Councilmember will be reimbursed for Edmonds police chief candidate records search

Councilmember Vivian Olson

The Edmonds City Council will reimburse Councilmember Vivian Olson for money she spent for copies of documents in last year’s contested police chief search. Council President Susan Paine told My Edmonds News Saturday she has approved the payment.

The debate had dragged on for four months. Past Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and current Council President Paine had refused to reimburse Olson; both saying they had not approved the expense. During a council discussion April 20, Fraley-Monillas called Olson’s efforts to make the documents public a “witch hunt” against Pruitt. Councilmember Laura Johnson said it was “hard to overlook (Olson’s) position of bias” since Olson had never requested documents on Jim Lawless, the other chief applicant, or on any other candidate for a Director’s position in Edmonds. Paine had argued that Olson’s efforts put “the city at a level of liability and risk,”a sentiment echoed by member Luke Distelhorst. At the April 20 city council session, Olson fired back: “I’ve been slandered tonight, and I’ve been accused of bias and I just want that to be on the record.”

Council President Susan Paine

What changed? Paine said: “The issue of the payment was becoming a diversion from some real issues that are happening in Edmonds.” Olson agreed: “I am glad the reimbursement has been approved and that attention can return to important issues facing our residents and the city.”

It is possible that City Attorney Jeff Taraday’s legal opinion may have played a role. During the March 9 council meeting when the issue was discussed, Taraday told councilmembers he did not see any legal liability in Olson’s actions. He said she spent the money in ‘good faith’, as a member “doing their duty.” Taraday went on: “It is not relevant whether you agree that this money needed to be spent.”

The money at issue: $337. That’s what Olson is due for federal court copying fees. She rushed to distribute lawsuit copies to all members and the mayor just two days before the council confirmed Pruitt in early December. Olson and members Diane Buckshinis and Kristiana Johnson felt that the city had not thoroughly investigated Pruitt’s past; that the HR department did not have actual copies of the lawsuit; that the lawsuit contained significant questions about Pruitt’s past.

Other councilmembers and HR Director Jessica Neill-Hoyson disagreed, saying the city may not have had copies, but did know about the issues raised; that Pruitt had addressed them. But, two days after the confirmation vote, Mayor Nelson cancelled Pruitt’s job offer; he did not cite the court case as his reason.

The debate was expected to continue at the next council meeting. But it is all over. The reimbursement will be paid. The check is, as they say, in the mail.

— By Bob Throndsen





  1. Good to hear that rational thought and reason won today. And I do hope that the majority on Council can focus on the more important issues facing our city. We need a council united for Edmonds.

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t believe this decision has anything to do with rational thought and reason; the time for that has long since passed. It has everything to do with shutting people up.

      Ms. Paine: “The issue of the payment was becoming a diversion from some real issues that are happening in Edmonds.” Olson agreed: “I am glad the reimbursement has been approved and that attention can return to important issues facing our residents and the city.”

      As if this mess wasn’t and isn’t a “real issue”. She doesn’t say that getting the information was positive, nor does she thank Ms. Olsen. She just wants to move on.

      Ms. Crank (from “Due diligence or implied bias? Council divided over $337 reimbursement for police chief records” post): “The need to be “right” or “wrong” about this issue (and $337) isn’t worth the increased division and negative view of our local government. There are greater things and bigger pictures to focus on. Grant the reimbursement and focus on larger issues at hand.”

      Again, no appreciation for facts, just a desire to move on.

      It sounds to me like an agreed upon a sound bite to distract from the mess that’s been created.

      1. Annon, you used a great term, “agreed upon sound bites”. Ms. Paine and Crank are very prolific at “sound bites”. You would think that running for a council seat for the third time, having lost twice before, one would have at least learned that the voters are smarter and appreciate facts more than the candidate.

  2. It’s about time, but I am disturbed by Fraley-Monillas’ and Laura Johnson’s implying that Ms. Olson’s motives were racist because she did the due diligence that the City apparently failed to do. The Council needs to get back to work and stop these ad hominum attacks.

  3. About time! I would like to think that Vivian Olson was offered apologies for disparaging, personal attacks…but that is probably hoping for too much.

  4. Why wasn’t this information pulled in the first place. I coach children’s soccer. They do a criminal background check for me to be able to do that. Who in the city failed to research the Police Cheif candidates? Also, I dont think Pruitt is a bad guy or ever misrepresented himself. He just had some things that disqualified him. Who set this man up for failure here and drug his name through the mud? We should thank him for stepping up.

