Murray: 'I am not going to resign,' despite urging by councilmember

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he will not back down in a fight against allegations of sex abuse.
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Despite calls by a Seattle City Council member to step down, Mayor Ed Murray says he has no plans to resign.

"I continue to believe such a course of action would not be in the city’s best interest. That is why I am not going to resign, and intend to complete the few remaining months of my term as mayor," Murray said Monday in a released statement.

Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez asked Murray to consider stepping down Monday after an Oregon investigation was published that found Murray sexually abused his foster care son.

Gonzalez said in a statement that she is “deeply concerned” about the mayor’s ability to lead after the documents were revealed in the Seattle Times on Sunday.

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“This situation is unprecedented in our city’s history,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “We cannot pretend otherwise.”

If Murray chose not step down, Gonzalez planned to push the City Council to determine by July 24 if a transition in leadership is necessary.

“A collaborative approach is my preferred approach but the leadership of this City, including the Mayor, must proceed in a manner that will balance the ongoing need to effectively govern while acknowledging the grave harm caused by proceeding with a status-quo mentality,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

An Oregon Department of Human Services child-welfare investigator found that Ed Murray sexually abused Jeff Simpson while Simpson was in Murray’s care in 1984. The report prompted the state to determine Murray should never serve as a foster care parent in the future.

Gonzalez wrote that she took the documents seriously, and they raised “grave concerns,” including “creating a chilling effect on the willingness of other similarly-situated sexual abuse survivors to come forward and break the silence.”

Councilmember Lisa Herbold urged Murray to stop referencing Simpson's criminal background to defend himself, saying she was most concerned about how it was impacting sexual abuse survivors.

"I'm very disappointed if the Mayor is still insisting that we consider Simpson’s criminal background when records reportedly say that CPS found Simpson’s allegations valid and that the DA's Office prosecutors hadn't determined Simpson was lying," Herbold said.

In response to Gonzalez calling for the mayor to step down, Murray issued a statement Monday afternoon, stating he has no intention of resigning.

"Guiding my decisions is my continued focus on what is in the best interest of the city. I know that today a member of the Council has issued a statement calling on me to resign, and warning of action against me if I do not. I continue to believe such a course of action would not be in the city’s best interest. That is why I am not going to resign, and intend to complete the few remaining months of my term as mayor," Murray said in the statement.

Other Seattle City Council members - Bruce Harrell, Sally Bagshaw, Lisa Herbold and Debora Juarez, also issued a joint statement in response to the article in The Seattle Times, expressing their support for the mayor to remain in office until the end of his term.

"Despite serious allegations that Mayor Ed Murray committed acts of misconduct, there have been no judicial findings or conclusions that he committed an offense or willfully violated any laws. The Mayor is entitled to due process and legal counsel," their statement said. 

“As we speak today, there has been no proof that he has “willfully violated” his duties. The Mayor has directed staff in the necessary transitions this fall to a new mayoral administration and these are necessary steps for a successful transition.

Read Gonzalez’s full statement:

“Since April, our City has reeled in the aftermath of sexual abuse allegations made against Mayor Ed Murray.  I, like many in our community, take these allegations seriously. As a civil rights lawyer, I also take seriously a person’s inalienable right to due process as guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution. 

“Prior to being elected to City Council, I represented survivors of sexual abuse, including foster children. Because of my decade long career in this highly sensitive area of law, I am familiar with the nature of  state-sanctioned investigations and the complexity of finding the truth given the power dynamic between a child and a foster parent. 

"Foster children are often times victims of prior serious and unimaginable neglect and abuse. These young people often turn to unhealthy behaviors, including drug use and survival sex, to cope with their untreated trauma.  This is to be expected, not judged.  Moreover, the risk of victimization and abuse is extremely high in these relationships, which is precisely why foster parents must be thoroughly vetted and certified prior to having a foster child placed in their care. It is a foster parent’s duty to understand these risks and to be prepared to hold the line on establishing clear relationship boundaries while caring for the child’s needs. 

“The recent article published in The Seattle Times contains additional details about an administrative investigation conducted by a social worker in the State of Oregon’s Child Protective Services unit after Jeff Simpson self-reported being sexually abused in Murray’s home.  That investigation file, the prosecuting attorney’s letter and related police reports continue to raise questions about what occurred in the early 1980s between Murray and Jeff Simpson, while Mr. Simpson was placed in Murray’s home as a foster child.  These documents daylight additional facts and a related administrative conclusion that the alleged sexual abuse did occur.  That investigation resulted in a permanent administrative action that unequivocally prohibits Murray from being a foster parent in the State of Oregon to this date.  As a dogged advocate for sexual abuse survivors, I take these administrative findings very seriously, and they raise grave concerns.  Those concerns include creating a chilling effect on the willingness of other similarly-situated sexual abuse survivors to come forward and break the silence.   

