After four months of suspense and nine months of hours-long executive sessions, Sammamish City Council finally voted on Tuesday to offer a separation agreement to City Manager Dave Rudat.
The decision comes after an internal ethics investigation found that Rudat had failed to safeguard confidential city information. A 4-2 vote, with councilmembers Karen Moran and Kent Treen dissenting, passed the motion, which will come into effect on March 31. Mayor Christie Malchow provided the swing vote, siding with three new council members Kali Clark, Karen Howe, and Amy Lam to pass the motion.
Rudat has been serving as city manager since Feb. 2020. He first served in an interim capacity before being appointed to the full post in June of that year.
Rudat’s employment agreement (beginning page 5) gives him a minimum severance pay of six months of salary and benefits, plus all accrued vacation time and 50% of accrued sick leave. While the contract would allow the council to terminate his employment without severance pay given “cause,” the council instead chose to pay the contractual amount, plus an additional six months of salary and benefits. The council will also provide Rudat with a letter of accomplishments for his work over the past two years, making the separation seemingly amiable.
A source with intimate knowledge of the council’s decision-making estimated the severance pay to total about $400,000.
The source also explained why the severance pay might be so high, despite Rudat’s violation of the city’s employee handbook.
“In his contract, the city manager can request a public hearing,” the source said. “If the city had cause to fire him with no severance, then the city should have offered him what’s in his contract. The only reason you wouldn’t do that is if he was demanding a public hearing, and you didn’t want there to be a public hearing.”
To explain why council members might not want a public hearing, the source referenced the public comment from Michael Scoles, a founder of the Sammamish Life PAC, at the Nov. 16 city council meeting. Scoles has been a prolific fundraiser for anti-development candidates across several Sammamish elections, and made the public comment in Rudat’s defense.
Scoles accused all of the council members serving then of “being guilty of what Dave is being condemned for,” namely disclosing confidential information. He cited his own interactions with Moran, Malchow, Treen, Tom Odell, Chris Ross, and Ken Gamblin, where such information was allegedly shared with him.
Currently, Malchow, Moran, and Treen still sit on the council.