No City Manager search for now; SeaTac mayor won’t reply to most emails

by Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council voted to not seek a permanent City Manager for the next several months, so that James “Donny” Payne can “take a test drive” in the role.

At the same meeting Tuesday (Feb. 23), the Council was told by Mayor Rick Forschler that he would not respond to most email messages because of fears he could inadvertently violate the Washington state Open Meetings Act. He said an email could be forwarded to other members, thus breaking the law against a majority of members discussing a matter in what amounts to privacy.

The Council also heard an officer from the Port of Seattle brief them on plans to expand the airport’s north satellite and the international arrivals facilities, along with a baggage system overhaul planned in the next few years.

Several councilmembers told the Port that it seemed they never paid much attention to city concerns over the rapidly enlarging airport.

Start the manager search
Councilmember Kathryn Campbell wanted the Council to direct interim City Manager Donny Payne to have the city’s Human Resources Department begin the recruitment process for a permanent City Manager.

Campbell also wanted a recruitment plan and proposed timeline be available at the next study session on March 8. Then she wanted updates to the Council on recruitment progress at each city Council study session until a permanent City Manager is selected.

She said she was making the motion because Payne had told her that he was waiting for Council direction to start the search.

But Councilmember Peter Kwon said he thought it was too early.

“It’s only two months into the year,” for such action, Kwon said.

“I think we need to give Donny a little bit of a chance before we decide – maybe a couple of more months.”

That wasn’t what he expected to happen, said Councilmember Tony Anderson, adding he thought that seeking a permanent manager was the first thing that would be done, not giving Payne “a test drive for our permanent city manager.” He said the fact Payne was an interim manager added to the instability of the city administration.

“Pushing it out six months or a year does not contribute to a stable city,” he said.

Councilmember Erin Sitterley said the search should “wait until the city gets on its feet” and that we “we have a capable leader at our helm to help weather some storms … ” and that “we need to give him a chance … so I don’t think it is a good time” to begin a search.

Councilmember Pam Fernald said she didn’t think Payne should take it personally and it was his suggestion to her than the question of a search for a permanent manager but put before the Council. She said it was not a good idea to have taxpayers pay for “a test drive.” Nothing, she added, says permanent than permanent. An interim person should not be hiring permanent staff members.

“If not now, when?” Fernald said.

Precedent cited
Councilmember Michael Siefkes said the former city manager, Todd Cutts, set a precedent because he was an interim city manager for two years before getting the permanent job and much was accomplished during that time.

“I think that, at least in the short term, our current city manager is doing just fine and I don’t want to take our focus off the things that are really important,” Siefkes said. “This is an issue to address a month or two down the road.”

Mayor Rick Forschler said Payne should have a while to stabilize the city administration.

“It’s that stability that we need in order for is to make the changes we have been looking for – code enforcement and filling the vacancies that will get the city stable again before we start making changes that cause more turmoil,” the mayor said, suggesting the search be put off for at least three and possibly six months.

Campbell said that the city requires a deputy city manager to have 10 years experience in government and have advanced degrees.

“I think we need a permanent city manager that as at least those qualifications and the sooner we start looking for one, the better,” she said.

A roll call vote failed 4 to 3, with holdover councilmembers Campbell, Anderson and Fernald voting to start the manager search.

Port’s airport plans
Elizabeth Leavitt, director of planning and environmental programs of the Port of Seattle, briefed the SeaTac Council on the plans to expand the airport’s north satellite, the international arrivals facilities and the baggage system overhaul and reconstruction along with reconstruction of the center runway.

Leavitt said the airport ended 2015 with 42 million passengers, up nearly 13 percent from the previous year. She added that there were $220 million in retail and service sales at the facility and 170,000 jobs were related to airport activity.

Sea-Tac is the fastest growing airport in the nation, Leavitt said, and is forecast to be handling 66 million passengers in 2034, with 540,000 aircraft operations.

“All in the limited footprint of the airport,” she said.

Her presentation said the Port has added eight new gates to the existing 92 gates, but still needs 35 more passenger gates along with rooms to facilitate passengers and processing for passengers.

The long-range master plan will take some time to develop, but there is a need to “remove bottlenecks and chokepoints on airport roadways and drives” and to “potentially build a second terminal to serve more of the new gates” and potentially extend operations with an aircraft bridge across 188th to the south.

The area around the terminal and the runways, and International Boulevard, is a major area for passenger handling and other functions that will have to be moved to make room for accommodating airline passengers (Yellow area of drawing) and cargo handling (in red on the drawing; click image to see larger version):


Port Public Affairs Manager Clare Gallagher said there will be a range of ways to communicate with the citizens of the SeaTac, using community open houses, focus groups and briefings.

Councilmember Pam Fernald said the airport needs to see that residents of the city have “some quiet spots.”

Is Port a good neighbor?
Councilmember Mike Siefkes said he was trying to figure “how good a neighbor the airport has been,” and he wondered, “beyond just being here, I am not sure what the airport has done for the city except providing some employment.”

“I think the relationship has been more one way where the airport has had an impact on the community as far as traffic, pollution … where it hasn’t even made up for the impact … just make up for the negatives of the airport,” Siefkes said.

Mayor Rick Forschler said risk is a major concern of investors and if there is risk of the airport making a major change in the vicinity of the Angle Lake transit station, then “that money is just going to flow someplace else.” He told the Port of Seattle representatives that whatever decision is made in that area, it should be soon “before the investors leave.”

