Selah will pay former City Administrator Don Wayman $350,000 to settle his claim that he was fired because he was a whistleblower.
City Council members voted 6-0 to direct Mayor Sherry Raymond to sign the agreement to settle Wayman’s claim against the city. Council Member Russ Carlson was not present at the meeting.
All but $100,000 of the settlement will be paid for by the city’s insurance carrier, Washington Cities Insurance Authority, according to a summary of the agenda item.
There was no discussion by council members when the vote was taken. Council Member Kevin Wickenhagen said later in the meeting that the settlement was a difficult but necessary thing.
“When you are dealing with settlements, doing and committing yourself to these kind of things are not what you want to do, but they are in the best interests of the city,” Wickenhagen said.
Joe Henne, Wayman’s successor, said the settlement puts the matter, which he said Raymond had been heavily involved in, to rest.
Wayman’s attorney, Bill Pickett, said the settlement is not vindication for Wayman, as he said that cannot happen, but it brings the matter to an end.
“My hope is that the resolution allows him and his wife and his family to move forward and look toward the future, and not the past,” Pickett said.
One of Wayman’s critics said it was outrageous that he was getting even more money from the city, and taxpayers “should be as outraged as I am.”
“He should have gotten nothing more than what was in his contract,” said Selah resident Bill Callahan, who has sparred with Wayman on various issues. “When they paid him additional salary, that was not a good use of my tax dollars. Any more money at this point is a clear indication of incompetence and fiscal irresponsibility in Sherry Raymond’s administration.”
Raymond declined to comment on that statement.
Wayman, a retired Marine colonel who was hired as city administrator in 2015, was fired May 25 following nearly a year of controversy sparked by his calling the Black Lives Matter movement “a neo-Marxist organization,” as well as disparaging its local supporters.
Wayman directed city workers to erase chalk art that supported the anti-police-brutality movement and remove signs placed along city streets calling for racial equality and Wayman’s firing. That action led to a federal lawsuit filed by the Selah Alliance For Equality and a rewriting of the city’s sign ordinance.
Raymond hasn’t publicly provided details on why Wayman was fired, only saying that his termination was “without cause,” allowing him to collect six month’s salary — $70,158. The city also had to pay Wayman an extra month’s salary, $11,693, plus $3,820.02 in fringe benefits, because it did not give him 30 days’ notice of his firing as required in the contract.
In a letter from Raymond to Wayman obtained by the Yakima Herald-Republic through a Public Records Act request, Raymond told him he was fired for unsatisfactory job performance but did not elaborate on his professional deficiencies.
This summer, Wayman filed a claim against the city alleging that he was fired in retaliation for investigating claims of sexual harassment and hostile work environment within the police department.
Wayman’s investigation into the allegations, which Raymond described in a July statement involved text messages between officers on their personal phones, was taken over by police Chief Dan Christman, who has turned the results over to city officials.
That report, however, has been withheld by the city to give the officers named in it and their union time to file court orders blocking its release.
Pickett, Wayman’s attorney, said that report would change the narrative that has built up around Wayman.
“People are going to be surprised to see who Mr. Wayman was standing up for,” Pickett said Tuesday. “He stands up, first and foremost, for the rule of law.”
Had Wayman pursued his claim, Pickett believes Wayman would have prevailed. But he said going to court is also an expensive and time-consuming proposition with an element of risk.
“People seek to find a way to end the litigation and hopefully move forward,” Pickett said.
Letters of reference
In addition to the payment, the agreement also requires Raymond and Council Member Roger Bell, who is also the mayor pro tem, to write letters of reference for Wayman that speak positively of his tenure.
Also, the city will only be allowed to state Wayman’s position, start and end dates of employment and salary to any prospective employers, as well as offer copies of the letter.
In return, Wayman agrees to drop with prejudice his retaliation claim filed with the state Office of Administrative hearings. By dropping it with prejudice, Wayman cannot refile it.
He can file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Washington Human Rights Commission on any claim of discrimination, harassment or retaliation, but he agrees he will not seek nor accept any damages awarded by those entities.
City Attorney D.R. “Rob” Case was not involved in drafting the agreement, according to city documents. Instead, an attorney retained by the insurance carrier represented the city in the discussions.
Case represents Wayman in a defamation lawsuit involving allegations of misconduct when Wayman was a JROTC instructor in Texas.