Council OKs appointment of new development services director; Fraley-Monillas censure votes fail

Newly appointed Development Services Director Susan McLaughlin (bottom row – center) speaks briefly to the council after her confirmation.

By a 6-1 vote, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night confirmed the appointment of Susan McLaughlin as the city’s new development services director. And during two separate votes later in the meeting, the council was split 3-3 on whether it should censure Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas on charges she violated the council’s code of conduct related to incidents in August and September. (A majority vote is required and Fraley-Monillas was prohibited from voting, so both measures failed.)

McLaughlin — an Edmonds resident — was appointed after a spirited debate during which some councilmembers expressed concern over the speed with which her confirmation vote was brought to the council, with very little public notice. Councilmember Diane Buckshnis also said she had heard from residents concerned that the employment agreement for McLaughlin, an urban planning manager with the City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation, included an $8,000 bonus in lieu of moving expenses, in addition to her $167,524 salary.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson made a motion to postpone the vote a week, to allow more time to consider McLaughlin’s appoinment. Council President Susan Paine noted that there was a need for urgency, as McLaughlin had another job offer she was considering. Johnson’s motion failed on a 1-6 vote.

Buckshnis also made a motion to hold a separate council vote on the $8,000 bonus, but that measure also failed 3-4.

In the end, the council confirmed McLaughlin 6-1, with Kristiana Johnson voting no. Councilmember Vivian Olson said she believed that McLaughlin would be a good fit for Edmonds, citing her communications skills and her “predisposition to collaboration.”

Speaking briefly after she was confirmed, McLaughlin said that she appreciated the passion councilmembers expressed during their deliberations and also the desire of Edmonds residents to learn more about her. “I look forward to reaching out to those people, I look forward to connecting with the residents, that’s what I’m really excited to do,” she said.

McLaughlin begins her job Nov. 15.

The censure process included two complaints brought against Fraley-Monillas. In reading the complaints, Councilmember Olson noted that she knew her actions would be branded as politically motivated. (Fraley-Monillas is running for re-election to a fourth council term and the ballots will be mailed later this week.) However, she added that she had been attempting to get the council to address the issue for several weeks before it was placed on Tuesday night’s agenda.

Olson read two complaints, each of which were subject to a censure vote by the council, alleging that Fraley-Monillas’ actions violated the council’s own code of conduct. The first involved an incident in which Fraley-Monillas was observed on camera during a virtual Aug. 24 council meeting drinking wine, “and appeared to be drunk,” Olson said. The second involved a Sept. 7 council meeting, during which Fraley-Monillas was accused of flashing a “loser” sign at a constituent who was making a public comment critical of the councilmember.

The day after the wine-drinking incident, Fraley-Monillas had explained that she had a dental issue and “was in an extreme amount of pain” during the meeting, adding that she had had wine with dinner and absent-mindedly took a sip of it during an Aug. 24 council vote, which was captured on camera. She went into more detail about those dental issues on Tuesday night, adding that due to longstanding issues with her teeth since her premature birth in the 1950s, she faces ongoing problems.

The council, which frequently has been divided into opposing camps on many votes during the past year, did not stray from that pattern Tuesday night. Councilmember Laura Johnson started off by admitting that she was at first “embarrassed and angry” with Fraley-Monillas’ behavior but felt differently after she learned about the councilmember’s level of dental pain. She also said she was concerned the councilmember felt the need to attend the meeting even when she was “experiencing a health crisis,” adding that councilmembers should be prioritizing their well-being over meeting attendance.

Laura Johnson then went on to relate that this concern goes beyond Councilmember Fraley-Monillas, and extended to a health crisis that Councilmember Kristiana Johnson experienced in fall 2020, when she had reportedly “suffered multiple strokes” and was having short-term memory issues that at times disrupted council meetings. This information, Laura Johnson said, had been reported to the news media but they chose not to use it, even though they have publicly reported on Fraley-Monillas’ issues.

Kristiana Johnson is also seeking re-election in November.

“So why, if not for political reasons, is one councilmember being given some privacy during a months-long crisis and yet another is skewered,” Laura Johnson asked. “Tonight my vote will be for grace and understanding, which I wish we had led with.”

Councilmember Luke Distelhorst said that following the wine-drinking incident, he had spoken to Councilmember Fraley-Monillas and “expressed my displeasure and disappointment” in her actions, and made it clear that such actions would not be tolerated by any councilmembers going forward.

Council President Paine said that the dental emergency “could have happened to any one of us and the opportunity to have stayed away from the council meeting is something that the councilmember decided not to do out of loyalty to her work.”

