More than a week after their vote, few details have emerged why four Sequim city councilors called for city manager Charlie Bush’s resignation.
Following an executive session on Jan. 11, the council voted 4-2 to negotiate Bush’s resignation to end the top city administrator’s five-plus-year tenure.
A second executive session is planned during the next Sequim City Council virtual meeting starting at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25.
Councilors have tentatively agreed to offer a separation agreement that Bush and city attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross are working on, city staff confirmed.
Bush’s contract notes that he earns $120,000 a year as an at-will employee who must provide 30 days notice if he voluntarily resigns. If terminated for any reason other than “cause,” the contract states, he receives six months’ salary and six months worth of health benefits. However, according to the contract, if Bush is terminated for cause he receives unpaid compensation and benefits accrued to the date of termination.
Sequim mayor William Armacost said in an interview following the vote that there was nothing illegal regarding Bush’s actions, and that the city manager’s resignation was “a combination of things over quite a while” and “not a knee-jerk reaction.”
In a statement to the Peninsula Daily News, Armacost declined to comment about why the council is seeking Bush’s resignation, saying, “It is my duty to listen to my fellow members of the Sequim City Council during executive session as specified under Washington state law (and it makes) executive sessions confidential.”
City councilors who could be reached declined to comment on any discussion regarding Bush in the executive session.
They did confirm Bush was present during the executive session.
Councilor Brandon Janisse asked for the discussion to be public but his motion was voted down.
Bush did not ask for the discussion to be public while in executive session, some city councilors indicated.
Both Armacost and Bush chose not to comment in follow-up requests for comments.
“At this stage of where things are, it’s not helpful or appropriate for me to comment,” Bush told the Peninsula Daily News.
Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell, who voted to keep Bush and the discussion about his resignation public, said the executive session “wasn’t a quiet meeting.”
Ferrell said, “We came out to the public and voted on it. I may not like that vote, but I have to respect that vote. I don’t care if it’s a national election or a small town city council; that’s my part as a citizen.”
Janisse spoke out during the council meeting, saying he didn’t agree with what was going on.
In a phone interview, Ferrell said Bush’s performance was “perfect for the role we had to play with COVID and basically growing the city.”
He added, “We collaborated a lot on the city and had quote active discussions bouncing ideas off each other. He (Bush) had a great vision, and I was happy for the role he was in.
“From my perspective, I don’t see any issues and that’s why I clearly voted no.”
Councilor Sarah Kincaid said in a phone interview that the vote “was done above board and according to the law.”
She, like several other councilors, cited state regulations that executive sessions are private.
One thing that didn’t come up, she said, was QAnon.
“That’s not an issue related to this,” she said.
Last September, Bush issued statements with Armacost that it was inappropriate for the mayor to share his support for QAnon after a listener question on a Coffee with an Aug. 27 Mayor KSQM radio broadcast.
Armacost publicly voiced his support for QAnon, a conspiracy theory whose supporters allege a cabal of elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and the media are plotting against President Donald Trump.
Both Armacost and Bush issued statements days later. Armacost said it was inappropriate for him to air his personal views on the program, while Bush said the mayor’s opinions do not reflect policy positions of the city.
During public comments on Jan. 11, community members asked Armacost to resign and/or renounce QAnon following the Jan. 6 storming of the nation’s capitol building, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports involved QAnon supporters.
Armacost did not comment at the meeting on this, nor in a request for comment.
During the August radio session, Armacost “encouraged people to do their own research.”
“Everyone has the right to their own politics,” Kincaid said. “I would stand up for everybody even if I disagree with them.”
When asked if efforts by the community group Sequim Good Governance League — a recently formed group supporting Bush — would influence her decision about the mayor, Kincaid said they are “more of a cancel culture and hardly the American way.
“I’ve known the mayor for 20 years, and I feel he’s a good man,” she said.
Councilor Keith Larkin, who was appointed in October, voted for Bush’s resignation but also wouldn’t comment on why because of state law.
As for QAnon, Larkin said he doesn’t know what it is and “can’t offer an opinion one way or another.”
Ferrell said he doesn’t “support any conspiracy theories, plain and simple.”
Councilor Mike Pence could not be reached for comment.
Since the Jan. 11 meeting, support for Bush has come from Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam tribal chairman, Clallam County commissioner Mark Ozias, and the Sequim Good Governance League, which has nearly 1,000 signatures online seeking his reinstatement.
Dennis Smith, who helped hire Bush, resigned for personal reasons the week prior to councilors voting for Bush’s resignation. But one of his proudest achievements was hiring Bush with fellow councilors, he said.
Community members opposed to the tribe’s proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) facility have in recent months called for Bush’s resignation, citing his leadership in the city’s handling of the permitting process. Of their many concerns, residents sought a C-2 application for the project — a process approved by the city council — rather than the A-2 process, which is approved by city staff.
It’s unknown if the MAT process was discussed as part of his resignation.
Last February, Bush announced his plan to resign to hike the Appalachian Trail, but about a month later and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bush asked to be reinstated, which council members agreed to on March 23.
For more information on Sequim City Council, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4139.