Council puts city manager on administrative leave
Last updated 6/21/2018 at Noon
The Mill Creek City Council responded to public outcry over reported lack of leadership in City Hall by approving a 45-day paid administrative leave for City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto. She remains home, reportedly recovering from an illness that has kept her away from City Hall since mid-April.
The city manager had used her own sick leave and personal vacation days prior to being placed on administrative leave by the council, according to a spokesperson for the city.
Members of the council emerged from a lengthy executive session Tuesday night to approve motions introduced by Mayor Pam Pruitt to place Polizzotto on leave and begin a search for an interim city manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the city.
The action placed Polizzotto on 45 days of paid administrative leave that began the night of the meeting, June 19.
One city official said the difference in how the leave is identified is important.
"The council actually took Rebecca off medical leave and put her on paid administrative leave for 45 days to address 'issues'," the unnamed official told The Beacon.
The council also approved a motion to appoint Police Chief Greg Elwin as Acting City Manager until an interim manager is approved. The temporary assignment for Elwin includes a 10 percent boost in his base salary while he handles responsibility for both departments.
Although they took action on the situation regarding the city manager, the council continued to ignore complaints of a “hostile workplace” filed by employees in City Hall that led to at least 30 members of the staff to leave the city.
Approximately 20 percent of the employees who left were officers with the police department. The city currently has more than 65 employees, including police officers and part-time employees in the pre-school and the passport office in City Hall.
The council’s action came after complaints from members of the city staff as well as the public regarding how the city had operated over the past nine weeks without Polizzotto.
Former Councilmember Mary Kay Voss used the audience participation portion of the meeting to express her concern with reports that Pruitt had been shuttling paperwork back-and-forth from Polizzotto’s home in Mill Creek when signatures were required.
“Either she is sick or she’s not sick,” Voss told The Beacon after the meeting. “The title of mayor is purely ceremonial. She (Pruitt) has no authority beyond that given to the other six members of the council. She should not be involved in the administrative side of running the city.”
Voss reminded the council that the duties normally handled by the city manager should have been given to a manager or director from the city staff. Voss served on the Mill Creek City Council from 2002 until 2010.
Voss was outraged when she returned to the lectern for the second audience participation opportunity at the end of the meeting. She said she was “more than a little concerned” by language in a motion that allowed either the mayor or the city manager to enact contracts for work at Mill Creek Sports Park and the preservation work on Seattle Hill Road.
“What is wrong with those people?” she asked rhetorically. “They should know better.”
The former lawmaker also expressed concern over delays in the city’s release of financial reports from the first three months of the year. The release has also been impacted by the city manager’s absence.
“Those numbers will tell a story,” Voss predicted. “The delay just adds to the dark cloud that hovers over City Hall.”
Financial responsibility, she said, is the city manager’s primary duty.
In other council business, contracts for the design phase of the turf and light replacement at Mill Creek Sports Park as well as the roadwork on Seattle Hill Road were both approved unanimously by the six members of the council in attendance Tuesday.
Councilmember Mike Todd expressed regret that the time outlined for approvals and construction mean the field will not be ready for the soccer season
Councilmember John Steckler asked Gina Hortillosa, the city’s director of Public Works and Development Services, to explore options to reduce road noise from the portion of the road adjacent to residential communities.