Several frontrunners in the race to succeed Mayor Ed Murray—plus one prominent city council member—are calling for the mayor to resign after the latest revelations related to accusations that Murray sexually abused teens in the 1980s. Documents published by the Seattle Times Sunday show that a child welfare investigator determined in 1984 that Murray sexually abused his foster son. The records—the latest news related to allegations the Times first reported in April—were previously thought to be destroyed.
Jenny Durkan, the former U.S. attorney who several weeks ago celebrated Murray's endorsement of her bid for mayor, now says Murray should "reflect deeply about whether he could continue to lead and what is in the best interests of the city." Durkan said she spoke with Murray last night and "told him I was very troubled by" the latest Times story.
Former state representative and current mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell said Murray should resign. "The latest revelations from the Oregon Child Protective Serivces report shed new light on Mayor Murray and his past," said Farrell, who had previously characterized a lawsuit against Murray as "the politics of personal destruction." Like Durkan, Farrell sought Murray's endorsement. Both Farrell and Durkan are working with consultants who previously worked for Murray.
Earlier in the year, two other frontrunners, Mike McGinn and Cary Moon, called on Murray to resign. Nikkita Oliver's campaign plans to issue a statement later today. UPDATE: In a statement, Oliver said, "of course" Murray should resign.
"It’s a tragedy that in this circumstance, every system has failed to hold him accountable," Oliver said. "After all, accountability—to each other, one’s community, one’s constituents—is a necessary condition for justice. The continuous rehashing of this in a very public way, without any substantive pursuit of accountability re-traumatizes countless victims and survivors of sexual abuse. At this point, if he doesn’t hold himself to account, the burden falls on other elected officials and the city council."
UPDATE: Striking a different tone than his opponents, state senator Bob Hasegawa issued a statement saying he finds the latest revelations about the child welfare investigator's report to be "deeply disturbing," but doesn't call for or suggest Murray to resign. Citing the 75th anniversary of Japanese American internment, he cites the importance of due process. "I hope that whatever decision Ed Murray makes is done first and foremost with the best interest of the people in Seattle in mind," he says.
Seattle City Council member Lorena González issued a statement this morning saying Murray should resign and work with the city council to transition power. (If Murray steps down, Council President Bruce Harrell has five days to accept the mayorship, according to the city charter. If Harrell declines, the council will vote to select one of its members and then appoint someone to fill that council member's seat.) If Murray does not resign, the council should "convene its own committee to determine if a transition in Executive leadership is merited under these circumstances" by next Monday, July 24, González said. The city charter requires a two-thirds vote of the city council to impeach a mayor.
"This situation is unprecedented in our city’s history," said González, who before running for office worked as legal counsel to Murray. "We cannot pretend otherwise."
When the allegations first surfaced in April, González joined the majority of her council colleagues in refusing to comment about the allegations or Murray's response. In an endorsement interview with The Stranger last month, González said she now believes she should have said publicly that Murray's attempts to discredit his accusers did a "disservice to survivors" and if she could go back, she would say so publicly.
Today, González called herself "a dogged advocate for sexual abuse survivors."
"I take these administrative findings very seriously, and they raise grave concerns," González said. "Those concerns include creating a chilling effect on the willingness of other similarly-situated sexual abuse survivors to come forward and break the silence."
UPDATE: Several council members discussed the allegations and potential impeachment during this morning's council briefing. González said she read through all of the documents published by the Times and spoke to Murray. “I feel like I have to say publicly that it brings me no joy—in fact it brings me a lot of sadness—that we have to be having this conversation to begin with," González said, carefully avoiding an explicit call to impeach Murray and urging a "collaborative" approach.
Several other council members were skeptical of trying to pressure Murray out of office.
"These are very serious charges—no question about that," Council Member Sally Bagshaw said, "but as a former prosecuting attorney... we know that facts matter and the allegations that are in the newspaper again yesterday, I want to just point out again that these are 30 years old. I hope that we can avoid grandstanding on this."
Harrell said the council could find itself "in a situation to make factual and legal determinations of something that occurred 33 years ago and in another state, which is a tall drink of water, by the way."
Both Bagshaw and Harrell emphasized the language in the city charter saying the mayor can be removed from office "for any willful violation of duty or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude." In a removal process, the mayor would be entitled to a public hearing where, the charter says, the mayor can "be present, to the aid of counsel, to offer evidence and to be heard in his or her own behalf." Harrell said he would seek advice from the council's legal staff about that process.
But Harrell also praised Murray for "just showing up for his job every single day."
"The measurement by which we should also consider all of our actions is: What is in the best interest of this city and is he showing up every single day doing the job?" Harrell said.
Council Member Debora Juarez said she is a survivor of sexual assault, but "I was not elected—and on a personal note, I wasn't raised—to pass judgment on anybody."
"I know that forgiveness is hard but I also know that when you forgive that doesn't mean you forget," Juarez continued. "It just means something happened but it doesn't define you." Juarez characterized the news as a distraction from other city issues, like affordable housing funding, safe consumption sites, and police reform.
Council Member Tim Burgess said the council should "be very cautious and judicious" moving forward and Council Member Rob Johnson said the city should "redouble our commitment" to groups that work with survivors of sexual abuse.