In response to allegations against mayor Ed Murray—and another Seattle Times report that a CPS caseworker in 1984 concluded he sexually abused Jeff Simpson, one of his original accusers—council member Lorena González on Monday said she's asking the Seattle mayor to reconsider resigning.
In a lengthy press release, González said she was "deeply concerned about this mayor's ability to continue leading" the executive branch and asked him to consider stepping down. She said the city council could take its own actions by next week if Murray chooses to stay. Murray later on Monday said he would not resign, and "such a course of action would not be in the city's best interest."
"While the caseworker's report is not proof of criminal guilt, the gravity of the materials in the findings and the continued attention 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," said González, who's running for reelection this year.
In a discussion at the council briefing Monday morning, however, several council members commented on the Seattle municipal code's restrictions on removing a mayor and said Murray still deserves due process. Four council members—Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess, Debora Juarez, and Bruce Harrell—seemed to lean toward a "no" vote during the council briefing; the council would need a two-thirds majority vote to remove Murray.
"These are very serious charges, no question about that. But as a former prosecuting attorney like council member González, we know that facts matter," Bagshaw said during the public meeting. "I hope that we can avoid grandstanding on this," and went on to cite article five, section 10 of the municipal code: Council members can remove a mayor "for any willful violation of duty, or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude."
Council members, with a two-thirds majority vote, could remove a mayor after a hearing that Murray has a right to attend. Harrell, council president, said for the council to make determinations about a case 33 years ago that occurred in another state—without judicial findings—would be a challenge, to say the least. The council instead should determine "what's in the best interest of the city...It’s been my impression that the mayor's been showing up for his job every single day." He suggested consulting with the city's legal department.
Juarez said as a sexual assault survivor, a former foster child, case manager, and Superior Court judge, she knows "when I look at this from every angle that nobody comes out of this unscathed or unhurt," but said she would rather focus on the city's other pressing issues like the veteran and human services levy. She added that she was taught to forgive, and as an official not elected to "pass judgment on anybody."
Burgess said it was premature for the council to consider removing Murray and advised the council to be "judicious and cautious" about the case.
"I think decisions that the mayor makes about his future is, at this point, his to make," Burgess said. "The city has already turned in many ways to who our next mayor will be. I think that’s a process that’s going to play out."
Updated July 17, 2017, at 5:24pm: This article corrects the numbers of the article and section that addresses removal of the mayor.
Updated July 18, 2017, at 8:34am: This article includes Murray's statement that he wouldn't resign.