Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will not step down following comments from city council members Monday.
“I know that today a member of the council has issued a statement calling on me to resign, and warning of action against me if I do not,” Murray said Monday afternoon. “I continue to believe such a course of action would not be in the city’s best interest. That is why I am not going to resign, and intend to complete the few remaining months of my term as mayor.”
That council member was Lorena Gonzalez who said she is “deeply concerned” by an Oregon Child Protective Services investigation that found Mayor Ed Murray allegedly abused a foster son in the 1980s. The investigation also concluded that he should never be a foster parent again.
Though the investigation is not proof of criminal guilt, “the gravity of the materials in the finding and the continued attention to these issues will receive, raise questions about the ability of the Mayor, his office, his Department heads, and senior management to remain focused on the critical issues facing our city,” Gonzalez wrote. “As a result, I am asking the Mayor to consider stepping down as Mayor and to work collaboratively with a subcommittee of the City Council to craft an Executive Leadership Transition Strategy.”
Gonzalez says if the mayor does not step down, the city council should convene its own committee to determine if a “transition” in leadership is merited.
“A collaborative approach is my preferred approach but the leadership of this City, including the Mayor, must proceed in a manner that will balance the ongoing need to effectively govern while acknowledging the grave harm caused by proceeding with a status-quo mentality. This situation is unprecedented in our city’s history. We cannot pretend otherwise.”
Murray disagrees with Gonzalez. He said this administration has continued to do good work for the city, such as his body cam executive order and the opening of the Navigation Center for homeless individuals.
“Seattle needs steady, focused leadership over the next several months,” Murray said. “We have a lot of work to do. Establishing an effective transition between administrations takes months of careful planning and preparation – work that I and my team have already begun. We do not need the sort of abrupt and destabilizing transition that a resignation would create, likely bringing the city’s business to a grinding halt. Council action against me would similarly prevent the city’s business from continuing, only so I can again show these allegations from 30 years remain false.”
According to a report originally obtained by The Seattle Times, a child welfare investigator in Oregon in 1984 concluded that Murray did abuse a foster son. That, according to the Times, validated Jeff Simpson’s abuse allegations. Simpson is one of four men who has accused Murray of abuse.
Earlier this year, Murray dropped out of the race for mayor due to allegations of child abuse. However, the man who filed a civil lawsuit against Murray dropped it — at least for now. Murray said at the time the decision to drop the lawsuit vindicated him.
Murray thought about re-entering the race as a write-in candidate, but decided against it.
When contacted by the Times about the case in Oregon, Murray pointed out the fact that the case was withdrawn before a jury could vote to indict him.
“Other than the salacious nature of it, I don’t see what the story is,” Murray told the Times. “The system vindicated me. They withdrew the case.”
Council members respond
Several of the city council members weighed in on the statement released by Gonzalez on Monday morning.
Sally Bagshaw said she agrees that the “charges” against Murray are serious, but points out that the findings from the child services investigation are decades old. She hopes the council can avoid “grandstanding” on the issue.
Council President Bruce Harrell said now is the time for strong leadership and said the council should seek legal advice before taking any steps.
Debora Juarez said that nobody comes out of a situation like this “unhurt.” However, she says she is more concerned about the city’s current issues and legislation, such as safe consumption sites, affordable housing, and the Seattle Police Department.
Burgess said any decision Murray makes about the future is his to make.
“The process outlined for the council to consider removing him is very clear and premature at this point,” he said.