Paine also pointed out that a public apology was part of the censure request and stated that Fraley-Monillas had apologized to the council and mayor, as well as the public, in articles in both My Edmonds News Aug. 25 and the Everett Herald Aug. 28. However, Olson noted that neither of those articles included an apology to the public, but instead the articles cited the email apology Fraley-Monillas had sent to councilmembers and the mayor.

In addition, Paine said it was important to recognize that councilmembers shouldn’t be attending council meetings if they are experiencing a health emergency.

Councilmember Buckshnis said Fraley-Monillas’ actions were “not an acceptable behavior” and they should be sanctioned.

Later in the meeting, Laura Johnson said that while councilmembers reported being embarassed about Fraley-Monillas’ behavior, “being embarrassed should never take priority over somebody’s health.” In fact, she said that the behavior against Fraley-Monillas “has been bullying. And to demand that a councilmember needs to apologize for their actions during a health crisis, why are we treating one councilmember different from another?”

Fraley-Monillas also thanked her fellow councilmembers who had expressed concern about her health. “I appreciate most of you,” she said.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said that censure “is not about a person, whether we like them or not, it’s about your code of conduct.”

The vote on the censure related to the wine-drinking incident was 3-3, with Fraley-Monillas unable to vote under Roberts Rules of Order. (L. Johnson, Paine and Distelhorst were opposed and Olson, Buckshnis and K. Johnson were in favor.)

The second complaint was related to an email from a resident who said that Fraley-Monillas flashed a “loser” sign at her when she made a comment during the Sept. 7 council meeting.

In response, Fraley-Monillas said that she used to teach sign language and she was actually using an “L” sign for listen, meaning “I can’t hear you,” rather than a loser sign.

“I believe that Ms. Olson is using this for political gain,” Fraley-Monillas said. “This isn’t about whether I’m signing or what I’m saying, it’s about her need to control the council.”

Olson said that Fraley-Monillas’ assertion “is not supported by the video recording of the Sept. 7 meeting itself,” and also isn’t supported by an email exchange she had with the councilmember two days after the incident. In addition, she said, the council has not seen the councilmember using sign language during meetings, prior to the gesture in question.

Councilmembers Distelhorst and Laura Johnson said they reviewed the video of the meeting and couldn’t definitively determine whether a loser sign was used. Council President Paine said that Fraley-Monillas uses many hand gestures when she speaks and she doesn’t believe a loser gesture was displayed.

As the council was debating the second charge, Councilmember Fraley-Monillas declared a point of order to single out Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, who had her camera off for part of the meeting but then turned it on while in a reclining position. “You’ve got a councilmember laying on a bed looking like they can’t get up and function, and nobody’s saying a dang thing,” Fraley-Monillas said.

The second motion for censure also failed on a 3-3 vote, with the same groups of three voting for and against.

With either vote, the mayor could have broken the tie but declined to do so.

In other business, the council approved a final bond ordinance for refinancing and restructuring some of the city’s bond debt, as well as issuing new bonds. The bonding — approved by the council in August — is aimed at saving the city money, providing short-term cash relief for the Edmonds Public Facilities District that runs the Edmonds Center for the Arts (ECA), and funding a maintenance backlog in city buildings.

— By Teresa Wippel










21 Replies to “Council OKs appointment of new development services director; Fraley-Monillas censure votes fail”

  1. The unbelievability of both AFM’s stories is laughable. Vivian was correct; AFM never apologized to the people, only to the mayor and Council in an email. What does drinking have to do with her health issue? The only way I can make that connection would be if she had a health issue concerning drinking alcohol.
    The Loser sign was obvious. Multiple people spoke out about it, immediately identifying it as a Loser sign. Her over-explaination of it being sign language, when she admitted she never before used it in a decade on Council, is again, laughable. Her hand guesture looked nothing like the sign for “Hear” as shown in this video:

    Adrienne Fraley-Monillas is a truth twister. Over and over again, she twists her words deflecting from the truth, and her gang members (Luke, Laura & Susan) obediently follow her orders, the mayor as well. They all tell stories to cover AFM’s stories. She fools no one. She just makes chumps out of her fellow councilmembers in her voting bloc.
    Shame on Laura Johnson for dragging another councilmember into AFM’s lies. Bullying Kristiana while crying about the real Bully being “bullied” is so over the top, it’s surreal.
    This year Edmonds needs to rid itself of the ring leader on Council. Luke is already out. Susan and Laura have proven to the residents of Edmonds that they are unfit and unworthy to serve the good people of Edmonds.


  2. Edmonds City Council showed great disrespect to its citizens last night, confirming a candidate for Appointive Office roughly one day after Mayor Mike Nelson provided citizens the first details about his choice for Development Services Director. Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas admitted she didn’t even know the candidate’s name right before she voted to confirm.

