City Councilmember M. Lorena González said she’s asked Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to consider stepping down in light of new information about sexual-abuse allegations.
Reacting to new information about sexual-abuse allegations against Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, City Councilmember M. Lorena González said in a statement Monday she’s asked Murray to consider stepping down before his term expires at the end of the year.
And if the mayor doesn’t resign, then the council should convene a committee no later than July 24 “to determine if a transition in executive leadership is merited under these circumstances,” González said.
But other council members sounded notes of caution during a briefing, with Councilmember Tim Burgess calling it premature for the council to consider removing Murray and with Councilmember Sally Bagshaw asking her colleagues to “avoid grandstanding.”
In a statement Monday afternoon, Murray said he would not resign.
“I continue to believe such a course of action would not be in the city’s best interest,” he said. “My administration and I continue to govern the city effectively, and I am proud that we continue to deliver results that will improve the lives of the people of Seattle.”
Murray added, “Seattle needs steady, focused leadership over the next several months. We have a lot of work to do. Establishing an effective transition between administrations takes months of careful planning and preparation — work that I and my team have already begun. We do not need the sort of abrupt and destabilizing transition that a resignation would create, likely bringing the City’s business to a grinding halt.”
González, in her statement, said she would prefer “a collaborative approach” to the issue.
“But the leadership of this city, including the mayor, must proceed in a manner that will balance the ongoing need to effectively govern while acknowledging the grave harm caused by proceeding with a status-quo mentality,” González said. “This situation is unprecedented in our city’s history. We cannot pretend otherwise.”
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Newly released records, previously thought destroyed, show that an Oregon child-welfare investigator concluded in 1984 Murray had sexually abused his foster son, Jeffrey Simpson, when Simpson was a teenager.
The mayor denies the allegations. In an interview last week, he underscored that prosecutors had decided decades ago not to charge him.
If Murray were to resign, Council President Bruce Harrell would be called upon to serve as acting mayor. If Harrell declined, the council would select another member for the position.
According to Seattle’s city charter, “The Mayor may be removed from office after a hearing, for any willful violation of duty, or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude, upon written notice from the City Council at least five days before the hearing. He or she shall have the right to be present, to the aid of counsel, to offer evidence and to be heard in his or her own behalf. Upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members of the City Council, acting as a court of impeachment, the office shall become vacant.”
During a briefing Monday morning, Harrell and other council members urged care in handling the Murray situation.
“I agree with you that strong leadership is needed,” he said to González. “I would suggest working with our law department to determine what the legal course is and that we talk amongst ourselves.”
Harrell added, “It’s been my impression the mayor is just showing up for his job every single day … I believe the measure by which we should consider all action is what is in the best interest of the city.”
Bagshaw pointed out that the allegations against Murray are decades old.
“Facts matter,” she said, adding, “I hope that we can avoid grandstanding on this … At this point, I would like to give the mayor space.”
Burgess said it’s too early for the council to consider impeachment.
“I think the decisions that the mayor makes about his future are, at this point, his to make,” Burgess said. “The process that’s outlined for the council to consider removing him, I think, is very clear and premature at this point.”
He added, “The city has already turned in many ways to who our next mayor will be … I think we just have to be very judicious and cautious about how we approach these issues.”
In a phone interview later Monday, Harrell said Murray is entitled to due process.
To push the mayor out, the council “would have to make factual and legal conclusions based on events that occurred 33 years ago and in another state … that would be a tough task,” the council president said.
“I don’t believe he should resign today,” Harrell said. “If I see examples of him abdicating his responsibilities, not working hard, and not making sure a smooth transition occurs, I would ask for his resignation. But I have no basis to believe that at all today.”
In a statement Monday afternoon, Harrell and three other council members — Bagshaw, Debora Juarez and Lisa Herbold — said there have been “no judicial findings or conclusions” that Murray has “committed an offense or willfully violated any laws.”
Referencing the impeachment clause of the city charter, they said, “As we speak today, there has been no proof that he has ‘willfully violated’ his duties.”
They added, “Collectively, we appeal to the mayor to stop referring to the criminal background of his accusers. This re-traumatizes survivors and hinders the city’s efforts to enact policy to assist people who have criminal backgrounds.”
González’s call for Murray to step down came in a lengthy statement.
“Since April, our City has reeled in the aftermath of sexual abuse allegations made against Mayor Ed Murray. I, like many in our community, take these allegations seriously. As a civil rights lawyer, I also take seriously a person’s inalienable right to due process as guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution,” González said in the statement.
“The recent article published in The Seattle Times contains additional details about an administrative investigation conducted by a social worker in the State of Oregon’s Child Protective Services unit after Jeff Simpson self-reported being sexually abused in Murray’s home. That investigation file, the prosecuting attorney’s letter and related police reports continue to raise questions about what occurred in the early 1980s between Murray and Jeff Simpson, while Mr. Simpson was placed in Murray’s home as a foster child,” González added.
“These documents daylight additional facts and a related administrative conclusion that the alleged sexual abuse did occur. That investigation resulted in a permanent administrative action that unequivocally prohibits Murray from being a foster parent in the State of Oregon to this date. As a dogged advocate for sexual abuse survivors, I take these administrative findings very seriously, and they raise grave concerns. Those concerns include creating a chilling effect on the willingness of other similarly-situated sexual abuse survivors to come forward and break the silence.”
The council member, who before running for office served as the mayor’s legal counsel, praised Murray’s work leading Seattle.
“I have had an opportunity to work both for and with the mayor, first as his legal counsel and now as a council member. I believe that together we have been able to achieve great results for the people of Seattle because of our positive and productive relationship. Together, we have significantly advanced police reform, banned conversion therapy on minors, funded a $1 million civil legal aid program for immigrants and refugees and doubled down on our welcoming city commitments. For these achievements, I am incredibly grateful to the mayor and his staff. The mayor’s collaborative approach and his tireless commitment to public service is to be admired. These achievements and my admiration for his ability to get things done are why I endorsed his bid for re-election before these allegations came to light.”