FERNDALE, Wash. — Citing findings from an investigation led by Councilmember Kate Bishop into an employee grievance filed by Ferndale Police Chief Kevin Turner, it was approved during the August 19th City Council meeting that Councilmember and former mayoral candidate Keith Olson be formally admonished by the council.
The City Council Meeting agenda for the Tuesday, September 3rd, regular meeting includes a staff report from City Attorney Dannon Traxler along with a Declaration of Admonishment (links to PDF file). According to Traxler,
On August 19, 2019, in executive session, the Council reviewed an investigative report (the Report) of an employee grievance filed by Ferndale Police Chief Kevin Turner against Councilmember Keith Olson. In response to the findings, conclusions, and recommendations in the Report, the Council voted and found that Councilmember Keith Olson had engaged in conduct of a harassing, discriminatory, and retaliatory nature and directed staff to draft a Declaration of Public Admonishment (the Declaration) to be read into the record at the next regular Council meeting. The Declaration has been prepared based on the record reviewed by Council and is attached.
The Report and associated documents are not currently included in the Council packet with the Declaration, because they are subject to pending public records requests. The affected parties named in the public records have been notified in accordance with RCW 42.56.540 and have the right to seek judicial intervention. The documents will be released on September 5, 2019 if the City is not enjoined by a court order from releasing them.
During the August 19th City Council meeting, the councilmembers entered executive session to discuss an employee matter. They returned to open session and voted to exclude Olson from the executive session and then returned to executive session without Olson. They later returned to open session and a motion to issue the admonition was made, seconded and passed by a 6 to 1 vote with Olson opposed. The meeting was then adjourned.
My Ferndale News was holding this story due to the lack of information about how the investigation came to be, why it was delegated to a councilmember and the specifics of the complaint filed by Chief Turner. A public records request was made in an effort to obtain this information but, as noted above by Traxler, such requests are not expected to be fulfilled until September 5th. A followup story can be expected once that information becomes available.