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Councilwoman files complaint over mayor's 'angry' behavior
The city has hired an investigator to look into a complaint filed against Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest.
In response to a public records request by the Federal Way Mirror, the city released a five-page document that was submitted on May 9 by Federal Way City Councilmember Kelly Maloney. The document details Maloney's account of a meeting that took place with Priest on May 8.
The city also issued a statement to the media to coincide with the release of the document.
"It is standard city practice to investigate any internal complaints lodged against employees or officials," said city spokesman Chris Carrel. "An independent investigator has been hired to look into the matter, interview witnesses and issue findings."
In the document, Maloney conveys from her point of view a conversation with the mayor in his office at City Hall. The original topic of the meeting was an initiative to bring a college to Federal Way.
The document describes how during their nearly 30-minute meeting, Priest was angry, pounding his fist on the desk and "lacing the 'F' word throughout his statements as he was yelling."
According to the document: "I told him he had better back off and stop talking to me that way. (I did not raise my voice because I wanted to be firm and not escalate the situation.) I told him I wasn't afraid of him, though clearly he was trying to intimidate me. He sat down. He started crying."
Later in the document, Maloney wrote that Priest said he had gotten angry with her during this meeting because Priest was angry that Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell had filed to run for mayor in the upcoming election after previously announcing he wouldn't run.
"Skip then said, 'You have experienced my direct mode twice now. I don't do that very often. I'm usually in my Cary Grant mode with staff,'" according to the document.
Maloney told The Mirror that she filed the complaint because it was her responsibility to do so as a member of the city council. The city and mayor's office made the complaint public with the news release.
"I was surprised and disappointed that the mayor's office has decided to respond by way of press release to something that is an ongoing investigation. I'm equally concerned that the facts were mischaracterized," Maloney told The Mirror. "The reason I started the investigation was not for myself, but for staff whom I believe might be in a hostile work environment, which is why the integrity of the investigation is so important."
According to the city, Priest had yet to see the complaint until its release to the media.
"I am disappointed with the inaccuracies in Councilmember Maloney’s version of events, as I understand them from my conversation with the investigator,” Priest said in a written statement. “I’ve interacted with countless numbers of public officials throughout my twenty-plus year career as a city councilmember, legislator and mayor and I am surprised at Councilmember Maloney’s reaction.”
The city will decline to comment until the report is issued, according to the spokesman. The city spokesman noted that "there are no potential sanctions or requirements on either the mayor or the councilmember that could originate from this type of complaint."