    Council President Susan Paine voted against a reasonable request to postpone the confirmation vote stating that there was a competing job offer at play. Ms. Paine evidenced that she prioritizes external factors over providing her constituents a little time to research the candidate and inform Councilmembers whether citizens support confirmation. This is true even though numerous citizens took made the effort to let City Council know they wanted to research the candidate and provide input. Ms. Paine wasn’t even willing to add Audience Comments to the Agenda last night after requested to do so.

    Citizens may have vetted the candidate over the days ahead and strongly recommended confirmation. Now we will never know. Elected officials once again choose to act contrary to the following found in our Code of Ethics:

    “Keep the community informed on municipal affairs and encourage communications between the citizens and all municipal officers. Emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public and each other; seek to improve the quality of public service, and confidence of citizens.”

    Apparently, a competing job offer was more important that our Code of Ethics.

    At one point, Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas claimed the Council has an OBLIGATION to confirm. She stated this despite City Attorney Jeff Taraday telling her during the January 7, 2014 Council meeting that confirmation is a significant power and that the Mayor cannot hire without the Council’s confirmation. Why is she voting on confirmations if she still doesn’t understand how this works almost 8 years later?

    Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas also mentioned “25 people” in her comments without explaining how she intends to find out what the 42,000 people think about the appointment of “this gal”.

    Does this mean that Fraley-Monillas discounts the opinions of citizens who choose to engage with city government?


  3. Very good comments, Carolyn and Ken. I have a few to add.

    Rushing this hiring thru because of the threat of a competing offer is simply blackmail. It hasn’t been divulged, at least publicly, why the candidate is seeking this position. I can speculate it is to get a comparable position much nearer her home. If that’s the case then delaying her hiring a little longer is not going to cause her to remove her application. No matter what the situation a hiring should never be made under the threat of blackmail.

    Secondly, a candidate should never be hired at the very top of the job’s salary range. Doing that removes any incentive to progress up the range; the employee soon gets demotivated and seeks other employment.

    The $8,000 in lieu of a moving allowance should not be paid. A hiring without a move having to be made should be a win/win situation – the candidate benefits from not incurring the disruption of a move and the employer benefits from not incurring any moving expenses.


  4. Not surprising at all. Looking forward to voting in the upcoming election (Unfortunate that the mayor can’t be voted out yet). Hopeful for the future.


  5. It’s a sad state of affairs when the Mayor doesn’t have the courage to be the tie breaking vote, not once, but twice. I don’t believe a word Fraley-Monillas says. When taking pain meds for any reason, the prescribing Dr tells you not to mix pains meds with alcohol, the pharmacist tells you not to mix pain meds with alcohol, and it says on the bottle, do not mix pain meds with alcohol. Not only that, but any adult knows you don’t do that. What doesn’t she get! It’s either a lack of common sense, or she doesn’t care. Either way, I see it as completely irresponsible. Shame on the city council members who are allowing this behavior to continue. Thank you to the ones who voted to censor her.


  6. Laura Johnson’s choice to reveal medical information about Councilmember Kristiana Johnson in defense of Adrienne Fraley-Monillas last night was shockingly cruel. L. Johnson knows this information was reported to the media, suggesting she may also know who reported it and their motivation (political?) for doing so. The media’s choice not to report the information revealed to them demonstrates simple human decency. Councilmember Laura Johnson has displayed the polar opposite of the “grace and understanding” she touts with this action.


    1. Laura Johnson’s “outing” medical information about Councilmember Kristiana Johnson was a sickening moment. This abominable act show a total lack of decency. Alicia Crank, who proudly is endorsed by L. Johnson, Paine and Distelhorst demonstrates Crank’s lack of fitness for office wanting to join their contemptible union.


    2. Thank you L. Johnson for your timely attack on Kristiana Johnson. You made it even more apparent why voters should vote for her and additionally a guide to your character.


  7. I found the discussion on the final motion to hire the candidate for Development Services very disturbing. The misinformation about citizen participation in interviewing directors, and denigration of citizen commenters by the aforementioned Council Member – was disgraceful to council and the city, insulting to the people who participated by written comment and a sign of incompetence.
    List to the Member AFM- October 12, 2021 52:43:
    “And frankly, we have 25,000 people that live in the City of Edmonds not 25. 40 2000 people. And I would like to know what the 42,000 people think not the 25 people.”
    Council should defend its 25 commenters by publicly calling out the statement “not the 25 people” for what it is.


