Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes has now apologized for buying pot during working hours and stashing the baggies in his office at City Hall.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Holmes acknowledged that his actions were in violation of a city policy that prohibits employees from possessing marijuana while on city premises, or while conducting official business off city premises.
The admission came after KIRO Radio twice asked the City Attorney’s Office whether Holmes violated the city’s drug-free workplace policy when he purchased two, two-gram baggies of pot in front of news cameras on the opening day of recreational marijuana sales.
Holmes released the following statement:
The City of Seattle is a “drug-free workplace” under federal law, and our personnel rules reflect these sound workplace policies. Not only are controlled substances (like marijuana) banned from city offices, City employees cannot possess them while on City business.
So what is the rule when “City business” includes successful drug policy reform – specifically, transition from prohibition to a fully legal, regulated and taxed marijuana supply system? I was elected to drive such reform, and to eradicate the illegal marijuana market. I intended my public purchase at Seattle’s first legal store to bolster the transition.
The workplace rule has not changed, however. When I brought the unopened marijuana to City offices – trying to keep up with a busy schedule — I nonetheless violated the City’s rules. At the end of the business day, I took the marijuana home and left it there, still unopened, before I participated in the second Community Walk of the Mayor’s Summer of Safety.
I have discussed the violation with the City Personnel Department director, and I have volunteered to donate $3,000 to the Downtown Emergency Service Center. I apologize to my employees, all City employees and to the public.
Because the City of Seattle receives federal funding, it is bound by the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988.
Susan Coskey, the city’s personnel director, reminded employees of the policy in an internal memo on Wednesday.
“Under federal law, marijuana remains a Schedule I (illegal) drug, and the city must prohibit the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession or use of a controlled substance on city premises or while conducting city business on or off of city premises,” Coskey wrote in the memo.
She noted that “violation of the City’s Drug-Free Workplace Policy may subject an employee to disciplinary actions.”
On Tuesday, when Holmes was asked by reporters at Cannabis City whether he violated any policies or ordinances when he bought the pot, he said no. When asked Thursday, in light of Coskey’s email, whether he had violated the drug-free policy, his office replied “No,” twice.
Several city employees expressed concern to KIRO Radio that Holmes was being held to a different standard and that others would be disciplined for buying pot while on the job or for bringing it to work.
A high-ranking member of the Seattle Police Department’s top brass, who asked to speak on the condition of anonymity because of the politics involved, called Holmes’ behavior “irresponsible” and said he displayed “a lack of common sense.”