By Chris Hendrickson
Judge Patricia Lynne Lyon performed the oaths of office ceremony at Monroe City Hall on Tuesday, swearing in councilmembers Patsy Cudaback, Jeff Rasmussen, Kevin Hanford and Kurt Goering.
Re-elected in November, councilmembers Cudaback and Hanford are serving their second terms, while Goering is on his third. Councilmember Rasmussen ran against Mike Stanger for Council Position 3 in the election, and is serving his first term on the council.
Rasmussen, who previously served on the Monroe Parks Board, has a background in financial services and banking.
Mayor Geoffrey Thomas was also sworn in by Judge Lyon. The mayor and several councilmembers had family members present to watch as they took their vows.
Thomas, a senior legislative analyst with the Snohomish County Council, has a background in environmental planning and project management. He began work on Jan. 2 and continued workingthrough the weekend.
COUNCIL DISCUSSES SAX DISMISSAL
Mayor Thomas took some criticism during council member reports over his decision on Friday to lay off Monroe’s Economic Development Coordinator, Jeff Sax. Thomas spoke with the Monitor over the weekend and explained that he will be replacing Sax’s position with a community development director who will take on a different role for the city. In addition to working towards economic development, the community development director will also focus on planning, permit processing and working on the city’s 2015 Comprehensive Plan update.
Several council members expressed concern over the fact that the decision to lay Sax off was made without any prior discussion.
Council member Hanford expressed dismay over receiving notification via email on Friday, apprising him of the mayor’s action. He clarified that he had discussed his concerns with Mayor Thomas already, but wanted to voice his thoughts in front of council, effectively establishing them as a part of public record.
“I personally was very disappointed that the mayor couldn’t have waited three more business days to talk to council, to get our advice,” said Hanford.
Hanford stated that he was frustrated over such a decision being carried out without any advance notice or explanation.
“It seems like that would be the kind of thing where you would talk to your council before you just make a move like that, on your second day in office,” said Hanford.
“I just don’t understand making such a drastic move,” he continued.
Hanford stated that he was very excited for the future, but was disappointed to start the new year off in this way.
Cudaback welcomed council member Rasmussen and Mayor Thomas, and responded to Hanford’s comments.
Cudaback pointed out that in her four years serving on the council she was aware of staffing decisions being made by the mayor in which advice or direction from council was not sought, nor was it necessary.
“I understand your frustration,” said Cudaback. “I listen to you and I hear your comments.”
Cudaback referred to the decision made by ex-Mayor Zimmerman in December; to appoint Mike Stanger to the planning commission despite the fact that the position was still listed as open on the city’s website, and would remain that way for three more days. It was pointed out during that meeting that it was the mayor’s prerogative. Cudaback pointed out that this was also the mayor’s prerogative.
“I think we should welcome the new direction and go forward,” said Cudaback.
Councilmember Hanford’s opinions were echoed by council members Kamp, Davis and Goering. Rasmusson and Gamble did not speak on the matter of Sax’s dismissal, and both stated that they were looking forward to the future. Davis, who had prepared a written response, shared his opinion with council during his turn to speak.
“When you do your job, and you do it well, that last thing you should expect is being summarily dismissed when you show up for work,” said Davis.
Davis pointed out that he didn’t feel that there was good cause for Sax’s dismissal. He shared that he feels the city is currently getting back on its feet economically, having paid off a significant portion of its debt. He credited Sax, calling his dismissal a “counter-intuitive action.”
“So this is where we are now,” said Davis. “I wish it weren’t so, but there it is.”
Goering also expressed dismay over the mayor’s decision particularly after only two days in office. He stated that he believes there may be consequences in the long run and shared his disappointment.
“I don’t think it was a forward thinking move,” said Goering.
Goering also took a moment to publicly acknowledge Sax and to thank him for his dedication to the city of Monroe. He stated that he thought Sax did an outstanding job.
“The results of the work that he did are literally in the bank,” said Goering. “We are so much better off.”
Mayor Thomas thanked all councilmembers for their feedback.