City Launches Preliminary Investigation into Allegations of Employee Misconduct

Posted by on November 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm

City Hall

City Manager Doug Schulze says Bainbridge Island has retained the services of attorney Claire Cordon at an hourly rate to launch a preliminary investigation into the conduct of several permitting staff members. This followed allegations made against the permitting department—specifically, Schulze said, failure to provide information, incompetence, and conflict of interest through a personal business.

Schulze said Cordon is conducting some interviews to determine “how much further then we have to go.”

At the start of her investigation, Cordon had Kate Brown, Assistant to City Manager, contact complainant Marcus Gerlach to request an interview with him. Gerlach is the plaintiff in a lawsuit—Gerlach et al v. City of Bainbridge Island et al— filed on October 17, 2011, against the city and one of its employees. On October 24, Gerlach issued an open letter to Schulze in which he stated that, “regrettably,” he would at this time be “unable to participate in any interview with Ms. Cordon.” He did not offer a reason.

He also stated his intention to provide no further documentation about COBI employees beyond what he had already provided as part of the lawsuit. But then he went on to list alphabetically six current and previous COBI employees and—after announcing, “I will not make any accusations of criminal wrongdoing, or misconduct at this time and without a specific name”—made what are essentially public allegations against them, including

  • failure to disclose the identity of an alleged trespasser to the City or in Superior Court despite knowing the identity of the trespasser;
  • improperly issuing a citation to a resident;
  • ordering in writing that another employee deny Gerlach’s application for a permit; and
  • issuing a legal brief to the Hearing Examiner stating that the Examiner could not hear a particular issue.

Gerlach asserts that the process of securing a building permit from COBI took six years, and he attributes the lengthy time to his refusal to hire one of the six employees, who operates a sideline business, to wash his windows. He further alleges that a vacant neighboring home suddenly had its stop work order lifted after Gerlach saw that same employee washing the windows of the home. Regarding the employee, Gerlach directed Schulze to speak with his attorney. However, throughout the letter he provided Cordon or any one reading it with specific information, including names of witnesses, correspondence dates, and brief excerpts of court proceedings—a roadmap about how she might proceed with her investigation.

He concluded his letter by writing, “I wish I could be of more help in providing information to assist you with your investigation. Please note that none of the information provided above is intended to constitute, or should be construed as an accusation of a policy violation, illegal activity, or criminal misconduct.”

Photo by Julie Hall.

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