Union Calls for Investigation into Sexual Harassment Claims Against Yelm City Administrator

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The Washington State Council of County and City Employees (WSCCCE) recently drafted a letter to Yelm officials asking for a third-party consultant to investigate sexual harassment allegations levied against City Administrator Michael Grayum.

Hannah Hollander, the staff representative for WSCCCE, sent the letter outlining the allegations on Friday, Sept. 17. The letter cited the alleged creation of a hostile work environment and stated several young women abruptly left their jobs with the city over the past few years. The union wants to know whether Grayum played a role in their decisions to leave, stated the letter. 

Grayum did not respond to requests for comment made Monday by the Nisqually Valley News. 

In the letter, Hollander wrote she was aware of a previous internal investigation that took place about Grayum’s alleged misconduct, but the union does not feel the complaints were reviewed in a thorough manner. 

The union believes pertinent information was left out of Yelm’s investigation, that the city’s efforts did not go far enough and that the interviews conducted did not adequately evaluate the situation, Hollander wrote. The Nisqually Valley News has submitted a public records request for the investigation, as well as any additional details regarding Grayum’s conduct while mayor of DuPont between 2012 and 2016. 

“Typically, when reports of harassment of this seriousness come forward, risk pool insurance is used to bring in a third-party consultant to do the investigation,” Hollander wrote. “An outside investigator is neutral and specifically trained in how to conduct an investigation of this caliber.”

In a statement to the Nisqually Valley News, Yelm Mayor JW Foster said the city does not “discuss personnel issues,” but noted the city “will rely on our risk management services agency to recommend next steps and follow their advice.”

The Risk Management Services Agency is a branch of the Association of Washington Cities.

In her letter, Hollander wrote she had previously communicated with the city of Yelm about Grayum’s alleged misconduct.

“Earlier this year, I reached out to you directly with concerns that something was going on, despite no one being willing to talk with me about their experiences for fear of retribution, and you said that if someone came forward you would immediately address their concerns.” Hollander wrote. “Every employee at the city of Yelm should be entitled to a safe work environment free of predatory behavior.”

She wrote that when an individual who leveled allegations against Grayum was interviewed by the city, “they were not prompted efficiently to disclose all that took place.” 

She added the person who conducted the interview could have been less than thorough in the information-gathering step of the investigation because they worked closely with Grayum “and they did not feel comfortable and feared retaliation.”

Hollander also noted the breadth of the allegations against Grayum.

“We are also hearing reports that several women feel that they were discriminated against by Mr. Grayum, that they felt they were being harassed and working under a hostile work environment,” she wrote, adding the union wants the allegations investigated.

Hollander said the union is asking the city to hire an outside consultant to conduct an investigation.

“Due to the seriousness of the allegations, and that not enough was done to address the situation, we feel the need to let more people at the city know what has been going on so that the complaints can be thoroughly and promptly investigated and that we can be assured that prompt and effective action is being taken to eliminate further sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace,” Hollander wrote.

The letter was sent to Mayor Foster; Ed Stemler, legal counsel of WSCCCE; Jason Hardy, Local 618 Y president; Lori Lucas, human resources director for the City of Yelm and all members of the Yelm City Council.

Comments

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Steve Klein

This is not the first time the city has been accused of having a hostile work environment under Foster/Grayum. Former Finance Director Joe Wolfe described in your newspaper June 18, 2019, a "toxic" environment at city hall.

https://www.yelmonline.com/stories/former-yelm-finance-director-was-investigated-for-intimidating-behavior,99569

Additionally, your newspaper quoted then Interim Mayor Foster on October 26, 2017, when he ran for mayor saying his number one priority was to "Take care of the employees who take care of Yelm." If such were the case, Foster would have placed Grayum on administrative leave until an independent investigation could be completed, to protect his staff from a potentially intimidating workplace. Perhaps that was merely a campaign slogan, for his actions prove otherwise.

https://yelmonline.com/stories/the-nisqually-valley-news-sent-questions-to-the-candidates-for-yelm-mayor-mayor-jw-foster-and,105697?

Wednesday, September 22
David Laws

We have been faced with so much controversy, turnover and inefficiency in city government in the recent past. I know the mayor is a well-meaning man, that has been duped by a carpetbagger. While it is possible that he is more enamored with the title than the welfare of the citizens, I have met him and I know he cares about people. People like the employees that Grayum has victimized for the last several years. People like the citizens of Yelm, who are unwilling participants in this disgrace. Perhaps Grayum has enough character to step down, removing the shadow he has cast over Yelm. More likely, Mayor Foster will see the wisdom in cutting ties with this individual. After all, he staked a promising political career on this relationship and it is ending this way. I bet we have seen the last of Grayum. If not, January isn’t far off, and I can’t see Joe DePinto keeping this character around.

Thursday, September 23