Letter to the editor: Public deserves to know details of police chief search

Editor:

The position of Edmonds Chief of Police is arguably one of the most important positions in our local government structure: Good management of our police force bears directly on our safety and security. The continuing lack of clarity and transparency by Mayor Nelson about his reasoning for bypassing Assistant Chief Lawless for the police chief position is causing continuing angst in our community. In reflecting on what has brought us to this point, the following points occurred to me:

  • Assistant Chief Lawless’ personal and professional background has been thoroughly vetted at least three times by the city; first when we was hired as a patrol officer over 25 years ago, second when he was proposed by the mayor in April 2000 to be the police chief appointee and finally during 4th Quarter 2020 when he was selected from a field of 12 applicants to be one of two finalists for the position.
  • Assistant Chief Lawless rose through the ranks from an entry-level officer position to the level of Assistant Chief based on his excellent performance in the Edmonds Police Department.
  • Since Assistant Chief Lawless clearly passed multiple times a thorough background vetting process by our HR department, is highly qualified and was one of two semifinalists named by the mayor for the police chief position, a normal hiring process would result in the offer being tendered to the applicant remaining if one of the two finalists is disqualified.

In short, this is the problem the public is seeing. It can only be assumed something behind the scenes has occurred between November and the present that has caused the mayor to believe he doesn’t have Assistant Chief Lawless’ full loyalty. However, since the mayor isn’t being forthcoming and transparent about his reasons for bypassing Assistant Chief Lawless, our citizens are left to speculate why he is not being selected for the police chief position. The mayor issued an announcement through our Economic Development Director last week stating he would provide additional details about the police chief search process in “a couple days.” That timeframe has elapsed. It is well past time for the public to be provided information that can help them make sense out of what has transpired around the Edmonds Police Chief search.

Thanks,
Dave Teitzel

Edmonds

22 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Public deserves to know details of police chief search”

  1. Dave, I would like to sign on to your letter. As always, your perspective is clear and unbiased. Let’s hear the “why” before solidifying the opinions that Mayor Nelson’s waffling has caused to be formed in even the most open of minds in our community.

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    1. I respectfully disagree with the “unbiased” description of Mr. Teitzel’s communication. It appears the he thinks he knows best regarding who the next police chief should be. Lawless was not selected due to “issues,” therefore the process begins again. The mayor has been clear about that. Please don’t speak for the “public,” you can only speak for yourself. There are many people who disagree with you regarding Lawless.
      I truly hope the mayor chooses someone else to fill the position in the interim so Mr. Teitzel and others can let sleeping dogs lie. Why won’t you accept what has already been said by the mayor? The denial about Lawless is almost as intense as the racism denial.
      Why does Mr. Teitzel assume that what happened behind the scenes is about loyalty? That doesn’t sound unbiased to me. Perhaps it was simply that the “issues” which were discovered or recently occurred, disqualified Lawless from the promotion? The public is not entitled to know about city employees disciplinary issues, they are confidential.
      I do agree it is time for the mayor to make a statement, however, it could be that there isn’t anything to report yet in terms of the process. I’m guessing he doesn’t dare say anything that would exacerbate the situation. Sometimes silence is golden.

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      1. Dorian, based on your comment one of three things is happening.

        1. You say that the public is not entitled to know about disciplinary issues. Were you told about these–even if not the specific issue but just that “there were issues’? If so, then the public is entitled to know too. You are not emplyed by the city or council and if you have the right to know, so do we.
        2. If you were told that there were issues and in fact any issues are confidential, then the city broke the confidentiality law by telling you. If that is the case, I hope Lawless has a good attorney.
        3. If you do not know for fact that there are any ‘issues’ then you are witch-hunting and spreading misinformation by implying that there are issues. This is exactly what you accused others of doing. If this is what you are doing then you are a hypocrite.

        so, dorian, which one of the three is it?

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        1. Sam,

          First of all, I still don’t understand why you called me a hypocrite? Secondly, please do your research prior to spewing misinformation on here. Apparently, you didn’t read Adrienne’s (council president) claim that there were “issues” regarding Lawless? A MEN reader/writer called her and posted the results of his conversation with her. I would find it for you, but that would enable you to continue making accusations without doing your own research.
          How do you know I’m not employed by the city? You could have been spreading more misinformation by that statement. Please be careful about that.
          So, it appears that your claim that I’m a hypocrite has been debunked, as I am not spreading misinformation.
          Adrienne didn’t violate any confidentiality by stating there were “issues” about Lawless. Obviously, whenever a city employee isn’t promoted there are issues. That is a no brainer.
          Lastly, I encourage you to take some deep breaths prior to responding to my comments as they appear to trigger you?

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        2. Teresa,

          It was one of your readers who contacted Adrienne, asked her questions and posted the answers in the comments section.

          Ignored

        3. Dorian….seems the article you referenced doesn’t actually exist. maybe you should do your own research before accusing others of not doing theirs.

