By a vote of 6 to 1, the Lynnwood City Council voted Monday night to pass a resolution censuring Mayor Don Gough and calling on him to resign. Council President Ted Hikel abstained, which counts as a no vote by council rules.
Mayor Gough has been the focus of a personnel investigation over his treatment of city employees. It began after the mayor’s former assistant Stephanie Simpson accused him of discrimination earlier this year. Simpson settled with the city for $49,500.
In a letter last month to the City Council, several female employees said, “we have been subjected to a hostile and harassment-based working environment since his initial election four and a half years ago. The environment has deteriorated over time for us, morally and emotionally, to the point that it has become intolerable for many of us who deal with the Mayor on a regular basis, to come to work at all.”
The meeting began with Council President Ted Hikel announcing that Gough was not present because he had surgery earlier in the day and was sedated, which drew snickers from the standing room only crowd.
Councilman Mark Smith made a motion to delay the censure vote until the full investigative report was released to the public, which is expected to happen Thursday afternoon unless Gough contests it. In the end, council members decided to proceed.
Each council member took turns offering their comments on the situation.
“This is not about the council and the mayor taking each other on. This is about bad behavior by the mayor. The employees of this city are feeling endangered in many ways,” Councilman Jim Smith said. “We need to pass this resolution now that will cause the mayor not to take retaliatory actions against any employees.”
Some employees had expressed concern about being retaliated against by Gough if they participated in the investigation.
“I don’t take any pleasure in this. It’s been a tremendous distraction to the work the Council needs to do,” Councilman Mark Smith said. “The issue is very important to make sure the employees of the city are protected.”
“Credibility is an elected official’s currency. With it, he or she is solvent. Without it, he or she is bankrupt,” Councilman Loren Simmonds added.
Tensions grew high when Council President Ted Hikel spoke. Hikel is known to be a friend of Gough and has defended him on many occasions.
“The process that the City Council has used to prepare this resolution is flawed at best,” he said. He claimed that it was in violation of the city’s code of ethics, which in part requires the mayor be present at the meeting.
Other council members refuted that, including Councilwoman Kimberly Cole. “It seems quite convenient the meetings he does and does not attend,” she said.
“I am not going to sit here and allow this cover-up by a council member for the mayor’s deplorable behavior,” Councilwoman Kerri Lonergan told Hikel. “I think you have let your personal relationship with the mayor come before what’s best for the citizens of Lynnwood.”
Council members also claimed Hikel was divulging details of the report that weren’t public knowledge. After more heated debate they decided to end the discussion and proceed with the censure vote.
The crowd broke out into applause after the resolution was passed.
The resolution also requires all hiring, promotional, employee discipline, layoff, job re-assignment or change in job duties must first be presented to the Council as part of a review process before any final decision is made.
Gough has not responded to our request for comment.
So far the investigation has cost the city $31,375 and more legal bills may still be coming.