, and also whether the meetings should be videotaped to provide greater transparency. All of those choices will involve additional costs.
Councilmembers had a mix of opinions on which options would be best, and in the end told Hope to come up with ideas that would work for both the city and the department — and bring those back to the council later with associated costs.
In other matters, the council also:
– pulled from the agenda a report on bids received for the waterfront redevelopment project. That item will appear on a future agenda instead. You can read more about the issues surrounding the project in our previous story.
– Heard the Traffic Impact Fee 2018 Annual Report
– Received a report from the Snohomish Health District on opioid overdoses.
– Set a public hearing date of July 16 for a proposed street vacation at 184th Street Southwest.
– Approved a proposal to increase the salary range for a new safety and disaster coordinator position after no qualified applicants could be found.
– Approved the appointments of Jeff Hodson and Don Hall to the Edmonds Salary Commission.
— By Teresa Wippel