The man confirmed — and then rejected — as Edmonds police chief wants his day in court

Sherman Pruitt

Updated Nov. 22 with the City of Edmonds response.

An attorney representing Sherman Pruitt — who was confirmed as Edmonds’ police chief only to have the offer rescinded a week later — has filed a legal claim against the city; usually the first step toward a lawsuit.

“Chief Pruitt is a highly qualified, seasoned police chief,” said Pruitt’s attorney, Beth Bloom. “He was looking forward to accepting the position of chief of police and he and his family have been devastated by the withdrawal of his job offer under circumstances highly unusual and tinged with racism.”

The claim, said Bloom, is that the city discriminated against Pruitt “based on race” when it denied him the position of chief. This is a precursor to a possible lawsuit; the city has 60 days to investigate the claims before attorneys can file. “We are,” Bloom added, “doing our due diligence, continuing to investigate.”

Edmonds Human Resources Director Jessica Neill-Hoyson offered this response:

“The city stands behind its decision to withdraw Sherman Pruitt’s conditional offer for the position of chief of police due solely to his omission of important employment information from his personal history statement,” she said, “a statement that expressly requires complete and full disclosures of all relevant background information. Any other reports or suggestions are false. The city looks forward to defending its actions in court.”

In December 2020, Mayor Mike Nelson nominated Pruitt as Edmonds’ top cop to replace retired Chief Al Compaan. Pruitt, police chief of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Police, was one of two finalists – along with then-Assistant Edmonds Police Chief Jim Lawless.

The city council was bitterly divided over the nomination. Some members questioned Pruitt’s qualifications and asked about past domestic violence incidents and another police investigation of him. Other members argued that Pruitt was what the city needed — a veteran officer and person of color who could bring diversity to Edmonds.

In 2020-21, My Edmonds News investigated the questions around Pruitt’s past and found that he had been reprimanded twice when he was in the Marine Corps for instances of alleged domestic violence and that his commander ordered him to counseling.

Our investigation also uncovered that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) had hired Pruitt as a cadet in 2004, but just three months into training, SPD terminated him for “failure to successfully complete the probationary period.” We discovered that while in training, DuPont (Pierce County) police had investigated him for threats Pruitt allegedly made to the manager of a restaurant in which his wife worked. Shortly after that, SPD terminated him.

In November 2020, prior to interviewing Pruitt, none of that information was included in an application packet the city administration sent to councilmembers. Councilmember Vivian Olson tracked down testimony by Pruitt in a federal civil rights case in which he was questioned about two domestic violence incidents. Other members urged a delay in the confirmation vote. But Mayor Nelson and then-Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas agreed to move up the vote a week earlier than planned. The council confirmed Pruitt 4-3. One week later the mayor rescinded the offer. That forced a new chief search; for 18 months, the city was without a permanent chief.

Pruitt’s attorney argues that Nelson and Olson defamed him by “unjustifiably attacking his reputation and integrity.” The claim says Olson accused “…Chief Pruitt of lying on his job application…” and that she suggested to the media “that Chief Pruitt had perpetrated a domestic violence incident.”

Bloom said there is “ample circumstantial evidence of racial discrimination leading to the mayor’s withdrawal of the job officer for the chief.”

In her statement, Neill-Hoyson responds: “The City of Edmonds embraces and support(s) all areas of diversity. The city is committed to creating an inclusive environment for the entire community. Employment decisions are based on job requirements, individual qualifications, merit and business needs, and not race or any other protected class status.”

The claim contends that Pruitt has suffered economic and non-economic damages, still to be determined, and “they are valued in the millions of dollars.” The city has 60 days to respond before any suit can be filed.

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. The mayor’s biggest blunder quite possibly. But just one of many. I really don’t think the mayor is racist just incompetent the question is then do us taxpayers become liable for it?

    1. I commend Mr. Pruitt on having the guts to take this issue one, this is the kind of character we need in a leadership position in the city of Edmonds. It’s about time that this Mayor and his missing in action HR director areheld accountable for the horrible decisions and lack of leadership they have provided Edmonds. City halls sits empty yet they build a second one. What’s the thought behind that. There is a clear division between the decision makers ( Mayer and co.) and the personnel carrying out those decisions. This city needs a Mayer that is transparent and in touch with their city and the people he serves.

      1. I agree this city could use musician John Mayer. Other than that, I side against domestic violence although apparently not everyone agrees, like a former City Council member.

    2. This just shows that the decision not to hire him was……..the correct one. He is wasting money now on his foolish , money grabbing attempt. The city’s money, that can help pay the cost of living increase for the city employees
      It’s not the city’s fault that this guy still can’t find a job…and I’m am sad that his family is financially devastated…..get a job somewhere.

