Ex-SeaTac Department Head Sues Over Firing

by Jack Mayne

Former SeaTac Director of the Community and Economic Development Cynthia Baker is suing SeaTac City Manager Todd Cutts as well as all seven members of the City Council to get her old job back.

Baker was fired last summer when Cutts, backed up by Human Resources Director Anh Hoang, said he had lost “faith in her abilities to manage the department” and placed her on administrative leave, then terminated her on Aug. 8.

Her federal court action, which was filed Nov. 9, demands a jury trial. The suit says Baker was originally brought in as a contactor to act as a “change agent with the understanding that it was part of her job to shake up what had become stagnant and inefficient operations.”

She worked through a probationary period and her suit says that during that time, Cutts had evaluated her twice and found her work to be “satisfactory or above in all categories.”

But by late March, Baker was told to meet with Cutts and Hoang, at which time the lawsuit says Hoang “commenced exhaustive interrogation sessions that lasted approximately 30 hours over a period of two or three weeks. At no time during these sessions was Baker told by Cutts or Hoang what if any specific issues there were with her performance or conduct; rather, they spoke only in vague generalities.”

The federal suit, filed by Seattle attorney Jon Howard Rosen, says Baker was wrongfully discharged without cause and seeks her return to her job with back pay and her legal costs, plus punitive and economic damages in an amount that would be proven in a trial.


4 Responses to “Ex-SeaTac Department Head Sues Over Firing”
  1. Concerned Business says:

    That is funny I remember a discussion with a soon to be ,Council member who stated that this person was a problem!!!! Hmmmm how long was this in the works.

  2. Earl Gipson says:

    Having read both the SeaTac internal investigation and the lawsuit this has the indications of a political action versus an employment action. The behaviors of Ms. Baker described in the investigation were not apparent to myself and others in the business community, however, I and others did not work with her 8 hours a day.

    No matter how this plays out it is interesting that a jury trial has been demanded and I for one will be in the gallery to watch.

    The SeaTac Planning Department has been wrought with difficulties for years and at least half the staff have departed and some under a cloud stemming from its dealings with local Citizens and businesses. As far as I know, Ms. Baker’s termination did not coincide with difficulties of this nature but was an internal/political matter.

    As reported before, any new non-represented employees are “at will” versus “for cause” and this policy was changed/enacted shortly after Ms. Baker’s termination. Following the dots this appears to be connected in some manner.

    Regardless of the above, the City has a major Zoning Code Update pending, a State required Comprehensive Plan update due shortly, and numerous planning issues in limbo. The City needs to its act together, take drastic action, and/or terminate some other leadership positions.


  3. Concerned Citizen of SeaTac says:

    Sometimes a little common sense can prevent these types of lawsuits. Had city management conducted a decent background/reference check or even a simple Google search, they would have seen that the fomer CED Director had a sketchy and problematic work history. Although ethics and legality are important, city management needs to go back to the basics of doing their homework and making wiser decisions.

  4. Citizen Update says:

    Update to Lawsuit from Public Records on Internet:

    MINUTE ORDER SETTING TRIAL DATE AND RELATED DATES, AND DESIGNATING CASE FOR MEDIATION; Length of Trial: *8 days*. Mediation shall be completed no later than thirty (30) days prior to the trial date. Jury Trial is set for 2/18/2014 at 01:30 PM before Judge James L. Robart. Joinder of Parties due by 3/7/2013, Amended Pleadings due by 8/22/2013, Expert Witness Disclosure/Reports under FRCP 26(a)(2) due by 8/22/2013, Motions due by 9/23/2013, Discovery completed by 10/21/2013, Dispositive motions due by 11/20/2013, Settlement conference to be held by 12/20/2013, Motions in Limine due by 1/7/2014, Pretrial Order due by 1/30/2014, Pretrial Conference set for 2/3/2014 at 02:30 PM before Judge James L. Robart. Trial briefs to be submitted by 2/10/2014, Proposed voir dire/jury instructions due by 2/10/2014, by Judge James L. Robart. (CC)