Mallahan: Time for Crunican to Go

By Erica C. Barnett July 15, 2009

[Note: This post, originally posted around 12:30 this afternoon, has been updated. And updated again.]

[caption id="attachment_9528" align="alignnone" width="170" caption="Nickels and Crunican"]Nickels and Crunican [/caption]

Mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan issued a statement this morning demanding that Seattle Department of Transportation director Grace Crunican resign for "for bad management practices, not taking accountability for cost overruns, and for habitually withholding information." Crunican has been in the crosshairs for several months over her disastrous handling of last winter's snowstorm, reports of discrimination by SDOT managers, numerous complaints from disgruntled workers, and reports of botched street repairs . (Council member Tim Burgess, meanwhile, defends SDOT here .)

"It is time for Grace Crunican to step down and if Mayor Nickels won't make it happen before his time is up, then I urge the City Council to take a no-confidence vote on the Transportation Department Director," Mallahan said in a statement.  "If I am elected mayor, there will be new leadership at SDOT."

On the phone a few hours after sending out his statement, Mallahan told me he thought SDOT was "dysfunctional," in part as a result of Nickels' "vindictive management style."

"He has inculcated a culture of fear throughout the city," Mallahan says—as demonstrated by the fact that city workers cleared streets around Nickels' house first during the snowstorm, without directly being asked. "When your employees are more afraid of the boss than they are interested in serving the people, there's something wrong."

Interestingly, Mallahan's words echo what Nickels himself said on the campaign trail in 2001 , when he vowed to "tear—SeaTran [the old name for SDOT]—apart--and put it back together again, so that it works.... I'm going to be replacing a significant number of department heads." Nickels replaced then-SeaTran head Daryl Grigsby with Crunican early in his first term.

Mayoral candidate and city council member Jan Drago is also a recent convert to the anti-Crunican crowd, harshly interrogating and criticizing the transportation director during a recent transportation committee meeting. (City hall observers have noted that Drago had no problem with Crunican until she was running against the mayor who appointed her head of SDOT).

Although rumors are circulating that Crunican is on the block, at a press conference this afternoon, Nickels implied strongly that she was safe. He said that although there had been some mistakes at SDOT, there had also been significant progress in a number of areas—such as building the streetcar from downtown to South Lake Union.

Asked whether Nickels was planning to let Crunican go, mayoral spokesman Alex Fryer said simply, "No."
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