Heavy-hitting consultant serves as 'talent guru' for Murray

The mayor-elect brings in a consultant-lawyer with years of public and private sector experience to hunt for staff. Details remain sparse about the new administration.
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Ed Murray during an interview

The mayor-elect brings in a consultant-lawyer with years of public and private sector experience to hunt for staff. Details remain sparse about the new administration.

The incoming Murray administration is getting assistance with its recruitment effort from Susan Coskey, a seasoned consultant, lawyer and human resources executive. She has specialized in helping companies build high-performing teams of employees, and once investigated whether Port of Seattle commissioners were improperly using government credit cards.

Few details have surfaced about Mayor-elect Ed Murray's emergent administration, but on Wednesday a spokesman confirmed to Crosscut that Coskey was working with the transition committee. A city public information officer, meanwhile, said that the Seattle City Council plans to allocate about $250,000 for Murray’s transition expenses. That would be on top of money that might be used to beef up the mayor's office once Murray takes over. Last week, The Stranger reported that the City Council was discussing whether to add $750,000 to the 2014 budget to fund staff positions within the new administration.

A description of Coskey's professional background on the website for Bright Spring Consulting, a firm where she has worked, says her experience includes, "Guiding senior management teams on continuing business operations and constructive people management during periods of transition."

Coskey declined to comment about her involvement in the transition when contacted by phone. Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the transition team, said in an email that, “Susan is helping with the staffing and recruitment for the Mayor’s Office. She’s our talent guru, in other words.”

Asked for specifics about how the administration would spend the extra $750,000 in staff funding, Reading declined to provide details. “Mayor-elect Murray is absolutely interested in leveraging some of the great untapped talent, insight, experience and expertise that can be found throughout the city," he said in the email. "We’re very grateful to Council for recognizing the importance of this and for proposing some additional flexibility here.”

Coskey has about a decade of experience with consulting firms in Seattle. She has also held high-level human resource jobs with Physio-Control, Inc., a company with offices in Redmond that manufactures and sells emergency heart defibrillators, and RealNetworks, once known for its downloadable video players. As a lawyer, she has worked for law firms in Seattle and Washington D.C. and for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Sub-Committee. She currently serves as the board chair for YouthCare, a nonprofit that provides services for homeless kids and young adults in Seattle.

Coskey was described as “unemployed” in a campaign finance report filed by the Murray campaign on Oct. 12. A report from last December lists Physio-Control, Inc. as her employer. Coskey was Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for the company, according to information on her LinkedIn profile. The finance reports show that, in total, Coskey gave $450 to Murray’s campaign.

As a consultant, Coskey did an eight-year stint, beginning in 2003, with the Seabold Group, according to information on the company's website. The Seattle-based firm specializes in investigating issues such as financial malfeasance and workplace misconduct for private companies and government organizations — often in anticipation of court proceedings.

The Port of Seattle Commission contracted with Seabold Group to conduct a review of commissioners’ use of government-issued credit cards in 2011. Coskey wrote the report, which uncovered about $3,000 in improper charges, all of which were eventually repaid. Coskey also recommended in the review that the Port of Seattle clarify its credit card use policies.

Later in 2011, Coskey moved to Bright Spring Consulting. The company provides management expertise for clients like Amazon.com, Microsoft and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The only other members of the transition team that Murray has announced so far are its co-chairs. One is Martha Choe, a former City Council member and the current chief administrative officer for the Gates Foundation. The other is Dwight Dively, director of performance, strategy and budget for King County and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs. 

In his email Reading said: “The Mayor-elect's top priority during the transition is to assemble a highly-capable team of highly-competent individuals who are prepared to take the reins and move into action from Day One.”


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