          It is you who seems to be triggered. You don’t trigger me at all. that is an arrogant assumption on your part. I just don’t appreciate your hypocrisy and misinformation. It appears that anyone who challenges you is “triggered.”

          You are not employed by the city based on your facebook and linkedin profiles and you aren’t listed by the city as a city employee (which is all public record).

          Please take a breath yourself before you go off on people or spew misinformation about Lawless that is not based on fact.

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        4. the comment about “issues” with Lawless came from a comment posted on 12/26/20 a previous MyEdNews letter to the editor. the commenter shared their story about an encounter with AFM as the commenter was handing out fliers at one of the weekend markets. the fliers were about recalling AFM from City Council. https://myedmondsnews.com/2020/12/commentary-in-review-of-2020-edmonds-city-council-president-addresses-covid-challenges-tv-comments/

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        5. Thanks so much for finding that, Christine. I am going to repost that here just so we are clear on how this came up:

          Rod James Schick
          December 26, 2020 at 9:42 am
          I am that concerned citizen who was standing on the street corner outside the market handing out the flyer.

          Adrienne told me that in the 10-minute interview with King 5 they only focused on her comment about racism in Edmonds and that her words were taken out of context. I asked her if she called King 5 to get a copy of the full interview to prove her statement. She said she tried but they did not have a copy anymore. She told me that Edmonds is not a racist town, but there is racism.

          I asked her why they moved the vote up for COP by a week. She said with all the controversy and both Pruitt and Lawless being trashed it was the right thing to do. She told me that moving it up a week made no difference to the outcome of the vote. I asked her what about the information that was presented to the council on Mr. Pruitt’s Domestic Violence issues and she said they never received any information and the article in MEN stating this was false.

          I asked her why she voted for Mr. Pruitt and not Mr. Lawless. She told me it was not about race, that Mr. Pruitt gave a good interview, was friendly and well qualified. She also told me that Mr. Lawless was also well qualified and that she liked him and had known him for 11 years but he had some issues that came up. I asked her multiple times, what those issues were and she told me that she could not disclose them. She left me feeling that there was negative info on Mr. Lawless but would not tell me what it was. I told her if that’s the case we should know what those issues are.

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      2. I beg to differ with Dorian”s statement “The mayor has been clear about that”. Unfortunately, the Mayor hasn’t been clear about anything regarding the selection of a Police Chief”. That’s what caused this mess in the first place.

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  2. We were told there will be a public statement “within the next day or two” from Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson.

    Not true.

    Why were Nelson and his advisors vacant when the first six-month term of Acting Police Chief Lawless expired on June 30, 2020? How could they miss something so important?

    On July 21, 2020, Council told Nelson it would not change the City Code to allow a Mayor to request waiver of the three-interview rule so that Council only interviews one candidate.

    Despite that, one may question if Nelson effectively did that in November 2020. Was Jim Lawless a true candidate when Council interviewed Lawless and Sherman Pruitt? If so, why didn’t Nelson immediately appoint Lawless after Nelson sent his December 15, 2020 letter to Sherman Pruitt? Nelson’s letter claimed the City had made a “Conditional Offer” to Pruitt that the City was now withdrawing.

    The City has the following law:

    If, during that six-month period, the administration has not been able to generate sufficient interest from suitable candidates to satisfy the city council interview requirement (see ECC 2.10.010(D)), the mayor may request an extension of acting directorship authority from the city council, in increments of no more than six months at a time, to allow the recruiting process to continue.

    History shows the administration represented in November that it was bringing forth two suitable candidates for City Council to interview. End of story, clear and simple. Council will have to modify the Code if Nelson wants to extend the acting directorship of Mr. Lawless once again.

    Mayor Nelson’s silence is the source of speculation as to what is going on. A problem with secretive government is that people kept in the dark speculate what could possibly explain behavior, such as Nelson’s change between April 9th and now.

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  3. I am confused by this claim:
    “It can only be assumed something behind the scenes has occurred between November and the present that has caused the mayor to believe he doesn’t have Assistant Chief Lawless’ full loyalty. “

    Why is that the only assumption? Are we truly so lacking in imagination and reason that there are no other scenarios that we can possibly fathom for why the Mayor is starting the search over from scratch?

    That said, there one thing the author of this letter states that I feel could have universal support in this community- when we do not get straight answers from the Mayor about why certain choices are made or not made, it leaves an opening for people to fill in the blanks on their own. In the specific case of this whole process, even though we are not entitled to private employment information, the Mayor certainly can and should find some way to provide insight into the decision calculus that would help turn off the flowing well of fantastic and dramatic assumptions clogging up our communities ability to move on.

    Ignored

    1. Christine,

      We again agree. Right now, it is obfuscation by the Mayor’s office, or just plain ineptitude, or something else. My mind does tend to wander to the more negative things, perhaps it is an approach for the Mayor to make more thoughtful consideration of the appointment. For me, it is a cost based decision and following the guidelines of good fiscal policy. Somewhere there is an answer, and I hope the Mayor chooses to use specific words and not grandiose statements as to why he has decided to steer in the direction that he has.

