OLYMPIA — Washington State Parks officials canceled a pair of contracts totaling up to $120,000 after Director Peter Mayer resigned in the wake of workplace complaints, including an allegation suggesting he applied pressure to steer a contract.

One contract authorized for up to $100,000 was to help facilitate leadership meetings and coaching for the agency’s executive leadership team, according to records obtained by The Seattle Times on Friday through a public disclosure request. That contract was with BerryDunn, a Maine-based accounting and management consulting firm.

The other contract, authorized for up to $20,000, was to help with communications after an agency spokesperson departed for another job.

Washington State Parks spokesperson Amanda McCarthy on Friday confirmed both contracts were canceled in the weeks after Mayer’s resignation was announced after 11 p.m. Oct. 6.

The resignation came after the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission held three meetings to evaluate complaints against a public officer.

Parks officials wouldn’t say whether Mayer had been the subject of those complaints but that he had stepped down in “best interest of his family.”


Documents obtained by The Seattle Times, however, revealed that Mayer stepped down after more than a dozen complaints by employees — many of them managers — alleged he belittled others and used foul language.

Those complaints were emailed to Parks commissioners, including one that suggested Mayer didn’t adhere to “proper process” and made mention of a contract with BerryDunn.

The director had “identified the consultant he wanted to work with from his past relationship with them,” according to that person’s email to the commission, and “pressured staff that he wanted the process to lead to his pick coming out on top in a ‘competitive’ process.”

Since his resignation, Mayer has apologized for using any offensive language and wrote that while he was “familiar with a particular consultant who was prequalified to engage in work,” the “procurement of all consultants was obtained consistent with agency and state rules and policies.”

In an email Friday through a spokesperson, Mayer wrote that when he was hired in March, the commission directed him to come up with a fresh perspective and among other things address concerns surrounding “a lack of progress on trails, and focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

“Based on these directives, my own assessments and staff feedback, I requested the agency bring in outside consultants to assist with this work,” Mayer wrote. “Even though I had worked with some of these consultants in the past, agency staff other than myself facilitated these procurements and it was my understanding they were following state procurement policies and rules.”


“I was involved to the extent that I answered questions about agency needs, scope and schedule when asked,” he added.

Documents previously obtained by The Seattle Times through public disclosure requests showed that members of the commission had inquired among staff about contracts that may have been related to the complaint.

One contract included in those previous documents was an agreement for BerryDunn for up to about $29,000. That contract had already expired in June, according to the information provided by the agency Friday, and the BerryDunn contract for up to $100,000 was the one that was canceled.

Members of the Parks commission and the agency’s spokesperson had declined to answer questions about whether they had reviewed the contracts potentially affected and either canceled or cleared them to go forward.

That changed after Gov. Jay Inslee in a regularly scheduled news conference Thursday publicly encouraged Parks officials to answer questions about the contracts.

“We’d like to have legitimate questions answered, obviously,” said the governor, when asked about the agency’s refusal to discuss its actions. Inslee’s office also made its own inquiry to the agency.


The Parks commission is made up of volunteers appointed by Inslee to help steer the agency of 1,000 staff members who tend to the state’s 124 developed parks.

Open-government advocates have said that type of government dynamic can lead to a lack of transparency with taxpayer dollars since the agency isn’t directly answerable to any publicly elected official.

In an email earlier this week, Toby Nixon, president emeritus of Washington Coalition for Open Government, described that as a common symptom among the state’s various boards and commissions.

“They never have to stand for election by voters and directly justify their actions. The only recourse for voters is to hold the governor accountable, or maybe the senators who confirmed the commissioners,” Nixon wrote. “But responsibility is so remote, so diffuse, and other issues so much more prominent, that the commissioners feel empowered to just refuse to communicate.”

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, a Democrat from Sequim who chairs the committee that oversees Washington State Parks, declined to comment on Mayer’s resignation or questions about contracts.

Van De Wege chairs the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.


The committee’s ranking Republican, however, said she expects an accounting from Parks officials when lawmakers gather for their customary fall meetings, or when the legislative session starts back up in January.

“We will ask for a report and hopefully they’ll be very honest and forthcoming about it,” said Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake.

Warnick praised Washington’s 1972 voter-approved public records act for shedding light on the situation.

After Washington State Parks confirmed the canceled contracts Friday, Inslee spokesperson Tara Lee wrote in an email that, “We are glad they have taken this step.”