Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has joined calls for Mayor Ed Murray to resign over allegations of sexual abuse, but the mayor has said he’ll serve out his term.
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is joining calls for Mayor Ed Murray to resign over sexual-abuse allegations — arguing that the council should move to impeachment if he refuses.
In a guest editorial Monday for The Stranger, Sawant wrote that while allegations against Murray have not been legally proved, the mayor has “fundamentally failed to deal with the accusations of sexual abuse in a responsible manner. …”
She cited comments by Murray and his lawyers, who have pointed to the criminal histories of four men accusing him of decades-ago sexual abuse.
“The message Murray has sent is a chilling one. And that signal is only amplified further because it comes from the mayor of Seattle, a city that working people across the country have come to look to for progressive leadership,” Sawant wrote.
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Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative party and a frequent Murray critic, is the second council member to suggest the mayor resign.
Earlier in July, Councilmember M. Lorena González said Murray should consider resigning after newly released documents showed an Oregon child-welfare investigator in 1984 found valid the sexual-abuse allegations brought against Murray by his former foster son, Jeff Simpson. A Portland prosecutor declined to pursue criminal charges, citing proof problems.
Last week, the city’s LGBTQ commission also released a letter asking Murray to resign, citing “mounting evidence” against him. Representatives of SNAP, a group of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, presented a letter calling for the mayor’s resignation to the council on Monday.
So far, most members of the nine-member City Council have resisted pushing for the mayor to quit. They’ve argued he deserves due process with regard to the decades-old claims.
Four former Seattle mayors — Wes Uhlman, Charles Royer, Norm Rice and Greg Nickels — also have come to Murray’s defense, arguing in an open letter last week that he should serve out the rest of his term.
The claims against Murray went public in April, when a Kent man, Delvonn Heckard, filed a lawsuit alleging that as a teenager in the 1980s he’d been sexually abused by Murray. In addition to Heckard and Simpson, two other men have made similar claims.
Murray has steadfastly denied the accusations as false — and politically motivated — but he ended his bid for re-election in May, saying the allegations were too much of a distraction. He said he intends to serve the remainder of his term through the end of the year.
In June, Heckard withdrew his civil lawsuit, and Murray declared it a vindication and considered reviving his bid for a second term as a write-in candidate. He ultimately decided against it and endorsed former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan.
Heckard and his attorneys have vowed to refile his lawsuit against Murray once the mayor leaves office. Last week, Heckard filed a civil claim seeking $1 million or more from the city, arguing Murray used his public office to defame him.
In her editorial, Sawant argued that the City Council should move to impeach Murray if he does not step aside.
“This is a political decision, not a legal one,” Sawant wrote. “Impeaching the mayor is not a statement of his guilt or innocence, but rather a decision to put the burning needs of our city above the political interests and career of one person.”
Seattle’s city charter allows the council to remove the mayor “for any willful violation of duty, or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude.” Such a removal would require a two-thirds vote of the council and could take place only after a formal hearing.
Earlier this month, City Council President Bruce Harrell urged caution on impeachment, saying he does not believe the council could make formal determinations about the truth or falsity of claims dating back three decades.
Murray’s official and personal spokespersons did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sawant’s editorial.