“I have had an opportunity to work both for and with the Mayor, first as his legal counsel and now as a councilmember.  I believe that together we have been able to achieve great results for the people of Seattle because of our positive and productive relationship.  Together, we have significantly advanced police reform, banned conversion therapy on minors, funded a $1 million civil legal aid program for immigrants and refugees and doubled-down on our welcoming city commitments.  For these achievements, I am incredibly grateful to the Mayor and his staff.  The Mayor’s collaborative approach and his tireless commitment to public service is to be admired.  These achievements and my admiration for his ability to get things done are why I endorsed his bid for re-election before these allegations came to light. 

“I am, however, now deeply concerned about this Mayor’s ability to continue leading the Executive branch in light of the recently released documents. While the caseworker’s report is not proof of criminal guilt, the gravity of the materials in the findings and the continued attention these issues will receive, raise questions about the ability of the Mayor, his office, his Department heads and senior management to remain focused on the critical issues facing our city.  As a result, I am asking the Mayor to consider stepping down as Mayor and to work collaboratively with a subcommittee of the City Council to craft an Executive Leadership Transition Strategy. 

“If the Mayor continues to serve as Mayor, then by no later than July 24, 2017, the City Council should convene its own committee to determine if a transition in Executive leadership is merited under these circumstances.

“A collaborative approach is my preferred approach but the leadership of this City, including the Mayor, must proceed in a manner that will balance the ongoing need to effectively govern while acknowledging the grave harm caused by proceeding with a status-quo mentality. This situation is unprecedented in our city’s history.  We cannot pretend otherwise.”

Read Mayor Ed Murray's statement:

“Since the day several months ago when sexual abuse allegations surfaced against me in the media, I have been clear that those allegations are false. They remain just as false today as they were back then.

“But I also know that the allegations about events more than 30 years ago have created a cloud of uncertainty in the public mind. That is why in May I announced that I would not seek reelection to the job that I love, serving as mayor of Seattle. As I said at the time, it was a very difficult and painful decision for me, but upon reflection I felt that putting the best interests of the city first meant that I had to announce that I would step aside and allow someone else to take leadership of City government at the end of my term.

“Guiding my decisions is my continued focus on what is in the best interest of the city. I know that today a member of the Council has issued a statement calling on me to resign, and warning of action against me if I do not. I continue to believe such a course of action would not be in the city’s best interest. That is why I am not going to resign, and intend to complete the few remaining months of my term as mayor.

“My administration and I continue to govern the city effectively, and I am proud that we continue to deliver results that will improve the lives of the people of Seattle. Last week we announced the opening of an innovative, 75-bed Navigation Center to help house homeless people suffering on our streets. Today we are announcing an agreement to expand the use of body cameras by Seattle Police, so we can increase transparency and accountability and strengthen the bonds of trust between police and our communities. And we have many more important announcements coming over the next few months.

“Seattle needs steady, focused leadership over the next several months. We have a lot of work to do. Establishing an effective transition between administrations takes months of careful planning and preparation – work that I and my team have already begun. We do not need the sort of abrupt and destabilizing transition that a resignation would create, likely bringing the City’s business to a grinding halt. Council action against me would similarly prevent the City’s business from continuing, only so I can again show these allegations from 30 years remain false.  

Read joint statement by Seattle Councilmembers Bruce Harrell, Sally Bagshaw, Lisa Herbold and Debora Juarez:

“Allegations of abuse must be taken seriously at all times. Despite serious allegations that Mayor Ed Murray committed acts of misconduct, there have been no judicial findings or conclusions that he committed an offense or willfully violated any laws. The Mayor is entitled to due process and legal counsel.

“Although the City Council may act as a court of impeachment, our powers to do so are limited by our City Charter. Article V, Section 10 of the City Charter regarding ‘Removal of Mayor’ states: ‘The Mayor may be removed from office after a hearing, for any willful violation of duty, or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude, upon written notice from the City Council at least five days before the hearing. He or she shall have the right to be present, to the aid of counsel, to offer evidence and to be heard in his or her own behalf. Upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members of the City Council, acting as a court of impeachment, the office shall become vacant.’

“As we speak today, there has been no proof that he has “willfully violated” his duties. The Mayor has directed staff in the necessary transitions this fall to a new mayoral administration and these are necessary steps for a successful transition.

“Today, we have received calls and emails from survivors of sexual assault who are reliving their own experiences. Many are coming forward to add their voice to the discussion. We are listening to their voices; each of us knows survivors and we underscore our concerns for each person. The Council will continue to support survivors, advocates, and those agencies that provide critical support to survivors and their families.

“Allowing due process to proceed before the courts or other competent tribunal does not lessen our compassion and understanding of victims who have been assaulted. These crimes are unspeakable and require the utmost attention from our legal and social service system no matter how long ago they might have occurred. Collectively, we appeal to the Mayor to stop referring to the criminal background of his accusers. This re-traumatizes survivors and hinders the City’s efforts to enact policy to assist people who have criminal backgrounds.

“Our primary focus will be to assure that the City’s best interests are being served and we have an effective transition in mayoral administrations.”

 

KING 5's Liza Javier contributed to this report.