  2. Congratulations, Diane amd Vivian. You got what you wanted, which was the removal of the black candidate for police chief.

    1. I don’t find that accusation accurate or helpful.

      This lawsuit will occur because of one reason:
      Unscrupulous actors, including yourself and Mayor Nelson, pushed through this nomination even when disqualifying information was presented.

      That type of disfunction was one of the main complaints of voters in our last city election. Essentially a significant lack of meaningful respectful communication, where issues like disqualifying information for a major city position was ignored, almost solely because of partisan snarkiness. Instead of putting the interests of the city of Edmonds first.

    2. It’s astounding to me that you, Ms. Fraley-Monillas and others gloss over the fact that Mr. Pruitt has a documented history of domestic violence. I don’t and didn’t care about the color of his skin. Anyone who lays hands on a partner is, in my opinion, not fit to be chief of police (or an officer) anywhere. It appears that you wanted this particular man to be in charge of our police force so badly that a woman being abused is okay in your book. Makes absolutely no sense to me, but many of the things you chose and choose to support defy logic. This was completely foreseeable, and is yet another example of the price we pay for electing the people we do.

    3. AMF, that’s why you lost. The vile and contempt for people who don’t think like you is pretty obvious. So was the interview about racism in Edmonds. If anyone is racist it’s you. You made your own bed. Give it up.

      1. Hunmmmmm lets see at the end of this investigation……… as I tried to tell the citizens before…….but of course scott you know better …. Lets just see

    4. In response to AFM ‘s “Congratulations, Diane and Vivian: I would suggest we remove the descriptor word “black”
      from candidate because this is not a qualification for the office of police chief. After reading about his past issues around domestic violence with two wives and worrisome allegations regarding threatening behavior, I was and am extremely thankful that they had the courage and ethics to raise the alarm and expose what you and Mayor Nelson were charging ahead with to cover your poor choice and reasons for choosing such a candidate.
      It’s my opinion that you don’t learn from your mistakes, but you are good at trying to make others pay for your mistakes.

    5. There is a reason that you lost your seat, and you are reminding voters what that reason was. So much of this is on you for not doing your due diligence and then trying to ram through your preferred candidate. And to attempt to publicly shame (again) city council members who did their research and conclude this was not a viable choice; a new low.

  3. This is a perfect definition of “woke” and should officially be entered into the dictionary. Mayor Nelson and his puppet Fraley-Monillas tried to use Mr. Pruitt and should be personally held accountable, not the city council. We need to thank Vivian doing her research.

  4. This should be Mike Nelson’s cost, not we the people. Had nothing to do with prejudice. He had a temper as I recall.

  5. Timeline… the mayor recommends the former interim police chief to be police chief because of his years of experience and familiarity working already in the city. The former interim police chief is white. The council lead by the president at the time, not Vivian, put their foot down demanding a black candidate. The mayor recommends the black candidate without doing the proper background checks. The council puts the brakes on that. Let’s be clear here. The mayor had it right the first time and the former council president lost during the last election for a reason. So when she makes comments on this website please remember how terrible she was for Edmonds. I still count get over her in local news telling the Seattle viewers that Edmonds is full of racists. We deserve better leadership and the day she was replaced was the day we all got it.

    1. So the answer seems to be yes we taxpayers are going to be on the hook. My opinion is it is not worth millions. But hopefully it will cost the mayor his job.

  6. Mr. Obrien, You must have read the hit piece that the Trump party ( authored by the women who worked for Trumps campaign in this state ) sent out by mail to everyone the week before the election, it cost them $10,000 to do this. Check the Public Disclosure Commission or i would be happy to send you the list of people (trump supporters) who supported it. Unlike wording on the hit piece what i said to the media when asked if we had racism in Edmonds was yes we have racists incidents in edmonds. I named a number of the incidents reported to police. Misquoted? Of course! Perhaps educate yourself. File a public disclosure request to our PD and take a look at the over 100 recommendations that the police consultant ( hired after the temporary chief left) recommended to improve our police force. The budget this year reflects those recommendations. This Pruitt lawsuit will bring “behind the doors of the city council” forward to really understand what Vivian and by extension Diane did to harm this mans career with half truths and lies. Sound familiar? Contact me if you wish to discuss further off MEN!

  7. Please Lord, just make all this go away. Edmonds government as it now exists is nothing but party politics, personal agendas, favoritism, special interests, special people, and most glaringly incompetentence in administration and legislation. Between this new development and the on going Ebb Tide controversy we can plan on spending lots of money on legal advice. The lawyers win as usual in our sick world.

