From the Publisher’s Desk: The police chief selection

Teresa Wippel
Teresa Wippel

I make it a practice not to weigh in on city government decisions. For the past 11 years, my mission has always been to report what is happening – to be unbiased and fair. I find it necessary, however, to speak up about the process so far for selecting Edmonds’ next police chief.

I want to put extra emphasis on the word process. It is not our place — as a news organization — to pass judgment on the qualifications of either candidate. That is why our city has a human resources department, a mayor and city council. 

It is our job to serve as a watchdog over the process. That means examining documents that come our way, following leads that we receive and asking questions about statements that need more clarity. And we were preparing to do just that when we learned last night that the city council moved the process up a week, putting the confirmation of Mayor Mike Nelson’s preferred candidate —Sherman Pruitt — on tonight’s Dec. 8 agenda rather than the original date of Dec. 15.

Of course, we are not able to do a fair job of reporting in such a short period of time. But be assured that regardless of the council‘s decision tonight, we will continue to review documents and report on anything we may find.

— Teresa Wippel, Publisher

  1. Has there been any transparency to the press in the selection process? Do you have anymore insight into the qualifications or selection process that we have not seen other than what we are getting from the Mayor?

    This forum is a great one and the work that you do and the our ability to comment and learn from the comments of others is awesome! Thanks for being an asset to our community.

      1. I still cannot help but have the feeling that I need to quote Shakespeare where Marcellus says “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark”. I hope, through your efforts, we can get to as much information as we can so that there is an informed citizenry.

    1. In your quest for more answers, I’d sure appreciate more details around the topic of accreditation brought up by councilwoman Olson. It would appear this is a process necessary on the backside, one that may require our new COP to go through additional training, at what cost and who would pay that cost? Shouldn’t we require that be done already given acting Chief Lawless has this credentials?

  2. Thank you for continuing to gather the facts re this issue. I am angry that the “City Leaders” feel they can ram through this appointment and exclude the public that is so effected by this decision. That won’t happen again…new Council next year might be the answer if this continues without public involvement. It appears to be a very poor process and will look forward to the information you gather and share.
    Would also like to see the Councilwomen that gave the interview to King-5, explain herself and comments regarding this community and her view that we are Racist and this appointment will rectify this somehow. How does she see her statement as beneficial to the community.

  3. It will be important for all of us as citizens and members of the press to remember that the City Council is made up of 7 individuals and the Mayor’s office is made up of 1 individual. Each should be judged on their individual actions or lack of actions.

  4. Our code does not allow for a conditional confirmation. I believe such would have to be expressly provided for in the code and I am pretty sure our code does not allow such. Will research more.

  5. I’ve searched the RCW’s, MRSC and the City Code for the term “Conditional Confirmation” and find no matches anywhere. I hope City Officials provide legal support for the action taken tonight – conditional confirmation.
    If they can’t provide such support, I hope they will advise the public as to the legality of tonight’s action. This has nothing to do with either candidate. I am interested in proper legal process, something in everybody’s best interest.

    1. Councilwoman Olsen had asked Attorney Taraday something to the effect if race is allowed to be a component of appointment and he said he wasn’t aware of anything precluding that.

      Good point on the “Conditional Confirmation”. The mayor’s office is apparently sharing some information pertaining to a possible Domestic Violence situation in an executive session that wasn’t disclosed in the background check/report. I was surprised there wasn’t a motion to table the Conditional Confirmation on the second condition that the executive session didn’t provide reasons for concern.

      1. Matt, I believe that City Atty Taraday’s answer to Vivian Olsen was that Tarraday agreed with the answer just provided by Director Hoyson, in that they both did not see race to be the reason Chief Pruitt was appointed. Taraday did not state that there are no laws to preclude race-based hiring decisions.

        1. If it’s not race (which Mike said contemporary race issues were a reason in prior comments), and its not experience, Mike has given no reason. Is Pruitt willing to work for less pay or something?

        2. Mayor Nelson obviously believes he doesn’t have to answer to citizens for any of his actions; he still has not explained why he fired the Finance Director and then bribed him to be silent.

    2. The code probably also doesn’t specify that I am allowed to use an umbrella when it rains, because that’s not how codes work.

  6. I am not sure what conditional confirmation means, but I welcome Chief Pruitt to the force. The council and mayor decided, and that is the decision I will abide by.

    I reiterate that my angst is not with the candidate until I know otherwise. It is with the carefully worded and political speech that does not belong in small town politics.

    My questions still remain:

    We heard about the citizens panel, but did not hear the recommendations of the Police Panel. That would be interesting to know what we can expect by way of support.

    We did not hear more about the documents that were mentioned that I suppose are now in the possession of all members of Council and the Mayor.

    We did not hear about the qualifications based tools that were used to assess the Candidates.

    We heard a professional assessment from the HR Director, and some skirting around some sensitive issues.

