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Canary in the coal mine

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Mary Kay Voss’ letter advises there is an egregious situation involving the City Manager, Rebecca Polizzotto. Voss informs readers, 15 long-term employees left the city since Polizzotto was hired. Her letter was published before Kelly Chelin resigned after 16 years with the city. 16 employees left excellent jobs taking their training, experience and community relationships with them.

The exodus will continue. There are numerous employees quietly looking for new employment. Without intervention, the citizens of Mill Creek will find themselves losing additional skilled, well trained employees.

Voss concludes the reason employees leave is the city manager. The City Manager, a despot, with the tacit support of the mayor, the city council and a few employees she gathered around her and promoted to support her agenda.

For 18 very long painful months, Polizzotto has belittled, bullied, threatened and pitted employees against each other. Her actions caused dedicated employees to break down in tears or break out in hives. Employees who had never called in sick, burned through their sick leave to avoid coming to work. Some employees sought medical treatment for the stress and the resulting lack of sleep.

While employees remained bemused about the council’s decision to hire her, Polizzotto told employees in an all employee meeting, she knew everything that was said and done in the workplace. She warned employees they would be held accountable for bulling their co-workers or subversive actions against her.

Employees were advised not to speak to council members, citizens or even each other about their experiences. Strong confident leaders were cowed to keep the positions they earned through years of service. Directors were tasked to hold their overburdened, overwhelmed employees accountable. The chain of command was severed due to the toxic environment and the lack of the director’s influence with her.

The unions representing city employees tried working with Polizzotto. She dismissed their concerns and refused to accept or acknowledge the role of unions in Washington State. Employees followed the appropriate grievance process. They spoke to their supervisor and contacted their union representative. Concerns were not addressed or resolved but dismissed. Results of a grievance resulted in increased responsibility and stress.

It’s a frightening and daunting decision to leave a well-paid position, with good benefits, to start over, especially for long term employees. 16 employees in various stages of their careers made that decision, some close to their retirement goals.

The city’s Personnel Director rejected letters of resignation that were unfavorable to the City Manager. Initially a few employees rewrote their letters to avoid the inevitable confrontation with Polizzotto. Exit interviews were not provided. Once you gave notice, you were ostracized by her. As the exodus continued, employees advised they didn’t want to work in the current environment. They crafted their letters carefully believing Polizzotto’s wrathful reach would affect their future employment.

As Voss wrote, Polizzotto provided the reason for an employee’s departure. The mayor must support her, as they meet outside of council meetings and remain close. Despite Polizzotto’s spin, council members know why employees are leaving. Employees secretly met with individual council members advising them of Polizzotto’s egregious activities.

Council knew her spending on wasteful employee trinkets, conferences and training was inappropriate and unappreciated. Council was advised she directed a city employee to spend an entire day at work putting together her daughter’s school project using city resources. The same employee fetches her meals and advises Polizzotto when she takes a bathroom break. She does as she is told and is treated favorably.

Council should know their city manager has ostracized the fire district while trying to negotiate the soon to expire fire contact. The unions have Unfair Labor Practice actions pending while the council gives her their tacit approval and a raise.

Council members are more concerned about the decision they made to appoint Polizzotto, firing her and the cost of paying out the contact she wrote for herself, than the employees and citizens they serve.

Kelly Chelin is the canary in the coal mine. She was Polizzotto’s closest confident and cheerleader until last week. If her departure doesn’t confirm the employee crisis than the council deserves to fall off that cliff.

I strongly support an independent investigation, but doubt the council will approve an investigation that would result in exposing their complicity.

Kate Hamilton, city employee from 1997 to 2016.

Kate's letter

Thank you, thank you, for stepping forward to tell it like it really is. I hope that your doing so will be helpful in getting council to get off the dime. I appreciate you backing me up.

Mary Kay Voss

Kate's Letter

Thank you also for coming forward. I know it has been very difficult for the employees of Mill Creek.

Every citizen should want to know that the workplace is a positive environment for all involved.

It is a shame that a majority of our council have chosen to turn a blind eye.

Kathy Nielsen

It's Time For Council To Do the Right Thing

Ms. Hamilton's extensive and detailed letter was courageous. The question now is will the City Council do something? I have been a strong advocate of an independent investigation to flush out exactly what is happening now and what transpired to make this work environment so toxic. The independent investigation is the only way a comprehensive and unbiased investigation can take place. Employees need an environment where they can speak freely without intimidation and retaliation.

Our city and our very valuable employees deserve action. Is our Council up to the task? It's really time for action now!

Lynn D. Sordel
Mill Creek City Councilmember 2012-13

This is all quite interesting....

This is all quite interesting but just how does one explain the department managers open letter to the city council that was read into the record by Tom Gathmann at the November 8th council meeting. From the letter it is apparent that all the department managers fully support of the city manager and city council. To quote in part "Without a doubt there have been a lot of changes at City Hall in the past 18 months all with the intent to make the City of Mill Creek a more efficient and professional organization. Change may not always be embraced by everyone, however, the entire City management team has participated in these decisions and in this work, and fully supports the direction in which the city is now headed."

These and former managers have considerable clout with the council and are always taken very seriously.

So, why such a disparity between the managers and the disgruntled former city employees?

During my tour in the US Army in Vietnam I had 2 or 3 rock throwers in my section who where always disgruntled. However, I also had a former Marine who had served in the battle of Khe Shan in 1968 and he thought I was one of the fairest officers he had every seen. In my case the ones who worked and did their job were treated well and the disgruntled ones eventually found themselves someplace else under much less favorable job conditions like repairing flat tires all day.

Just who do you believe? Disgruntled employees or Tom Gathmann and the managers or in my case 2 or 3 disgruntled solders or a former Marine who had served under some of the most extreme combat conditions during that war. Knowing all the managers I believe them and the Marine are more believable.

Why don't you ask the city manager

Why don't you ask the city manager exactly how that letter came about? You might start with the very long meeting that was held with those managers AND the city manager while it was being written.

Ask City Manager?....

And how did you know it was a long meeting? Maybe via the ratline.....

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