    1. Clint, it probably will go away. I would bet this gets settled out of court, in some sort of payment to just make it go away and “save the taxpayers’ money.”

      1. Yes Brian. We contract with a legal firm that was formed by newbies just to get our business and offers us a deal too good to be true and cheaper than any other law firm would even think about being. Sometimes what you get is worth about what you pay for it.

        Quick question that I bet won’t get answered. Did our lawyer advise our Mayor to go back on his word to the citizens and Jim Lawless that he had the Chief’s job, so the position could be opened up to minority hiring? Or better yet, did our lawyer go to our Mayor and advise him it would be smarter to stand by his word in the first place than open up a bigger can of legal worms?

        We have a government system where people like Vivian Olson are told they can’t ask cogent personnel questions without being vilified for veering out of their lane. On top of that our system provides no mechanism whereby our Mayor and lawyer are obliged to answer such questions if asked. It looks bad, it smells bad and it is bad.

  8. Wow! There are some very unpleasant comments here. I have not followed this case till now but at first blush, if the allegations against Mr Pruitt are accurate, it sounds as if due diligence was not done as part of the hiring process and an unfortunate and unpleasant circumstance has resulted.
    It appears there was division among council members regarding the candidate and now followed by finger pointing between current and former members. That is a sad commentary on the council and clearly there needs to be a factual, and unemotional explanation, as opposed to what is exposed in the comments. The reputation of all involved seems to be sullied by this.

  9. Can I just say that “millions of millions” = trillions? I think “millions and millions” is what was meant, which would be bad enough.

  10. There is plenty on record that the Mayor boggled this one. You don’t tell a City that you commend the job of the acting Police Chief and will be putting his name forward, for our new chief then change your mind. Additionally, deciding we need another applicant forcing a expedited confirmation process to negate concerns of the Officers, Council and Citizens. Read the letter Put forward by the Mayors buddies on council at the time admitting it was an error to RUSH the vote.

    . Vivian to many was the stand up council member during this terrible debacle. The City Attorney even stated it is Councils job, to investigate candidates, as they represent the people and City Human Resources works for the City.

    The only racism in this case, in my opinion is the Mayor telling the City we need to hire someone based on the color of their skin. I am sorry this happened to the Pruitt family and this lawsuit is warranted. Mayor Nelson actions by not honoring his word to both Men, Lawless and Pruitt was a poor example of leadership and character.

  11. Suspending the mudslinging for the moment, Diane B actually called for an executive session to discuss the matter which would have taken the entire discussion behind closed doors, where it belonged. The facts will come out in time and those involved will, if the lawsuit proceeds, be required to testify under oath. But Diane B tried to prevent the public airing of all of it, to her credit in my opinion.

  12. The real loser in all of this was Jim Lawless. Jim hung on as interim chief to run the police force until the shenanigans finally came to an end. He not only lost the top job in Edmonds but by hanging on here he also lost the opportunity to get the top job in Marysville.

  13. Thanks to some pretty bad partisan based government, the next few years in Edmonds will involve a great amount of litigation cost. My understanding is the future cost of litigation representation is on the agenda at tonight’s C.C. meeting, so interested parties should be on high alert. This may not be pretty.

  14. The Mayor should step down. The Mayor has a trail of controversies in our community. As citizens we should not allow our town to turn on each other do to Mike Nelson’s actions. Our town is a great place to live.
    We are about to enter into a Holiday Season centered on Religious Relationships and love. Let us begin the NEW YEAR in an intentional peaceful way. Building a better Edmonds needs to begin by changing what isn’t working in our lives. Unity is a sustainable force. Do the right thing Mike Nelson. Please step down as Mayor.

  15. I need sidewalks and better city services this is going to cost Edmonds due to the Mayors choices and lack of leadership . Understanding the results of choices made even under advise and protest from citizens of Edmonds makes the Mayor completely responsible for this situation and he should held accountable directly.

  16. Racism and sexism is hiring anyone based on their color or gender rather than qualifications. It is a system that fails every time and does no one favors. Are they a member of the human race? Great. Qualifications and character are what matter.

  17. The Mayor is not going to step down and under our current system of government the only way executive shortcomings and incompetence can be addressed is an every four year election or a recall election. That’s just how it is. The best we can hope for is a hand full of intelligent, independent and non partisan C.P.s to keep the ship somewhat afloat until the next four year cycle. That’s a pretty small and often insufficient bilge pump to protect a mighty big ship.