    Mayor Nelson was well within his rights to appoint whomever met the legal requirements, and he did that. Elections have consequences. We say this every election.

    We just went through four years of federal government with a lack of transparency, grandstanding, and political statements made through policy. I suspect (based on Washington Demographics) we voted to end that. I am confused that we would choose to do that in our local government. I stand by the old adage that everything that happens in the dark comes out in the light of day. Let’s hope it is a pleasant surprise.

    Welcome to Edmonds Chief Pruitt, I look forward to seeing the changes that you will bring about in our community. I have to go to bed now, it is 12:30, but it was an enlightening and informative meeting on who we elected to our council.

      1. My son had a stroke about 6 weeks ago (completed unexpected) so I have been here for quite some time. After my 7 day quarantine after I get home, it will be nice to see the sun once or twice in January!

    1. I don’t know you yet George, but I’m looking forward to meeting you once we are finally free of the Covid Curse (assuming I live that long). Your views and mine are virtually the same except you are a better writer and more organized mentally than I am.

      I totally agree on your views about going to representative districts and getting rid of this “good ‘ol boy” Edmond’s crap government we have now. We just went from a too Conservative group of “good ‘ol boys” to a too Liberal group of “good ‘ol boys and one girl in particular.” Sad to say, I helped bring this about, but I make it a habit of never making the same mistake twice, if I can possibly help it.

      In fairness to myself, my first choice for Mayor lost in the Primary so I went with Nelson by default. I now realize I voted for the wrong guy in the General. Only a massive revamp will make Edmonds have any sort of modern government. This part-time Council with a King nonsense is DOA. It sort of worked when there were 14,000 of us but at 42,000+, she’s a sinking ship.

      I can’t figure out if the Mayor owns the Council or the Council owns the Mayor right now. I do know Nelson and Monillas need to go ASAP.

      1. Hell, at the end of all of this crisis, or at least when we are allowed to meet with people outside our household, I will break bread with anyone. Talking to my dog is starting to get to be a little one-sided.

    2. George, w/r/t your unanswered questions: – we heard the names of members of both the community and local law enforcement advisory groups but we did not get any summary of the recommendations from either group, as that is not what they volunteered for. It is typical in a Human Resources process to have candidates interview with many stakeholders and to not have that feedback shared as it should be confidential. This is less of a transparency issue and 100% about standard confidential pieces of basic HR procedures. – I believe everyone on every side of this issue assumes that the members of our surrounding law enforcement agencies are honorable and dedicated and would not “support” our community any more or less no matter who our chief is. I know you believe that, too. – which documents are you referring to that we did not hear about? – not sure what tools you are referring to but none of the council members asked Director Hoyson for information about tools so it’s not like someone is hiding it. The Director did walk us through the process that went into background check on Chief Pruitt. The motion last night was to confirm this candidate, not to compare the 2 candidates.. that process happened 10/27-12/5, including all the interviews and the executive sessions that council participated in. Mayor Nelson did walk us through the full timeline of events that got us to the confirmation last night. I understand people wanted this to be a meeting where the council got to pick between 2 & compare them with charts and comments but that part of the process had already played out on a reasonable timeline and it is not “fishy”. It’s a process that many just had not been paying attention to.

      1. I disagree that Mayor Nelson walked us through the full timeline of events. He left out what took place between January 1st through posting of the job in August. I encourage people to read the July 21, 2020 City Council Meeting Minutes. The July 21st Meeting Minutes help fill in the complete process. Specifically, Action Item Number 2 and Study Item Number 2, both historical parts of the full timeline of events. Please note a Motion made on July 21st to take advantage of a loophole. I’ve never seen “loophole” mentioned in a Motion before. Why did Council even have to consider such?

        Also, please see my Public Comments made that day that are included in the July 21st Meeting Minutes.

        Mayor Nelson thanked the Council on Tuesday night, December 8th, for “keeping me following the code”. It is not the Council’s duty to KEEP the Mayor following the Code. City government breaks down and does not function properly when the Mayor does not perform his codified duty to see that see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced.

        Also, I just noticed that Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas’ amended Main Motion was never seconded. All can easily see this by going to the 2:37:40 mark of Tuesday night’s Council Meeting. Mayor Nelson failed to ask for a second and nobody seconded her amended Main Motion. Despite this, Mayor Nelson claimed “It’s moved and seconded”.

        I imagine the City will argue that because Council proceeded to discuss and vote on the Amended Main Motion that it does not matter that her Amended Main Motion was not seconded. Maybe so, but Council did so after Mayor Nelson clearly claimed that it had been moved and seconded.

  7. My favorite part of the meeting was when the mayor explained from the bottom of his heart that he aint gotta explain $#%& to the council or citizens.

    1. He doesn’t. He just has to own the consequences. I believe he will do that. I did not agree with the decision, but on December 28th Mr. Pruitt will be our “conditional” police chief. I will respect him and his authority of the leader of the team that has been tasked with the safety of our community..

      I believe the Council President and Council Member Distelhorst have terms that expire next year. If either chooses to run for re-election, we need to vote they way we see fit.

      Much like the recent Presidential election, I was in the anybody but Trump camp. Next year, I can assure you that I will be actively involved in promoting any candidate over these two for their lack of willingness to be transparent to the citizens of Edmonds.

      I do also believe it is important that we as a City start the discussions of District elections for Council. It may put some council members at risk, but I would feel better represented in a District format.

      Again, welcome to Edmonds Police Chief Pruitt. I am more than willing to serve on any commission that is put together. I was very upset to the point of being angry about the incidents of racism. They have no place in our community and will actively work with any team, whether asked or not, to help you and the Mayor turn the fresh and unique perspective into tangible actions.

    2. We have all been paying attention to it. You are using a defense position that exactly answers my questions.

      1. There was no legitimate reason to move the meeting forward.

      2. Standard HR procedure to meet MINIMUM qualifications. I believe Mayor Nelson should share the recommendations of the panels. He so when they were positive.

      3. Of course we have been paying attention to the process. Mayor Nelson made a decision in April. One that was supported by the majority of the community. He talked out if both sides of his mouth.

      I agree that this was not a discussion about the two candidates. Having the information I have in front of me now, and information that I will not share, all of the council members and The Mayor have it, I have clarity into their thought process.

      It is over. The process by any reasonable standard was subversion.

      Again, Mayor Nelson isn’t a dullard. He knew his game plan, and he and Council President pulled it off perfectly.

      If the Mayor has any other way to describe it, and to end the appearance of impropriety, I ask him to do it.

      Again, it is over. Chief Pruitt is the Chief of Police. I am not focused on the candidate, it is the process that failed.

      Did the Mayor or Council President do anything wrong? No. They leveraged the rules to their maximum ability. I think we recently had a President who did the same. I disliked the approach. Wasn’t there an uproar about a recent Supreme Court Justice who was confirmed into Senate? That process sucked too, even though the controlling party was completely within in their rights to do so. Why would my disappointment both processes (not candidates) be parallel and comparable?

  8. To the council: I would like to know where the council woman found her factual information to label the community of Edmonds racist. She is grouping us into an over-used undefined definition or information describing her label of our community. II have lived in Edmonds for forty years and have never met anyone who endorsed being racist. I would like to know her definition of racist. It is a label being tossed around but never defined. Will this new hire take away the label that our community is racist?

    1. The Edmonds City Council President did not “label the community of Edmonds racist.” That does not an accurately reflect the sound bite you seem to be quoting from the King 5 piece posted earlier this week. I, too, am a fan of “factual information” so I hope you are able to re-watch that news clip to hear the context. If you were not referencing the King 5 news clip, I apologize for assuming.

  9. Council President Fraley-Monillas’ revised agenda released just before 7 p.m. Monday night did not provide Public Notice that Conditional Confirmation was going to be considered. The related agenda packet was very incomplete. As such, a strong argument can be made that the Open Public Meeting Act’s intent that the public remain informed (see RCW 42.30.010) was not met.

    It is not just our citizens who were not provided this Notice. City Council itself was not provided Notice that Conditional Confirmation was going to be considered. The Agenda Packet clearly discloses that the Staff Recommendation was:

    “Approve the confirmation of Sherman Pruitt to Chief of Police and approve the corresponding employment contract.”

    There is nothing about Conditional Confirmation in the Agenda Packet or in the employment contract.

    Why was the Confirmation process moved up a week when normal, unconditional Confirmation was not yet a possibility?

    As I watched this unfold in real time, I was amazed that nobody asked the City Attorney if Conditional Confirmation was a legal option or if such action had been properly Noticed.

    It is the City Attorney who has made it a practice to argue that something must be EXPRESSLY stated in our Code. I believe he is the one taking the stance that this is how Codes work.

    As our City Code does not allow for Conditional Confirmation, there are no Code provisions that expressly spell out what conditions may be required by the City Council or what happens if a Condition is not met.

    In general, citizens of Edmonds deserve better execution of our laws and policies, execution that includes complete transparency. Is that so much to ask for?

    1. I agree with Distelhorst that we need to move to a brighter future. Hopefully one that will have the two council people up for re-election replaced with people who really want what is best for the community and not their own agendas

  10. There is always “more to the story” when reasonable persons suddenly act unreasonably. From my vantage point in life, the reason for such action will either never be known or the outcome will have unintended consequences. Be prepared for the good, bad, and the ugly.

  11. Thanks Teresa. My EdmondsNews is one of the few places one can get unbiased news.
    Looking forward to your in depth articles.

  12. Teresa, you and MEN are a good example of why we need to support local journalists and news outlets all across the country. They are fast disappearing.

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