By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
By unanimous decision, the Mill Creek City Council terminated City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto’s professional services agreement without cause at their October 2, 2108, meeting. This action took effect immediately.
At the same time they approved a separation agreement negotiated by City Attorney Scott Missal, which pays Polizzotto six months of salary, COBRA health benefits, and 125 hours of accrued vacation.
As part of the separation agreement, Polizzotto agreed to release the city from any liability having to do with her termination, effectively ending her $1,000,000 damages claim, and to return any city property in her possession.
Polizzotto has been on paid leave since April, during which time the city council first investigated whistleblower claims against her, and subsequently negotiated the separation agreement.
After the October 2nd meeting the City of Mill Creek issued a news release stating in part, “The Council acknowledges that the last several months have been extremely difficult because it has not been able to share information with the public regarding the personnel matter related to its former City Manager.”
It went on to say, “The Council has a fiduciary responsibility to the tax payers of the City and disclosing personnel information or acting before its processes are followed, would put the City’s financial resources at substantial risk, and would not follow the appropriate and recommended legal course of action.”
Before the unanimous vote, Mayor Pam Pruitt praised Polizzotto’s work at the city. She credited Polizzotto for accomplishments made by her administration since 2015.
After the vote was taken, Councilmember Mark Bond publicly acknowledged a number of past and present city staff who were present to observe the vote.
He said, “I just want to say thank you to the staff and recognize that there have been some unique challenges for some of you over the last couple of years that we weren’t aware of at our level. We appreciate you. I value you and your hard work. I’m grateful for what you do every day to make this city a better place.”
Bond was a member of the city council’s Personnel Committee that once had the responsibility to review staff comments on Polizzotto as part of her annual performance review.
The city council disbanded the Personnel Committee in 2016 when a number of city employees tried to alert the city council of alleged bad treatment by Polizzotto. Councilmember Donna Michelson was the lone dissenting vote for this decision.
At the time the city council said they didn’t want to be the employees’ “complaint desk.”
It wasn’t until April of this year that four senior staff were successful in getting the city council to investigate Polizzotto’s conduct with employees. Three of these staff members were hired by Polizzotto herself.
At the October 2nd meeting the city council expressed interest in extending Interim City Manager Bob Stowe’s temporary professional services contract, which officially expired the week before.
The city attorney promised to discuss this issue with them at the October 9th city council meeting.