      I am shifting gears on this one topic and from time to time, will annoy Council and the Mayor’s office about this shotgun approach to Government, but the next hot topic to look into is fiscal responsibility and how Edmonds is promoting equity through policy changes, active engagement in the Snohomish County region, and how the tax dollars are being spent to tackle some of the more pressing problems in the Community. I believe we conducted a study in 2019 that showed that there were 230 homeless people in Edmonds, and that there were a significant number of residents who were at 30% to 50% of income spent on housing. I have seen nothing come from this, and will use the Mayor’s words – “The next question is what we are going to do about it.” said Nelson, who is also a candidate for mayor, in an interview. “We have to tread carefully. Cities throw money at the problem, but it doesn’t always work.” Right now, based on the numbers, from 2014 to 2019 the number of homeless reduced by 33%, and could relate to several factors – so that is my next social equity focus. Tackle problems with fiscal responsibility.

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  4. As usual, Dave Teitzel is right on the mark. Mayor Nelson continues to stonewall both the public and the press as to why Acting Chief Lawless went from his choice for Chief in March 2020 to now being by-passed with a expensive new “nationwide search” being instituted. The public has a right to know what the search criteria are and how Mayor Nelson intends to make his selection. Will the Mayor openly declare his intention to follow the civil rights laws of Washington, RCW 49.60.030(1), which prohibits race or creed being a criteria for hiring?

    The previous comments to this post by Dorian Leigh suggests there are “issues” with Acting Chief Lawless without offering any facts as to what the issues may be. It is the worst kind of nasty, baseless, whisper campaign intended to damage the reputation a good man and dedicated officer. Such efforts should be rejected by all fair minded people.

    If there were legitimate factual issues with qualifications of Lawless to be Chief or his official performance why does he continue to be the Acting Chief of Police?

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    1. Mark,

      It appears your “nasty, baseless, whisper campaign” accusations should be aimed in the direction of Rod Shick. See MEN comment above.

      You might want to research the comments on MEN prior to jumping on the Sam Walker bandwagon, which seems to be clearly off course.

      Be careful when assigning motives, “intended to damage the reputation.” You are not capable of knowing my motives and I have to wonder if you are even cognizant of your own!

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      1. Dorian, perhaps your motive might be to perpetuate the so far unsubstantiated claims by Adrienne that there are “issues” with AC Lawless. It’s one thing to share a direct quote from Adrienne, as Rod did, and quite another to repeat the claims over and over again. These are excerpts from a few of your posts:

        1. Lawless was not selected due to “issues,” therefore the process begins again.
        2. Perhaps it was simply that the “issues” which were discovered or recently occurred, disqualified Lawless from the promotion?
        3. Adrienne mentioned there were “issues” with Lawless.
        4. I also suspect that the “issues” mentioned about Lawless, by Adrienne, are the reason he wasn’t chosen by the mayor.
        5. Could it be that the “issues” aren’t currently significant enough for termination, but could bar him from being promoted? He is only filling in as the chief and being chosen for that position would be a promotion. Without all the facts, we can only speculate.
        6. Apparently, you didn’t read Adrienne’s (council president) claim that there were “issues” regarding Lawless?
        7. Adrienne didn’t violate any confidentiality by stating there were “issues” about Lawless. Obviously, whenever a city employee isn’t promoted there are issues. That is a no brainer.

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        1. Annon,

          Excellent research work, I’m impressed! However, you are incorrect about my motives. I do appreciate your suggestions rather than accusations, that is respectful communication.
          Hopefully, everyone can now accept the fact that Jim Lawless is no longer in the running for Edmonds COP.
          I’m excited to see who the city chooses and relieved it won’t be Lawless.

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      2. Wow, Dorian. It is YOU assigning motives through your comments. Again, the hypocrisy. And it appears that YOU are the one being triggered (to use the word that you throw at others who disagree with you.)

        So, why don’t you tell us what your motives are for continually bringing up a comment made by adrienne that you only know if (by your account) through a comment someone made on MEN? Did you factcheck this comment? Did you actually hear it from Adrienne? If not, YOU are perpetuating the very thing that you say you are against.

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        1. Sam,

          It appears that you are questioning Rod’s credibility?
          I’m thrilled that you are so obsessed with me and my motives, but it is getting a little creepy.
          Perhaps, you can accept the fact that Lawless is no longer in the running and stop focusing on Dorian?

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  5. Thank you Dave Teitzel for your letter.
    After last weeks notice of an announcement to come, I was hopeful that Mayor Nelson was coming out of the bunker and ready to be open and transparent with the citizens of Edmonds. Well…that seems to be a dream.
    We are unfortunately left to speculate and that is not healthy for any of the players. Speculation will not gain the Mayor any support or improve the condition of distrust on all sides of this issue.
    You Mayor Nelson need to be honest, share information and provide some real leadership. Step up to the duties of your position. You are the only person of authority who can make a difference in this issue of distrust.

    Ignored

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