Forschler said people of the don’t have a good answer for Siefkes’ question about how good a neighbor the airport has been to the city – “at least a positive answer.” He told the Port it should at least give the city a letter saying it would consider doing things that would not hinder the potential development of the Angle Lake station area.

He also suggested that the Port consider the potential of moving cargo operations to the west side of the airport so that Highway SR 509 could be utilized.

Councilmember Kathryn Campbell said that Port officials regularly come to tell the city what they are doing but it does not actually consider the problems of the city and its developers.

The Port should look at “how we see you and we see you as a monolith that we can throw rocks against and nothing happens,” she said.

Beep then a dead microphone
Mayor Forschler said the Council will hold commenters to the three-minute time limits and that a beep will sound and then, after 10 second over the time, the city will turn off the commenters’ microphone.

At the opening of public comment at the regular Council meeting, Washington Coalition for Open Government President Toby Nixon said his organization felt limitation on commenting time were reasonable and applicable under the open meeting law but cities are not required to have public comment periods.

Allowing unlimited comment time could take a lot of time during a meeting, said Nixon, who is also a city councilmember in Kirkland.


21 Responses to “No City Manager search for now; SeaTac mayor won’t reply to most emails”
  1. Richard R. says:

    Last time I check the city of SeaTac does NOT have a drive thru window. Why are the four council members so focused on keeping Mr. Payne in the interim city manager position when they should focus on finding a qualified permanent candidate. I’m not comfortable having my tax dollars go to a drive thru manager for on the job experience a city manager! No disrespect to Mr. Payne but he is clearly not qualified for the position, we should be trying to keep our heads above water as a city instead of sinking deeper and deeper. Thank you Mr Mayor please pull forward and pay the window.

    • Publius says:

      Wow!!! These comments are basically saying a Mr. Payne, who is a staff level officer in the US military, is unqualified…

      I hope you take the Yellow Ribbon and Support Our Troops bumper stickers off your car.

  2. Vicki Lockwood says:

    It’s obvious to me that the divide is being orchestrated by the camp of former Council Members who were defeated. They are loving the division and feeding the fire and fanning it at every opportunity. Hopefully those who don’t realize that their strings are being pulled by this disruptive faction will soon see the light.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the 4 new council members are trying to do what is best for our citizens and city. The ridiculous issue of getting a ‘permanent’ City Manager was insane … there is no such thing as a ‘permanent’ job anywhere. Every City Manager serves at the pleasure of the Council, and there is no guarantee how long that pleasure might last … doesn’t matter what the length of the contract states ~ ask Mr. Cutts or Mr. Craig how ‘permanent’ worked out for them (in case you’re new to the history, both were ‘fired’).

    Two of the Council Members who were screaming for an ‘immediate search” were part of the Council that gave Mr. Cutts almost 2 years in the roles of ‘Acting City Manager’ and “Interim City Manager” before they approved his title change to “City Manager”. They were more concerned about taking care of City business during this previous period of change than they were about searching for a new person to fill the job at that time. I can’t help but wonder where their concern for taking care of City business falls on their priority list now.

    Personally, I was tired of the folks who were voted out of office running our city and I’m tired of the destructive influence they are continuing to have on the running of our city!

  3. martinmc says:

    Thank you, Ms Lockwood. For some time now, many have been reading your righteous ramblings about the evil citizens, who previously dared to run for city council, some of whom lost in the last election. I wish we all had your God-given moral ability to discern the “good” people in our community, from the “bad” people. Until you told us, most of us weren’t aware of the perverse , super-secret, conspiracy they masterminded to destroy us. Your righteous indignation and superior moral compass have provided us with excellent tools. We can use these tools to judge one another, ascribe evil motive to our neighbors, and blame, blame, blame. Experts agree, your kind of citizen activism will lead us to unity, understanding, and the consensus necessary to govern in these difficult times. Please, continue. We need someone to constantly remind us that every time this new council makes a mistake, it’s the fault of the old.

  4. Janice Taylor says:

    So me being me, I googled “length of time for an interim manager”:

    This site gave some good data:
    Wikipedia weighs in:

    Apparently interim managers have been utilized since ancient Roman times. Their chief benefits are touted as their range of knowledge and their ability to aid during transitional periods. Sometime bringing in an “outsider” can offer fresh insight and potential solutions.

    Transition is never easy. Feathers are ruffled, egos bruised and power jostled. I think all of Seatac–politicians, employees and citizens–needs to take some deep breaths and relax for a few months. Our city’s troubles were not built in a day, nor will they be solved in one. Council, you are our leaders. You need to assure us all by example: show patience and optimism. And don’t go out of your ways to incite apprehension.

  5. mminnot says:

    Jack: Did the woman from the port explain what would be put in the “areas to accommodate displaced facilities” – the blue area?
    What kind of facilities, I wonder? Hush-houses, for jet run-ups?

  6. Janice Taylor says:

    Regarding our “neighborly” airport:
    Sunday night I picked up a friend, a well-seasoned international traveler, at Seatac. It was an utter mess. He said Seatac has become the worst airport he encounters. When I informed him the Port of Seattle (POS) planned to double traffic, he asked, “Just how?” Very good question.

    Delta Airlines’ expansion already has impacted our neighborhoods. