Jim Smith breaks his silence: The truth about the Racism Report

LYNNWOOD, August 31, 2022—In a third-party investigation by Haggard & Ganson LLP of allegations against Councilman Jim Smith concludes that “claims of race and sex discrimination” by City Executive Assistant Leah Jensen is substantiated but the claim of a hostile work environment by City of Lynnwood Race and Social Justice Coordinator Douglas Raiford was “not substantiated.” Below is an exclusive four-page statement given to the Lynnwood Times by Councilmember Smith addressing the attorney’s findings:

As Councilmembers, it is our responsibility to hold the Executive branch accountable. Asking for information does not equate to “directing their work”, and certainly is not harassment. In fact, asking for information is one of our important responsibilities. There must be transparency…not secrecy.

The recent report is misleading and distorts the evidence regarding the claims of racism and sexism. The comments are heavy on subjective views and lacking in facts and evidence.

Also troubling is the fact that there was never any attempt to bring the parties together in order to resolve any issues.  A staff member filed a complaint on May 9, 2022. The complaint was immediately escalated and brought to a Council Executive Session that evening. The mayor had already arranged for an attorney of her choosing to be contracted that night for $20,000 and begin an investigation. The attorney was not vetted by the Council and never met with the Council…ever. This appears to be an attempt to cancel out a representative of the people of Lynnwood. 

But I will not be bullied nor silenced!

A couple months went by before the attorney finally met with me. The actual complaint was not provided. After requesting a copy of the complaint it was later sent to me. However, the attorney never met with me again (or the Council) to go over the actual complaint.

So, here is the actual complaint filed by the mayor’s executive assistant as well as my replies to each issue.

Harassment and sexism

  • CM Smith attempted to direct my work by requesting information that I provide to council twice a year. My position is supervised by the Mayor, not by council members.

The mayor does supervise the executive assistant. However, that does not prevent Councilmembers (or the public) from making requests. In fact, the mayor’s Communications Guidelines specifically indicates that “you may send an email to the mayor’s executive assistant.”  Additionally, the  Communications Guidelines specifically requests Councilmembers to “directly email the contact person listed on the agenda.” The mayor’s executive assistant was specifically listed as the contact person for the DEIC confirmation agenda.

  • CM Smith requested information from a male staff member. The staff member sent a reply by email. CM Smith did not respond to the male staff member’s email. I received the same request from CM Smith. t replied to his email with basically the same message that he received from my male coworker. However, CM Smith continued to send me emails with a demand for the information. He also instructed the Council’s Executive Assistant to send me emails.

It was discovered by the investigator that the male staff member never sent the reply to me.  He wrote it but never sent it. This pretty much nullifies this portion of the sexist complaint. There has never been a duplicate request sent to both parties. 

Racism

  • CM Smith requested information about DEIC applicants that is not within the purview of a council member. He asked for addresses of DEI applicants and commissioners, but never questioned the residency of any of the other board or commission applicants.

In previous years the Council has been provided unredacted applications of all commission applicants. That was appropriate since there are residency requirements for most commissions. I requested the address of the DEIC applicant since they were not listed in Lynnwood on the County voter registration list. That list is public information. The non-DEIC applicants were on the voter list so that information was not needed.

  • CM Smith is attempting to block the confirmation of a DEIC applicant by changing the ordinance that governs who is qualified to serve on the commission.

Not true at all. We are governed by the Lynnwood Municipal Code (LMC) that is in effect. There are several Councilmembers that are requesting better clarification within our code.

  • CM Smith is attempting to persuade other council members to question the qualifications of the candidate.

As Councilmembers it is our responsibility to verify the qualifications of all candidates for all Boards and Commissions. Questioning residency and voter registration per our LMC is being responsible, not racist.

  • CM Smith’s attempts to persuade other council members to join his desire to rewrite an ordinance to meet his objective is institutionalized racism and should not be tolerated.

Again, I was not the one that brought up updating the ordinance.  The updates that have been discussed by Council include residency requirements as well as voter registration requirements.  These changes would be totally color blind. Claims that Council action is “institutionalized racism” is inaccurate and slanderous.

After experiencing this inaccurate investigation, it was obvious that the attorney was not independent, but, rather, acted as the investigator, judge and jury on behalf of the complaining side.

It also appeared that, unfortunately, a few members associated with the DEIC were furthering their desire to keep “older, white, cis-gendered males” out of their meetings and off the commission. Rather than being welcoming, I’ve seen ironic racism, sexism, and ageist discrimination from a group that is supposed to be inclusive and celebrating the diversity of our community.

The bottom line is that all protocols were followed by me and other members of the Council. Hateful speech will not be tolerated in this city. And making non-substantiated claims in order to fulfill a political agenda is not acceptable.

Probably because most of the staff have been working from home these last couple years, there has been very little in-person communications or phone calls.  There has only been four email communications in all of 2022 requesting information from the mayor’s executive assistant. Three of the four were because the mayor’s executive assistant was listed as the contact person of the agenda item.

Even though I completely followed the mayor’s published Communications Guidelines, until I read the report, I was unaware that the engagement with the mayor’s assistant, who is a nice person, felt uncomfortable receiving these email requests for information.

It is unfortunate that City Leadership didn’t address the concerns earlier. We need to find better ways to communicate with each other…and that includes myself.


Below are the four emails sent to the mayor’s executive assistant for all of 2022. Each one was professional and polite.

From: Jim Smith <jsmith@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Sent: Friday, February 18, 2022 3:31 PM
To: Leah Jensen <ljensen@Lynnwoodwa.gov>; Lisa Harrison <lharrison@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Subject: Re: Boards and Commissions Applicants

Leah,

Is there a reason names were removed from the list between June and November? I know of at least one that wanted to stay on the list.

JIm


From: Jim Smith <jsmith@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2022 11:41 AM
To: Leah Jensen <ljensen@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Subject: Applications…

Leah,

Please provide me the non-redacted paperwork for the DEI applicants.  Thank you.

Jim Smith


From: Jim Smith <jsmith@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2022 1:07 PM
To: Leah Jensen <ljensen@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Cc: Christine Frizzell <cfrizzell@Lynnwoodwa.gov>; George Hurst <GHurst@lynnwoodwa.gov>; Douglas Raiford <draiford@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Subject: Re: Applications…

Leah,

Out of courtesy and security we redact people’s address so that it is not on the website.  However, non-redacted versions can be, and should be, provided to the Councilmembers if so requested. I am requesting a non redacted version of each applicant.

Additionally, I am seeing many people that have applied for the DEIC being disregarded.  This certainly does not bode well for our desire to encourage people to apply for various commissions. The last list of applicants was provided in November.  I would think that this is something that is kept up to date.  Because at least one applicant being brought forward was not on the last list, and many long time residents have been overlooked, I am also requesting an updated version of this list. 

Jim Smith


From: Jim Smith <jsmith@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2022 1:14 PM
To: Leah Jensen <ljensen@Lynnwoodwa.gov>
Subject: Requested information…

Leah,

I never received the updated list of Commission applicants nor the two unredacted applicants of the DEIC.  Please send right away.

Jim Smith


Content Source: Jim Smith press release

2 thoughts on “Jim Smith breaks his silence: The truth about the Racism Report

  • September 1, 2022 at 7:48 PM
    Permalink

    Jim Smith acted professionally. From my perspective the aggrieved attempted to use the situation as a way to support a political perspective.

    Reply
  • September 1, 2022 at 9:31 AM
    Permalink

    Allegations of racism and hostile work environment on these very reasonable emails!
    Immediate involvement of attorney without asking the council?
    This looks like a clear case of the mayor acting defensively for a biased and illegal process and a waste of tax payer funds.
    Ashvin sanghvi

    Reply

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