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Todd resigns as Black Diamond city administrator | Update

Christy Todd - Courtesy photo
Christy Todd
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The tumultuous relationship between the city of Black Diamond and City Administrator Christy Todd has ended, as Todd resigned after a little more than four months on the job.

Todd and the city agreed on a severance package May 15th that keeps Todd under contract, with full benefits, until July 31 and pays $30,000 for her attorney’s fees. She will receive all accumulated vacation sick leave and other pay according to city policy. The total package will cost the city approximately $60,125, according to Finance Director May Miller.

The deal stipulated that Todd perform no services from the time of the contract through July 31, other than telephone or email responses to “inquiries relating to ongoing matters.”

The city also agreed not to oppose any claim of unemployment benefits, “so long as the factual grounds stated are accurate and include a statement that the employee voluntarily resigned from her employment.”

In return, Todd agreed to immediately terminate the ongoing investigation into her sexual harassment complaint against Black Diamond Mayor Dave Gordon.

The severance agreement includes a gag order, where elected officials and authorized speaking agents agreed not to disparage each other.

Todd’s attorney, Lee Smart, will be paid “normal and reasonable costs and legal fees” associated with advice and representation during the sexual harassment claim, filed Feb. 23, and subsequent retaliation claims against the city, filed March 24, April 23 and May 1. Though the original asking was for $32,500, the parties agreed to compromise at $30,000, according to the severance document.

The agreement was signed by the mayor and all five council members. The Black Diamond City Council added a resolution on the matter to the May 15 agenda. The members approved the severance agreement and they also terminated the City Council’s investigation.

Councilwoman Carol Benson, the mayor pro tem, told The Reporter Monday that it is “very, very difficult” for city’s of Black Diamond’s size to keep city administrators for an extended period of time.

“I don’t know if its normal for our city, but we didn’t have any city administrator for two and a half years,” Benson said. “… I just don’t think it’s that terribly unusual based on the circumstances.”

The council gave unanimous approval of Todd’s appointment on Jan. 9, after initially asking for more time to discuss her appointment following Gordon’s surprise dismissal of former city administrator Mark Hoppen when Gordon took office Jan. 1. The council wanted more time to research Todd’s background and speak with her. Black Diamond paid Hoppen a severance package of $69,831.05 when he was terminated without cause.

Upon Todd’s appointment, Kenyon Disend, the Issaquah law firm providing city attorney services to Black Diamond,  promptly withdrew because of a pending legal claim against the city of Maple Valley, which involved Todd when she was the city attorney of the Maple Valley.

Todd left that position in December of 2012 when the city of Maple Valley decided for budgetary reasons to contract out for legal services rather than pay a for a staff city attorney. She received six months severance pay and benefits.

At the time of Todd’s hiring, Councilwoman Janie Edelman told The Reporter the council was aware of “issues” Todd had with Maple Valley, but was not concerned.

Benson told The Reporter Monday she never saw Todd’s resume and was not aware of any concerns about her past employment at the time of her appointment. Benson said she thought Todd was “very organized.” When asked if she would have voted differently knowing what she knows now, Benson replied “I can’t comment on that.”

Benson said she believes the resolution of the matter will help the delicate relations between the City Council and mayor, which came to a head in early April when Gordon said two council members, Ron Taylor and Edelman, came into his office and demanded his resignation and threatened his job, marriage and reputation if he did not step down.

City Clerk Brenda Martinez will return to the role of assistant city administrator, a title she previously held for more than two years. Benson said no decisions have been made on the future of the city administrator position and the topic will be addressed at the June 12 Finance Committee meeting. When asked if the city could afford a city administrator, Benson replied “I don’t know.”

Benson said that this result was the city’s best case scenario.

“It was costing us a lot of money,” Benson said. “The sooner it ended the better. There was no win-win.”

Benson said it was important to expedite a resolution because of all the money being spent on lawyers.

“I’m just glad we aren’t spending a bunch more money on a bunch more lawyers,” she said. “Whatever could cause this to go away the most expeditiously. Just to spend so much money on attorneys —this seemed like the easiest out.”

Councilwoman Janie Edelman initially called Todd a good fit and, even after the souring relationship between Todd and Gordon, told the Reporter she hoped Todd would stay on.

Todd filed a sexual harassment claim against the mayor alleging Gordon made harassing and unwelcome comments, emails and behavior against her. Gordon continually denied any wrongdoing or sexual intent in his emails or conversations. He told The Reporter on April 17 that he was approached by members of the community about firing Todd, but that he believed he and Todd’s working relationship would be “better than ever” with some mediation.

An investigator for the Cities Insurance Association of Washington reviewed the claims but made no recommendation. The council passed a resolution on April 3 for another investigation, with hopes that it would offer an opinion on how to move forward.


 

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