  8. Wow. I don’t believe commenting on the specifics contained above will make any difference as it has not now for some time. It is exhausting to be a spectator any longer with what is happening. That said, I believe two things to be very true: 1.) not enough residents pay attention to what is happening in their local government, and 2.) they likewise do not fully understand how local politics (not state or national) has the greatest day-to-day consequences on their daily lives (community safety, cost of living, general livability for their family, community pride, etc.) I so hope that leading up to the elections coming up that people do in fact pay attention, educate themselves about the very important choices coming up, and become engaged and involved to increase accountability and have their voices heard.


    1. Tom I agree with you completely. I want to know more. What can you believe from political flyers? Who do you trust? How can I find out the facts? I read comments, I watch the meetings and I walk away more confused every time.


  9. This is not surprising. AFM has been consistent, if nothing else. I want to share that I received an email response on Monday from both Diane Buckshnis and Vivian Olsen in regard to the confirmation vote that was planned without community input or inclusion. They were trying to push back but we know how that goes. I am willing to move beyond the 1st censure motion for AFM drinking during a meeting. I do not condone it and I believe it shows her judgement is questionable and she should have apologized to her constituents directly.
    I cannot, however, move on from the “Loser” incident. I would like to know the content of the email communication mentioned as well as to know which CM received this email from AFM – apparently it challenges her farcical claim re: being an ASL sign. FOIA request?

    My takeaways:
    1) AFM must be voted out. It’s a non- negotiable. Tell everyone you know who lives in Edmonds.

    2) Laura Johnson and Susan Paine can not be trusted. Laura Johnson’s subversive action of trying to Lessen AFM’s wrongs by sharing the health information regarding Kristiana Johnson. That is low. That is political. She will be the next CM to go as a result. She flies under the radar most times but now it’s clear: she lacks integrity. Susan Paine is not a leader. She should have held AFM accountable but she chose not to.

    3) Mayor Nelson: this was just one more data point and was not surprising at all.

    4) They are on the ropes. They know the “Gang of 4” is about to be disbanded. You see people’s true colors when they are backed into a corner. They are doubling down because they know they still have 2 months to pass their agenda items. Perhaps they are attacking Kristiana in order to garner support for Alicia Crank b/c they are going to need her to replace AFM. We must not stop after this election!
    We must continue to show up & demand accountability!
    Who’s in for the long game?
    I know I am.


  10. Because of our mayor and the majority of our current council, Edmonds is becoming a joke.

    We now have a:
    * A mayor, who will say anything to a constituent and claim he will help when his is a candidate, but doesn’t respond to that same constituent’s phone messages or emails when in office. We are talking basic things like speeding and pedestrian safety.
    * A council president, who pushes through appointment votes (one council member didn’t even know the name of the candidate prior to the meeting) and doesn’t seem to care about the council’s code of conduct.
    * A council member, who self medicates with alcohol after dental work and “uses” the ASL “L” to say she can’t hear?! If she was truly in that much pain, she should have excused herself from the vote or ask for it to be postponed. No sane person can believe her excuses. In six years of video conference meetings for several companies and organizations, I have seen no one, NO ONE, ever use the ASL “L” to say they can’t hear.
    * A council member, who publicly shares another member’s medical history in a pathetic attempt to defend the self-medicating one. Seems like the journalist who had the medical history has way more ethics than this council member.

    We need to get these people out and get sane people in. VOTE this year and every election.

    The choices this year are obvious. Kristina Johnson, Janelle Cass and Neil Tibbott.


  11. After reading about what happened at last night’s city council meeting I am shocked and saddened and most unfortunately, not surprised. The “Gang of four” ignored multiple, respectful citizen requests to get to know and have input into the hiring of an important department director. The “Gang of four” defended an elected official flashing a “loser” sign at a constituent. The “Gang of four” attacked a sitting council member who had a legitimate health crises and has now, fortunately, fully recovered. I thought that city council members are supposed to be non-partisan. So what’s the motivation behind the four-pack? What is their agenda? What are they really up to?


    1. Andrew –

      Given the agenda that has been pushed through by the Gang of Four and Nelson’s proclivity to take PR shots with city staff, yet hide from the citizens behind Zoom meetings and fail to respond to citizens or show up at community events, I would guess he is trying to create a backstory he hopes will propel him to higher county or state office and take the four with him.


  12. I find it intriguing that at a time when even the Edmonds Theater is open to the public that the city council has essentially no meetings that the public can attend in person. What’s up with that?


  13. I want to thank Kristiana Johnson for her efforts to ensure that the citizens of Edmonds have the time and opportunity to know of and to respond to issues and hirings that go before the city council. I appreciate and respect her attempts to remind the council of the rules and policies put in place for the purpose of citizen input and due diligence. Thank you, Kristiana, for representing your constituents.


  14. Power over principles – that is what this mayor and his 4 followers have embraced. Power certainly reveals character – and it comes at a great cost (literally and figuratively) to Edmonds.


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