On May 17, Sammamish City Council voted 4-3 to release all reports, facts, and findings from the ethics investigation of former city manager Dave Rudat.
The Sammamish Independent obtained a copy of the investigation report in mid-June.
The report found that Mr. Rudat allowed his daughter Stephanie Rudat, who is not a city employee, to access confidential information on multiple occasions, thereby violating the city’s employment rules.
Ms. Rudat, who is the administrator of two influential Facebook groups — Sammamish, WA and Vote Sammamish — then fed this information to Miki Mullor, the former editor of the Sammamish Comment, a local blog. Mullor wanted inside knowledge on what was happening at city hall to publish on his blog, according to Ms. Rudat.
Mullor and Ms. Rudat established regular communication on WhatsApp after Mullor, who was well connected with the council majority at the time, helped her father get appointed as city manager in early 2020. Their conversations were documented in the report.
The investigator found at least five instances where Ms. Rudat revealed confidential information regarding the city’s legal cases to Mullor.
Ms. Rudat admitted to the investigator that she sometimes “listened in on her father’s work conversations.” In one instance, Ms. Rudat overheard her father’s phone call with Peter Eglick, a land use attorney hired by the city to handle growth management issues. This happened when she was driving Mr. Rudat from the airport. Despite the conversation involving attorney-client privileged information, Ms. Rudat conveyed what she heard to Mullor.
In the report, both Dave and Stephanie Rudat admitted that unintentional leaks may have occurred. Mr. Rudat conceded that he might have shared information when “venting to” his daughter. Ms. Rudat admitted to eavesdropping on her father’s conversations with city staff and council members, and then sharing what she heard with Mullor.
Although the investigation did not find conclusive evidence that Mr. Rudat intentionally leaked anything confidential, it also could not rule it out because of his close relationship with his daughter, as well as her active role in city politics.
The report did, however, conclude that Mr. Rudat failed to effectively safeguard the city’s attorney-client privileged communications, which is a violation of the city’s employment policy to “maintain the confidentiality of City information.”
In light of the findings, the council voted on March 1 to offer a separation agreement to Mr. Rudat, and he was gone by the end of the month.
Surprisingly, the investigation was initiated by Mullor, who for unknown reasons, had a falling out with the Rudats. The report said that in April 2021, Mullor accused Ms. Rudat of disclosing confidential information to several council members. A month later, Mullor submitted to the council excerpts of those WhatsApp messages he and Ms. Rudat exchanged, thus revealing that he was the actual recipient of the confidential information. The council then voted to initiate the investigation.
The report also detailed that Ms. Rudat does not believe she did anything wrong in eavesdropping on her father’s confidential conversations with council members.
“Ms. Rudat emphasized that she has received ‘way more’ information from the Council than from listening in on her father’s conversations with them, and that if Councilmembers thought that her listening to their conversations was bad, they were being ‘mighty hypocritical’,” the report quoted Ms. Rudat as saying.
Ms. Rudat alleged that certain council members shared confidential information with her long before her father became city manager. The report did not reveal who these council members were.
After the investigation concluded in October 2021, the council only released a summary of the findings, and held multiple failed votes to release the full report. The gridlock ended after three new council members joined in January and Pam Stuart was appointed back onto the council in May.
Then-deputy mayor Kali Clark, and council members Amy Lam, Karen Howe, and Stuart supported the May 17 motion to release the report. Then-mayor Christie Malchow, and council members Karen Moran and Kent Treen, voted against it.
Malchow said, “I don’t know that it does anything to help the city to release that.”
Stuart, however, argued that “for the government to truly be of the people, by the people, for the people, the default always has to be that all business is done in open, and all information is shared with the people unless there is a clear and present danger or harm in doing so.”
Lam, siding with Stuart and Howe, accused the dissenters of not valuing “transparency and accountability” and being motivated by “self-interests under the guise of protecting the city.”
Councilmember Moran responded that the release could “risk and put the city in [legal] jeopardy.”
You can read the full ethics investigation of former city manager Dave Rudat here.