SEQUIM — City manager Charlie Bush’s tenure with Sequim ends today.
The city issued a press release Monday afternoon announcing Bush and the Sequim City Council have agreed to his resignation.
Bush said in a phone interview on Monday that he signed the agreement on Sunday and that his last day would be today.
“What’s next is up in the air because of COVID,” Bush said. “I’ll be thinking a lot and refocusing while hiking.”
He continues to refrain from commenting on the situation regarding his resignation. Doing so could jeopardize a severance package that includes six months of pay at $60,000, along with $23,256 in unused vacation time and 12 months of paid health insurance.
City council members voted 4-2 to call for his resignation on Jan. 11 after an executive session and agreed two weeks later in another 4-2 vote to the severance agreement.
Bush has seven days to revoke his decision after signing it, but he did not indicate he plans to do so. The press release was part of the agreement between Bush and the city.
Armacost said in a press release that Bush’s resignation was due to philosophical disagreements.
“As you all know, these last few weeks have been difficult,” Armacost said.
“Due to philosophical differences between Charlie and certain members of the City Council on some issues facing the city, we had decided that it would be in everyone’s best interest to part ways.”
Armacost continued in the release: “Charlie appreciates the support shown for him by the community and the employees. The City Council appreciates how professionally Charlie and the employees have handled the transition.
“Speaking for myself, I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with Charlie Bush during my time on City Council,”Armacost said.
“I personally want to thank Charlie for rescinding his resignation when we were hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. We will always be grateful in our time of need and his service to the council and the community.”
Armacost read a statement Monday night in which he said that he and Bush had agreed that coverage on conflict with Bush had been “overblown.”
“We do not want that focus to news to detract from the years of productive work we have done together,” Armacost said in the statement.
“Nor do I want the fact of Charlie’s resignation to take away from his contributions to the city,” he added.
Among those accomplishments are “successfully leading Sequim through the COVID-19 pandemic,” the reconstruction of Fir Street, Guy Cole Center renovation, renewal of the Transportation Benefit District, and Establishment of the Sequim Health and Housing Collaborative.
Assistant city manager Charisse Deschenes will serve as acting city manager during the search for a new city manager.
In early 2020, Bush had intended to resign to hike the Appalachian Trail, but he stayed on, with approval of the council, to help with the pandemic.
In his current resignation press release, Bush said “the opportunity to serve Sequim as City Manager was one of the highlights of my career to date.
“I am grateful to the City Council for the opportunity to work here over the past 5½ years, to our staff for their steadfast dedication to excellence, and to our community for their love of Sequim. I wish everyone well.”
Calls for resignations
Save Our Sequim (SoS) had called for Bush’s resignation during the past two years since he was seen as a main figure in the approval process of a proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) facility now under construction in Sequim.
Now some of the community members affiliated with the new group Sequim Good Governance League, which led a petition to retain Bush, have called for Armacost’s removal related to Bush’s resignation and his statements about QAnon.
In last August’s Coffee with the Mayor program on KSQM, Armacost encouraged listeners to seek out a video on QAnon, a discredited conspiracy theory that culminated in promoting Donald Trump, who then was seeking a second term as president.
In September, Armacost and Bush said in a written statement that it was “inappropriate” for him to have stated his personal views on a city-sponsored radio show, links to which are on the Sequim city website.
In January, Armacost told a CNN reporter that he’s “never endorsed or said I was a QAnon supporter,” in response to a question while he was on the Coffee with the Mayor radio show.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “QAnon is a far-right-wing, loosely organized network and community of believers who embrace a range of unsubstantiated beliefs,” including the existence of “a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles — mainly consisting of what they see as elitist Democrats, politicians, journalists, entertainment moguls and other institutional figures — have long controlled much of the so-called deep state government, which they say sought to undermine Mr. Trump, mostly with aid of media and entertainment outlets.”
QAnon supporters were much in evidence during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
At Monday’s city council meeting, several called for a new mayor.
Ken Stringer, a member of the Sequim Good Governance League, said, “The path we are heading on now is in the wrong direction and a dangerous direction. You can still change course. I urge you to do so now by selecting a new mayor.”
Shenna Younger, founder of the league, said she’s heard from countless citizens in and out of city limits.
“The message is consistent and clear that we need a new mayor,” she said.
Linda Melos of Sunland said she was appalled by the “witch hunt” directed at Armacost and that “people should be more open-minded and not be stoning people who don’t believe what we believe.”
She questioned if those calling for his resignation are in the majority. She said she thinks Armacost is a great mayor and hopes he stays in the position.
According to Sequim resident Colleen Rayburn, there’s a vocal minority who “look to silence concerns about the methadone clinic (MAT).
“It’s cancel culture on steroids,” she said. “QAnon is the new headline.”
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].