SEQUIM — The Sequim City Council has accepted the severance package for City Manager Charlie Bush on a 4-2 vote despite two council member’s attempts to review the decision to demand Bush resign.
The vote was taken Monday night after Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell made a motion, seconded by Council member Brandon Janisse, to rescind approval made in meeting two weeks ago to negotiate Bush’s resignation. Mayor William Armacost refused to consider Ferrell’s motion, saying that the time had passed to bring it up.
“Once you have approved the agenda, you have lost that opportunity,” Armacost said, noting that the agenda had been approved by an unanimous vote.
Ferrell said the issue “deserves a second look.
“We owe it to the citizens to show we’re looking into it again,” he said.
After Armacost ruled on the point of order, and after a 45-minute executive session,the vote was taken — with Ferrell and Janisse opposed — to accept a severance package that will cost the city $83,256 — six months pay totaling $60,000 and $23,256 in unused vacation time — as well as 12 months of paid health insurance.
The council agreed unanimously to appoint Charisse Deschenes, assistant city manager, the interim city manager. Armacost and Deschenes will negotiate a salary for approval at a later date, city officials said.
As of Tuesday, Bush had not signed the agreement. He would have seven days to revoke his decision if he signs it. He declined to comment on it.
The agreement says that once all parties have signed it, a press release will go out saying the reason for the resignation and agreement were “philosophical differences between the City Council and City Manager.”
Also, Bush would agree to release the city and past and present Sequim City Council members from future claims as well as agreeing to tell future employers he resigned from his position.
Armacost, who made the original motion two weeks ago to negotiate Bush’s resignation, said Monday night he questioned “the intent behind rescinding it, other than the obvious. I don’t know if it’s going to change the outcome.”
Armacost said his inbox has “been inundated with emails since the last council meeting” and he doesn’t believe the “public comment today was much different than from a certain group of individuals sharing their thoughts.”
Among the comment the council received Monday morning before the meeting was a petition created by the Sequim Good Governance League after the original council vote that carried 1,239 signatures. The online petition, “Sequim City Council Retain Charlie Bush!,” had 1,394 signatures as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“We’re in a democracy and that’s a beautiful thing. That is why we have public input,” Armacost said Monday night..
“However, if we’re going to stick to a rule of order, this should have been brought up at the beginning or prior to the session beginning. (There’s been) ample opportunity to add this to the agenda.”
The council’s decision Monday came a few hours after more than 100 people rallied in downtown Sequim to support Bush.
“We want to let Charlie know that his community is behind him, and he’s a great city manager,” said Shenna Younger, a member of the Sequim Good Governance League and founder of the petition.
“This community is not OK with the actions of our City Council.”
Another view was presented by Gayle Baker, one of several who read comments to the council Monday night both for and against the council action.
She said that Bush was essential to permitting the MAT (medically-assisted treatment) facility planned by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Sequim and that he should resign because doing so was not the ‘rule of law.”
“This smear campaign, name calling, libelous rhetoric, and bullying against Sequim’s City Council is not acceptable and needs to stop! The City Council was elected and appointed to represent the citizens of Sequim,”she said.
“So sorry that all of them are not of your political affiliation. Get over it! It’s called Democracy.”
Sequim has made national news. The Daily Beast published a story on Tuesday saying that critics — such as Sequim resident Marsha Maguire and former Sequim resident Matthew Randazzo — say Armacost and his allies have carried out a “QAnon coup” of the city government and tie it to the dismissal of the city manager.
QAnon is an anti-Semitic and unfounded conspiracy theory that says “the Democratic Party is run by a cabal of Satanic cannibal-pedophiles who will someday be arrested and executed by Donald Trump,” The Daily Beast says in the story.
“Now Sequim finds itself as the latest flashpoint in QAnon’s rise,” the story says.
On a city platform, “Coffee with the Mayor,” last summer, Armacost stated his support of QAnon and urged listeners to view a video that ended in campaigning for Trump, who then was seeking a second term as president.
Bush later said the mayor’s opinions do not reflect policy positions of the city, and Armacost said in a statement it was inappropriate for him to air his personal views on the program.
Council member Sarah Kincaid, who voted for Bush’s resignation and severance, has said that QAnon was not an issue related to the resignation.
Members of Save Our Sequim (SOS), which is opposed to the MAT facility’s location, have demanded Bush’s resignation in the past.
Here is the text of the proposed agreement between the Sequim City Council and the City Manager Charlie Bush, as well as three of the comments that were read during Monday’s council meeting. The comments are a selection from the more than 10 provided during 40 minutes of public comment.
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].
PDN Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].