    1. Good move to reimburse Olson.
      I believe an apology should be forthcoming from the those who slandered her name during this situation.

  5. Councilmembers Paine, Distelhorst and Johnson each expressed concern reimbursing Councilmember Olson for paying a fee to obtain public court records regarding a police chief candidate would create a legal risk to Edmonds. This concern apparently formed much the basis for their position that the reimbursement should be denied. Yet, our city attorney seems to disagree that this reimbursement created a legal risk to the city. I’d be curious to know whether the legal concern expressed by the three Councilmembers was simply their own opinions or whether the concern was based on expert legal advice.

    1. Mr. Teitzel, thank you. I think Mr. Pruitt could sue the city, not on part of Councilwoman Olsen’s diligence. In the context of nullifying state DWSL laws, and unilaterally trying to regulate firearms, I’m surprised they’d fain legal risk aversion.

  6. Typical, ignorant and incompetent response is to call someone racist when you cannot win the debate or even willing to debate the issue. Better figure out another strategy as that old tired ( you’re a racist) horse has about run its course. Maybe time to get a couple more adults back on the City Council and let the kiddos go stand on the corner with signs calling anyone that disagrees with them RACISTS.

  7. The biggest liability we have on the City Council is Adrienne Fraley-Monillas.
    She recklessly slandered Council Member Olsen’s reputation in a public Council meeting just weeks ago.
    Apparently she has no interest in following legal council/guardrails, but rather to spew her rhetoric just to rally her base.
    Dog Whistle, anyone? (There is an election coming up, after all…)
    CM Distelhorst and CM L. Johnson are merely her devoted followers that have shown zero backbone, in my opinion.

    VOTE AFM OUT. She never takes any accountability for her poor judgement, is not collaborative, and is embarrassingly unprofessional.
    I think it’s time for a change. We don’t need her divisive tactics on our City Council!

  8. Oh darn!! I was going to suggest a gofundme account for Ms. Olson! She would have probably gotten triple the $337!

  9. So, I’m curious to know how this decision was finally made? One minute this is a big controversial item for discussion by the entire council and the next minute the check to Ms. Olsen just gets written, end of story. Theresa, I think you might have more of a story here as to the process for how this just happened with little explanation as to how it happened. How does this go from a proposed agenda item to, apparently, the Council President just deciding to pay for the request without further discussion? Slush fund? Petty cash? Is it o.k. for one person to make arbitrary payments like this? A little Accounting here please.

    1. The council president has the authority to OK this expense and she told us she decided to do so, for the reasoning she stated.

    2. Clint, as a code and process geek, the first thing I did after reading this article was to read the related City Code section. Reading the City Code caused me to scan the City Council Agenda packet for the next regular public meeting (May 4, 2021) to see if the reimbursement is set for approval yet. I don’t see it set for approval yet.

      This sad episode may provide an opportunity for City Council to obtain a better understanding of the Council President’s role. I am pretty sure the City Council president does not have authority to unilaterally block an expense reimbursement request by a Councilmember. I think the Council President’s role is to audit the documentation for completeness and then put such in front of the full Council at its NEXT regular public meeting for approval or disapproval.

      I believe it is the full City Council that approves the payment.

      If I am wrong hopefully somebody will correct me and provide the related documentation.

  10. We are fortunate to have government people such as Vivian Olson. Keep up the good work!!

  11. Personally, I wish we had seven Vivian Olsons on the Council. I love rebels and people who make “good trouble.” My constant theme here is that this town is actually controlled by the too strong Mayor, his subject Staff and the Council President (past and present people included). I think what has been said in this thread, so far, pretty much supports my theory.

  12. Vivian’s pursuit of the reimbursement was sought for the same reason three of the council members voted to not approve it – Ego. Trust is the pillar for any local government. The mayor and City Council must understand they are public servants. This is not their City to own and control. Get over yourselves and serve your community. It’s what you all were elected to do.

  13. The only incident of slander was of Ms Olson. Mr Pruitt was not qualified for the position, based on the rules the council was elected to follow. There was no determination of character, excepting a few members’ lame attempts to bring in race, minus one fact to support. If this is how some council members practice diversity, I hope the citizens who make this town great are paying attention. More like mob rule.

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