- Editor’s note:
- A second former city employee has come forward to respond to allegations about top city leaders.
- Revelations of sexual harassment and intimidation allegations against City Administrator Michael Grayum made public in a letter to the Yelm City Council on September 17, 2021.
- Hearing from city employees who experienced these allegations first-hand is important for constituents to understand what occurred.
- On October 19, 2021, this blog first posted the observations of a former employee. Click here
- A second employee has now come forward to answer the same questions, see below.
- Due to an independent, third party investigation, this person’s name will also remain anonymous.
- Although I rarely post anonymous interviews, I am in this case because I verbally verified the context of these allegations with 2 officials.
- While some readers may think this is an employee with an agenda, the Staff Representative for the Washington State Council of County and City Employees (Council 2, AFSCME, AFL-CIO) sent a letter to Mayor Foster and the Yelm city council specifying several women “felt they were being harassed and working under a Hostile Work Environment.”
- As standard operating procedure, the city’s supervisory personnel are placed on administrative leave during an independent investigation. As of last week, Mr. Grayum was still on the job, even invited to participate at the council session, which has been totally inappropriate.
- That Mayor Foster has continued to allow Grayum in his post, and in not following the Yelm Protocol Manual, requires he be censured by the council.
- Foster is not demanding the highest standard of ethics from appointed officials, as the Yelm Protocol Manual states: “It is the policy of the City of Yelm to uphold, promote, and demand the highest standards of ethics from all of its elected and appointed officials. Accordingly, all elected officials, members of all appointed boards, commissions, committees, City employees, consultants and professional service providers are expected to maintain the utmost standards of personal integrity, truthfulness, honesty and fairness in carrying out their public duties; avoid any improprieties in their roles as public servants; and never use their City position or powers for personal gain.”
- The Yelm City Council needs to do their job and censure Mayor Foster for violating the Yelm Protocol Manual in not allowing a proper, independent investigation to commence for over 6 months.
- I appreciate this employee bringing forth these observations, in the public’s interests.
- The unabridged interview is as follows –
As I mentioned, I would like to ask you some questions to establish for the public what occurred, as follows:
1. You worked for the City of Yelm for years. In what departments and what time-frame did you work in each department.
Prefer not to respond to maintain anonymity
2. Were you ever directly supervised by City Administrator Michael Grayum?
3. Did you witness the allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation by Mr. Grayum?
4. Did you witness the allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation by Mr. Grayum with more than one staff person? Did you hear of others that you did not witness?
Yes and yes. I have witnessed Mr. Grayum’s harassing and intimidating behavior and have also heard about it from other staff.
5. If so, did you report your observations to your supervisor and/or to Mayor Foster?
Multiple supervisors were aware of and witnessed Mr. Grayum’s behavior. Many were also recipients of intimidation and harassment.
6. Were you the recipient of Mr. Grayum’s sexual harassment and/or intimidation? If so, are you willing to explain either?
Yes. Mr. Grayum regularly intimidated, belittled, humiliated, and demonstrated sexist behavior towards me. He made pointed remarks about my appearance, referred to me using appearance-based nicknames, and he always found an excuse to touch me; while where he touched me was not necessarily sexual in nature, he did not demonstrate the same behavior towards my male coworkers.
7. The level of staff turnover in the last 5 years has been on the high side, bordering on excessive. Are you aware of fellow staff members leaving City of Yelm employment to remove themselves from what former Finance Director Joe Wolfe called a “toxic” workspace in 2019?
I agree that staff turnover has been high. I agree that “toxic” accurately describes this workplace. I have heard that other employees have felt motivated to pursue other employment due to the environment, but I can’t speak to their ultimate reason for leaving the city.
8. Was the toxic work environment the number one cause of fellow staff members leaving city employment, to your knowledge?
Human Resources conducted exit interviews with employees that would speak to their number one cause for staff members leaving City employment.
9. Did you leave the city’s employment because of intimidation and/or a toxic workplace? Were you angry to be put in such a position as to look for another job? Did you share that reason in an exit interview?
There were several reasons why I left city employment, however, toxicity was what motivated me to look for a new position. I was not angry to be put in that position, I was angry that I was being treated badly and my coworkers and friends were being treated badly. My mental health suffered significantly due to the environment and I needed to leave for my personal well-being. Human Resources was aware of my feelings, but I don’t remember precisely what I mentioned in my exit interview.
10. I would like to focus on Mayor Foster’s leadership in supporting staff. He ran his 2017 mayoral campaign staying his number one priority if elected is taking care of city staff. Did he do that or only in covering for City Administrator Grayum?
Mayor Foster’s response has been one of the most disappointing parts of this situation. It didn’t take long for me to realize the type of person that Mr. Grayum was. However, Mayor Foster was someone that I trusted and looked up to. I believe that his response to this has demonstrated that he never cared for his employees in the first place, and this is especially true for his female staff. If he is enabling Mr. Grayum’s behavior, the Mayor is no different than Mr. Grayum, and should be held equally accountable.
11. Did Foster meet with other staff members, offering his time as a committed listener? There is an allegation that Foster merely shoved all of this under the carpet to keep his reputation/legacy intact as he leaves office at the end of the year.
I felt that Mayor Foster was a committed listener and was often in the office and made himself available to employees. However, this was mostly within the context of resolving citizen requests and complaints. When I interacted with Mayor Foster, I felt that he treated me, generally, with respect and kindness. I can’t speak to his motivation for failing to act and protect his employees, but the fact that he knew so many employees personally adds insult to injury.
12. In what you saw, do you support that allegation. The Union Rep. [the Staff Representative for the Washington State Council of County and City Employees] stated she went to Foster with concerns months ago, and he did little. Would you agree? Did you share your concerns with the Union Rep.?
I was not present when the Union Representative, Hannah Hollander shared her concerns with the Mayor. However, the Union Shop Steward was present during many of my interactions with Mr. Grayum and Hannah Hollander was aware of what was occurring. She assured me that she brought it to the attention of the Mayor, and the Union in the City of Yelm has demonstrated nothing but genuine care for the City’s employees.
13. Is there anything else you would like to add that I did not ask?
Human Resources is completely complicit in enabling Mr. Grayum and creating an environment that is harmful to employees and actively discourages reporting. The first thing you learn from your coworkers when walking into City Hall is that they are not to be trusted. The management team has been historically complicit, but primarily in the interest of self-preservation. Michael Grayum treats employees with a level of disrespect that borders malice, and I am not the only employee who has suffered.
On behalf of fellow Yelm constituents, I thank you very much for your courage in coming forward.
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All of this is very unfortunate and very disturbing. So what comes next? Is there legal action to follow?
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