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Calls for Murray’s resignation falter without council support

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Credit: Matt Mills McKnight/Cascade Public Media

Councilmember Lorena González still has concerns regarding Ed Murray’s future as the mayor of Seattle. But in a statement Monday, she’s no longer explicitly calling for his resignation as it’s become clear she does not have the support of enough of her colleagues on the City Council.

Instead, González has agreed to a proposal from Murray that the council take a more intimate and watchdogging role as the city transitions to a new mayor. Following the Nov. 7 general election, the city will elect Murray’s successor. Murray’s last day in office will be Dec. 31.

“I still have very strong concerns of this mayor continuing to be the mayor,” González said in an interview Monday morning. “That position has not softened. However, it’s clear to me from the statements sent out by [councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Bruce Harrell, Sally Bagshaw and Debora Juarez] last week that I won’t have support on this floor for any type of removal of this mayor. Left with the options that I have this is a meet-me-halfway approach.”

Following a Seattle Times story about additional information surrounding Murray’s alleged sexual abuse of a foster child in the 1980s, González quickly came out with a strong statement encouraging him to consider resigning, setting Monday, July 24 as the deadline for him to either leave or for the council to consider removing the mayor from office.

Murray so far has shown no signs he will resign. Last Friday, Murray sent González a letter proposing an “innovative” joint mayor-council transition committee “for ensuring a smooth transition of power to the Mayor and newly seated City Council.” This approach, Murray wrote, would “allow for the next Mayor and City Council to be fully informed and up to speed” in 2018. This would be atypical for city leadership as the City Council is not usually involved in executive transitions.

González agreed to the idea. “I do think that given the context of these sexual abuse allegations against the mayor, I continue to have concerns about how those allegations — and particularly the ongoing vetting of those allegations in public — are going to impact his ability to govern,” she told Crosscut. “Having this type of committee in place gives us an opportunity to look at how he intends to transition,” as well as to ensure the council can “independently evaluate” his ability to run the city.

She also hoped that Murray, in his remaining months in office, “refrain from using the court of public opinion to disparage his alleged victims of sexual abuse, and to stop categorically attacking the credibility of caseworkers and institutions, who are charged with the difficult work of investigating serious child sex abuse allegations.”

On Monday, González also did not completely rule out that Murray could be removed from office. “I think that a week ago I did not ever imagine seeing an investigation filed from Oregon that found veracity in allegations from 33 years ago,” she said. The Seattle Times, she noted, was provided with 100 pages of documents “and they published 15 pages. It’s important for us not to close off any action.”

This new committee comes at a time when the city is split over what should happen with Murray and his seventh-floor office. Four of the top six mayoral candidates have called on Murray to step down. On Monday, the City of Seattle’s 16-member LGBTQ Commission was the latest to call for Murray’s resignation amid “mounting evidence” of “sexual abuse of minors.”

“In addition to the evidence regarding deeply grave sexual abuse,” reads a letter from the commission to Murray, “we believe your response has been harmful and inappropriate, particularly to LGBTQ individuals, survivors of sexual abuse, and individuals with a criminal history. You have responded to the allegations by invoking the accusers’ criminal records as proof of their unreliability. We affirm that survivors of sexual assault must be believed and honored, no matter their identity or social standing.”

It concludes: “Noting both that you are the first openly gay Mayor of Seattle, and that many individuals on the Seattle LGBTQ Commission were appointed by you, we do not take our decision to call for your resignation lightly. While some may say that you should be given the opportunity to serve out the remainder of your term, we feel that would be inadequate. With both moral and pragmatic motivations, we feel we must call for your resignation”

But Murray also maintains some level of support from among his allies. When González first called for his resignation, she was the lone voice among her colleagues who maintained the council should not jump to conclusions without due process.

Four former mayors — Wes Uhlman, Charlie Royer, Norm Rice and Greg Nickels — support Murray finishing out his term. In a joint statement issued Monday, they write: “A transition merely months before electing a new mayor would be messy and time-consuming, and would present serious challenges to the day-to-day operations of the city.”

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