      1. Adrienne, it is really disappointing to see an elected official speak like this on a newspaper comment section. I never supported President Trump, but recognize that many of my fellow citizens did. If Joy voted for Donald Trump, that was her right, and it is outrageous for you to use her voting choices as a disparaging insult. The fact that we now use peoples voting choices as ways to demonize them scares me for the future of our democracy, and someone who does this deserves no part in any politics. It is absurd to blame Trump for anything that happens in Edmonds, and it is infuriating to see a select few people in Edmonds government drag this small suburban town into national politics to further their own careers. Back when this scandal happened, I had mixed feelings about you. Seeing your behavior on this site after loosing your seat, it scares me that you were ever elected.

  18. Pruitt didn’t meet the lawful requirements for consideration and shouldn’t have been exposed to any of this in the first place. His lawyers will make that case better than I. We look like a laughingstock because of the way our city acted. Any comments tying Trump into this mess can be disregarded out of hand. Is that really the best smear available? I guess the race card had already failed?

      1. It was fanatics like AFM and Mike Nelson that drove my wife and I out of Edmonds.
        I sure hope the people who stayed behind can clean this mess up because Edmonds deserves much better..
        Kudos to MEN for covering/exposing this story.

      2. Adrienne, you write that like it’s some sort of “gotcha”. Of course this will be a payday for Mr. Pruitt.

    1. GUFFAW! I want to be friends with Greg Goodman. Laughter is appreciated during another absolute low point for this city.

    2. One little hint if you do not already know is this. After coating your apples slices with BUTTER, Cinnamon and Brown sugar let them set for 15 minutes before putting them in the casserole dish. This allows the apples to be more syrupy. I use Granny Smith as I like the Tart since there is so much sweetness in the other ingredients. I like a crisp crust on top myself. I wonder now how many who hadn’t planned to will now make Apple Crisp for Thanksgiving tomorrow. I predict a big run on apples at your favorite store ha. Thank you Greg this was fun.

  19. Adrienne.. not that you know whom I’m for or why you would care. Edmonds deserves better of elected officials. No blame to other people who are not involved…just our elected local officials. (Let’s not go down some rabbit hole.) . If in doubt… blame Trump is ridiculous.

  20. The Edmonds Police Department has scrupulous hiring procedures and a proven track record for seeking diverse officers. Mr. Pruitt would not have been able to pass the EPD’s own background checks.

    Thank you Vivian for doing due diligence. Because of your leadership, and the process of checks and balances, we have Michelle Bennett leading the EPD, which is something we can all be proud of.

      1. Jennifer, I disagree with you a little bit on second thought. We actually don’t have good checks and balances built in to our system, but Vivian had the courage to do the right thing for the greater good and, as you pointed out, exercise some uncommon leadership. We have a few C.P. s trying to make things better but they are bucking strong head winds of long economic malpractice and inequitable government here; as well as recent political party partisanship.

  21. Last spring Alison and I were selected to participate in Edmonds’ Community Police Academy. This is a 12-week program where civilians learn about the various programs and services provided by Edmonds Police Department, including the recruitment and training of officers. One interesting factoid~ EPD is actually more diverse than the city as a whole, and it’s been that way for a while now.

    I hope the Community Police Academy is offered again next year and that people sign up for it. A little knowledge is a useful thing.

  22. I think this is great! I commend you and Alison for taking part in this. And you are correct I believe that Edmonds Police Department as well as Edmonds itself are both very into diversity and show it every single day. I also would like to say that the past as far as the Police Chief issues is the past. I like Michell Bennet a lot. I think she is doing a great job and that in the end we did get a really good chief. When Michelle was first suggested I contacted a friend of mine I have known since young teen days. He knew Michelle personally and worked with her in law enforcement. He told me she was a great person and a great officer and also had a sense of humor. He was right. I do think she needs as do all of our police more support and thanks for what they do every day and night.

  23. If we worried more about having open, honest and at least minimally competent government; and less about never ending hype of “It’s an Edmonds kind of day,” we’d all be better off.

    In this case, a good Personnel Director would have discovered that Mr. Pruitt did not complete Seattle Police Probation and asked him why (simple job record – that is H.R. 101). Our standards are higher than Seattle and that alone would probably have disqualified him. She failed us, she failed her boss (Mayor Nelson), and she failed Mr.Pruitt by even proceeding with his application, unless he lied to her about or omitted Seattle, which would also disqualify him. Being “KIND” has nothing to do with this super serious business that requires high performance standards of all city personnel, not just the Mayor and Council.

  24. Totally agree. This is a mess created by lack of due diligence. Background checks are not hard. Lying on an application, even by omission is a disqualifier. It’s really hard to understand how this could have transpired other than incompetenice.

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