SEQUIM — A second executive session is planned for the next Sequim City Council meeting on Jan. 25 on the requested resignation of City Manager Charlie Bush in a move that opposing council member Brandon Janisse termed a triumph of politics over leadership.
Bush had been a target of criticism by residents opposed to a medication-assisted treatment center (MAT) proposed in Sequim by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. He also took a stand against Mayor William Armacost’s airing of his personal support of QAnon on a city-sponsored radio show.
The executive session, at which the public will be barred, is the only topic so far on the agenda on Bush’s upcoming departure, City Clerk Sara McMillon said Wednesday.
A majority of the City Council called for Bush’s resignation after a 90-minute executive session that was held over the objections of Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell and Janisse, who wanted the discussion on Bush’s future with the city to be held in public.
The council voted 4-2 to negotiate his resignation, approving Armacost’s motion, and to direct City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross to present that resignation to the city council after the two reached an agreement.
Janisse and Ferrell voted against the decision.
“Charlie, I don’t agree with what’s going on,” Janisse said.“I’m sorry you’re being put through this.”
According to his contract, Bush is an at-will employee paid $120,000 a year who must provide 30 days notice if he voluntarily resigns.
If he is terminated for any reason other than “cause,” he receives six months’ salary and six months’ health benefits.
If he is terminated for cause, he receives unpaid compensation and benefits accrued to the date of termination.
Armacost said there was nothing illegal regarding Bush’s actions, and that Bush’s resignation was “a combination of things over quite a while. This was not a knee-jerk reaction.”
Armacost declined to comment on the council’s action after the meeting.
“It is my duty to listen to my fellow members of the Sequim City Council during executive session as specified under Washington state law,” he said Wednesday in an email requesting comment on the council’s action.
“Washington State law makes executive sessions confidential.”
He did not respond to an email asking why he wanted Bush to resign.
Bush chose not to comment following the meeting.
“At this stage of where things are, it’s not helpful or appropriate for me to comment,” Bush said Wednesday.
Janisse on Monday said: “As a leader in the City of Sequim, I value integrity and believe without it an organization will eventually have significant problems.
“I also realize now, sometimes politics can win out over a leader’s abilities, as we saw last night in the request for our City Manager’s resignation.”
Bush was in the executive session Monday, called under a public meetings exemption that allows the public to be barred.
Bush and Nelson-Gross are working on a separation agreement, McMillon said Wednesday.
The action the council took Monday “was very shocking and sudden,” she said.
“From my role as a city clerk, my job is to make sure and try my best to make sure the city is running effectively and is organized, and I feel his sudden departure has the potential to cause some instability in the organization.
“I know the council has its reasons and it’s within their scope to make the hard decisions, and I can respect that,” she said.
“As far as how I feel about it, Charlie was great to work with and, of course, I feel sad.
“I know in fact he’ll be missed.”
Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam tribal chairman, issued a statement Wednesday on Bush’s departure.
“Our Tribe is disappointed in this action as we have deep appreciation for Charlie’s professionalism, expertise and effective way he has represented the city,” Allen said.
“We believe it is a serious loss to the city regarding its short- and long-term agenda and vision.”
In the past, community members opposed to the proposed MAT facility had called for Bush’s resignation for his leadership in the city’s handling of the permitting process.
Also, in September, Bush issued statements with Armacost that it was inappropriate for the mayor to share his support for QAnon on a KSQM radio broadcast on Aug. 27 of Coffee with the Mayor.
Said Janisse: “I in no way support the decision to request Mr. Bush’s resignation. Mr. Bush has done nothing wrong, in my opinion, and he should remain at the helm of the city.
Armacost said his “intention is to be totally transparent,” which Janisse scoffed at, saying “like going into executive session.”
More on Bush
About 11 months ago, Bush announced his plan in February to resign by April 17 to hike the Appalachian Trail. But about a month later and with the outburst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bush asked to be reinstated, which council members agreed to do on March 23.
Bush became the Sequim city manager, replacing Steve Burkett, on Aug. 15, 2015.
Armacost publicly voiced his support for QAnon — a conspiracy theory whose supporters believe that President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and the media — during an August city-sponsored “Coffee with the Mayor” radio show.
Both Armacost and Bush issued statements,with Armacost saying it was inappropriate for him to air his personal views on the program, which is intended to deal with city issues.
Bush said: “Any responses to questions reflecting the personal opinion of the mayor do not reflect policy positions of the Sequim City Council or the organization.
“The Coffee with the Mayor program has taken place with four different mayors. This is the first time since I began working for the city in 2015 that a mayor has commented on national politics that have nothing to do with the City of Sequim,” Bush said.