Puyallup Mayor Rick Hansen
Puyallup Mayor Rick Hansen, on the wrong side of two complaints from a city employee alleging inappropriate contact, was formally and publicly admonished by the Puyallup City Council last night for his actions. It serves as a slap on the wrist for Hansen; what comes next remains somewhat unclear.
Puyallup Mayor Rick Hansen
According to City of Puyallup Public Affairs Officer Glenda Carino, as far as the city and city council are concerned, last night's admonishment marks the end of the situation. Carino says no additional punishment for Hansen is planned.
"I know there will be no further action from the council or city," says Carino.
News of the complaints against Hansen became public in July after a News Tribune public records request brought the situation to light. At the time, details of the complaint against Hansen were vague, noting only that there were allegations of some form of inappropriate behavior on the mayor's part, and that he'd been encouraged to attend training in response to the complaints.
Yesterday, however, just prior to the evening city council meeting where the mayor was admonished, the Trib reports that it received from the city "a single page of typed notes from an April 24 meeting that two city attorneys and Puyallup's human resources director had with the female city worker who made the complaint." The notes describe in more depth the complaints made against Hansen.
According to the Trib, on April 19 a city employee complained that Hansen made a "playful and flirtatious, but not intimidating," gesture toward her at an office copy machine. Hansen apparently put his hand on the woman's shoulder while she was having trouble with the copier, leaned toward her and asked, ""What would you say if I told you I was a little bit afraid of you?" When the woman backed away, the mayor apparently asked, "Would you say you'd be a little afraid of me?" The woman reportedly responded, "No."
Then, on April 24, employees were discussing the meaning of some ribbons that had been hung on trees outside the office. Noting that the ribbons were for a cancer walk, according to the Trib Hansen is accused of touching the woman's hip, "toward the front, close to her abdomen" and pointing out that the ribbons were the same color as her shirt.
At last night's council meeting, Hansen told those gathered he was "truly sorry and embarrassed," according to the Trib's story, claiming there was "no improper intent," behind his actions. The paper also reports that Hansen attended one-on-one human resources training paid for by the city.
While it seems the City of Puyallup and its council has closed the book on the complaints against Hansen, it's unclear whether the possibility of civil action still exists. The News Tribune story notes that Hansen "wanted to provide more information to the public earlier but was discouraged from doing so by an attorney for the city's insurance provider" - a statement that seems to suggest the city is interested in covering itself from a potential lawsuit. I've put a message in to the Puyallup City Attorney regarding this possibility, and when they respond I'll update this post accordingly.