Council OKs contract for legal services without mention of city manager
Last updated 9/6/2018 at Noon
The extended administrative leave for City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto was not even on the agenda when the Mill Creek City Council went back to work on the day after Labor Day.
However, the council did approve the three-year agreement for legal services as recommended by Interim City Manager Bob Stowe.
The timing of the agreement was not in response to the legal battle that looms with Polizzotto, but was done as a proactive measure, according to one city official.
Councilmembers approved a second extension to the administrative leave for Polizzotto to provide time to complete the investigation into a second whistleblower complaint filed against the city’s top administrator.
The council met behind closed doors in executive session for more than two hours on Wednesday, Aug. 22, before emerging to approve an extension to the paid extension until Sept. 25.
Mayor Pam Pruitt said the decision came on the advice of City Attorney Scott M. Missall.
The newest member of the council, John Steckler, cast the only dissenting vote in the 6-1 decision.
"Obviously, we had some disagreement in how to proceed. That'll almost always happen when you are asking seven people to agree on an issue," Steckler said. "The important thing is that every member of the City Council wants what's best for Mill Creek."
The end goal, Steckler told the Beacon, is what's best for the city.
Steckler said he could not go into detail why he opposed the proposal to grant a second extension to the administrative leave, but emphasized he respects why his colleagues who voted to add another month to the paid leave.
"The longer this takes, the more frustrating it is for members of the council as well as the residents who look to us for leadership," Steckler said. "We are in the middle of a process that includes a great deal of data collection.
"We'll get there. That I can promise."
Councilmember Jared Mead explained he is legally not allowed to discuss in detail what went on during the executive session, but said he is also frustrated with the pace.
“It sucks that the process is so slow, but that’s the way things operate in the public sector,” Mead said. “It is my fiduciary responsibility to do what is best for the residents of Mill Creek, and sometimes that means making a difficult decision that I know some people will initially be unhappy with.
“We must be certain that matters are handled properly and above water."
@ Triple duty@
In addition to the agreement for legal services, the council approved a one-year agreement with Everett Public Schools to have one Mill Creek officer who will divide time between Jackson High School, Heatherwood Middle School and Mill Creek Elementary.
Realistically, the officer assigned to patrol the schools will spend the majority of time at Jackson where overcrowded conditions could lead to an increase in incidents, according to Police Chief Greg Elwin.
The chief said the proximity of Heatherwood to Jackson will make it possible for the SRO to spend time at the middle school, if needed.
Jackson was built to house 1,500 students when it opened almost 25 years ago. The enrollment this school year is expected to surpass 2,300.
The council also approved two measures that pertained to proposed improvements at Exploration Park.
The first was a recommendation by Gina Hortillosa, director of Public Works and Development Services, to delay a request for bids for projects at the new park until November in hopes of receiving more favorable bids. The council voted to reject all bids when they came in above the city engineer’s estimate.
The director said there was an apparent “misalignment” between plans for the park and the budget for improvements.
The council did follow Steckler’s lead to reject the possibility of breaking the project into separate components with hopes of saving money. Exploration Park will need basic grading and drainage before any of the areas are ready for the installation of play equipment.
One councilmember said it was important to “honor the original design” for the park.