Exclusive: Former Yelm staffer on crisis at city hall – * City Admin. Grayum should be on administrative leave, * Mayor Foster should be censured by the council! * Yelm’s Protocol Manual not followed!
- Editor’s note: With the recent revelation of sexual harassment and intimidation allegations against City Administrator Michael Grayum made public on September 17, 2021, hearing from a city employee who was there is important for constituents to understand what occurred.
- I recently connected with two former city employees willing to share their observations.
- One of them agreed to an interview for publication, below.
- Due to an independent, third party investigation, this person’s name will 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 was 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.”
- I appreciate this employee bringing forth these observations, in the public’s interests.
- 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 4.5 years. In what departments and what time-frame did you work in each department.
- I worked for the City of Yelm from February 2017 to July 2021. In that time frame, I began as an accounting assistant in the Finance department. In September 2019, I believe was the time frame I moved to an Administrative Assistant in the Executive department until I left [Yelm employment] in July 2021.
2. Were you ever directly supervised by City Administrator Michael Grayum?
- The only time I was supervised by “MG” was when our direct supervisor was on time off or in between employees. (From what you have previously reported, there’s been an excessive amount of employee turnover in the last 5 years.)
3. Did you witness the allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation by Mr. Grayum?
- I didn’t directly experience sexual harassment and my belief is he knew I was experienced in government settings, having 9 prior years experience, and with my personality, I always said “scrape the sugar coat and say it like it is.” He was very aware I stood my ground on things. I definitely did hear of and witness others experiencing intimidation on several accounts.
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, I witnessed more than one employee being intimated and hearing of people experiencing sexual harassment.
5. If so, did you report your observations to your supervisor and/or to Mayor Foster?
- I encouraged said individuals to document this because in my previous employment prior to Yelm, I had to go through a similar investigation. And the lack of documentation is definitely important under these situations. I had spoken to our union president and shop steward and we tried to have said employees report it, but it didn’t go anywhere and I knew going to Mayor Foster would do nothing because he doesn’t want to be involved in difficult situations or decisions.
6. Were you the recipient of Mr. Grayum’s sexual harassment and/or intimidation? If so, are you willing to explain either?
- I was never sexually harassed or intimated or I would happily speak of it.
7. Do you have any knowledge whether Mr. Grayum limited his intimidation only towards women, or were men (more than one?) on staff also the recipient(s) of “any improprieties in his role as a public servant,” quoting the Yelm Protocol Manual?
- I saw an equal amount of both genders to be honest. But it was all out of power knowing he scared the daylights out of people. He most certainly used his power to intimate employees.
8. 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?
- Absolutely. The workplace was far more of a click of “mean girls” in my honest opinion. The city never intended of taking care of employee’s, only the ones kissing management’s behind. Michael Grayum, Kathy Linnemeyer, Lori Lucas, Mayor Foster, Grant Beck and Karen Bennett are apart of that circle. (Very unfortunate both of the human resources employees are in that circle.)
9. Was the toxic work environment the number one cause of fellow staff members leaving city employment, to your knowledge?
- Yes absolutely the reason to my knowledge. If you weren’t apart of the vicious circle in City of Yelm you were treated less than and it wasn’t fun to say the least.
10. 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?
- Absolutely, the toxic workplace was horrible. Kathy Linnemeyer was my direct supervisor before I left and we never saw eye to eye, so we didn’t work well together. She had several spats of anger that were witnessed, and one day when she did this, the mayor walked out of his closed office and didn’t stick around to resolve the issue, when no other managers or human resources employees were around. When I called the mayor at home during work about the situation putting us employees in a weird situation, he stated I needed to talk to her or human resources. But how does someone do that when the place is corrupt and the mayor has the power to do the right thing???
11. I would like to focus on Mayor Foster’s leadership in supporting staff. Foster told the Nisqually Valley News as a 2017 mayoral candidate that his top priority if elected was to, “Take care of the employees who take care of Yelm,” Did he do that, or seemingly only in covering for City Administrator Grayum?
- He never took care of us minions that weren’t part of that circle. He was always so focused at looking good in the spotlight and letting Michael Grayum take care of the rest or rather not.
12. 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. In what you saw, do you support that allegation?
- I 100% believe this is exactly what he did. He claimed to be a listening ear, but when it comes down to being a part of the tough decisions, he refuses to have his name involved, which is horrible. I watched 2 managers be fired at the previous city where I worked, and the Mayor was thrown under the bus for making those tough decisions that had to be done. But reality is that it’s all apart of the duty as mayor. Not everything will always be sunshine and roses.
13. The Union Rep. 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 am aware our Union Rep did reach out to the mayor and he called said employee into a casual meeting to be confidential questioning her. I shared many concerns with our union as I was the vice president before leaving the City of Yelm.
On behalf of fellow Yelm constituents, I thank you very much.