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.”
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