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Clerk's lockout latest episode in Pacific turmoil

Lindsay Cohen of KOMONews, left, interviews Pacific City Clerk Jane Montgomery and her lawyer Joan Mell in front of city hall. - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Lindsay Cohen of KOMONews, left, interviews Pacific City Clerk Jane Montgomery and her lawyer Joan Mell in front of city hall.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

Friction between City staff and Pacific Mayor Cy Sun heated up again this week when City Clerk and Personnel Manager Jane Montgomery arrived at work Monday to find her office door padlocked shut.

Montgomery, who last Friday went public with concerns that the mayor's hiring practices were detrimental to the City, said in a news conference Monday that she believes the lockout is the mayor's retaliation for her blowing the whistle.

"I don't really know, but I assume it's because the mayor intended me to be barred from the workplace and be barred from working," Montgomery said. "I was told that he's attempting to give me some sort of letter. I'm assuming that's a termination. I don't know. I haven't received it. All I know was I was barred from my workplace and told by the city attorney to seek assistance to get into my workplace."

After Pacific police cut the padlock and removed the hasp from her door, Montgomery met with her personal lawyer and held a news conference on the City Hall lawn.

"Those workers are not able to work. There is a climate of fear, intimidation and a hostile workplace environment," she said. "There are people not filling positions that keep the City running. Those positions have not been filled. There were six managers, and I'm the only one left."

According to Montgomery, Sun's personnel decisions not only skirt City procedures and policies but also disregard state rules and put the City at risk. She has documented her concerns and turned them over to the City attorney.

"There are many different examples. I'd prefer not to go into all of them," Montgomery said. "But I can say that policies are being violated. Procedures are being violated. Unqualified, uncertified people have been allowed to perform City functions. This causes great risk to the City. The liability to the City is great, and it could ultimately cost the City its ability to even function."

At Monday's City council meeting, Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem John Jones said the council is committed to investigating Montgomery's concerns.

"I believe it's our responsibility as representatives of this City to investigate the validity of these statements," Jones said. "I also consider these actions by her as local government whistle blowing, in relationship to governmental violations of law and code. As such, I want to make sure her actions are not retaliated against, which Sun has done with the hasping and locking of her door over the weekend."

Among Montgomery's chief concerns are Sun's attempts to hire former mayor Howard Erickson as the City's building inspector and code enforcement officer, a job neither the council nor Montgomery believes he's qualified for.

Montgomery also has filed a no-contact order against Erickson with King County District Court for verbal abuse and intimidating behavior.

"We have people who the mayor has put in there who are not qualified, attempting to do work they know nothing about," Montgomery said. "I guess that kind of tells you what kind of work is being done. If (someone were to say that) citizens' tax dollars are being carefully watched and managed, I'd have to say, 'no, they are not.'"

Although not officially employed by the City, Erickson has signed off on building inspections, including a gas inspection that prompted the City attorney to contact Puget Sound Energy to inform them an illegal inspection may have been conducted, in order to head off possible insurance liability issues.

Councilmembers also are concerned about Sun's attempts to hire Erickson.

Whatever there were to deal the City's personnel woes with the mayor were postponned on Monday. Sun did not attend the City Council meeting.

In lieu of a discussion with the mayor, the council voted to advise the mayor to have Erickson stop conducting inspections.

"We just need to stop the work until the entire hiring process is followed properly and he meets the qualifications of the job requirements," Councilmember Clint Steiger said.

The council also motioned that the mayor stop signing off on building application permits, which he has done since taking office in January.

At the council meeting, residents turned out in force, overflowing the room into the hallway and speaking in opposition and support of Sun. Among the many choosing to address the council was Don Thomson, who said he was ready to begin a petition to recall Sun.

"I have seen, personally, intimidation, insults and one thing said and later denied (by the mayor)," Thomson said. "And because of the information and the things I've seen, as a concerned citizen, I want to do a recall."

For Montgomery, who did not attend the meeting and has retained her own lawyer, this week's lockout was the last straw.

"The mayor has been pretty much running a dictatorship here and ignoring all the rules and the policies and procedures," she said. "I'm gravely concerned about that. One of the things that's happening is that every single structure in government in this City has been turned topsy-turvy by the current administration. If you disrupt every single body that has been in place for years, all of the policies and procedures, it's chaos."

Sun did not return calls for comment.

 

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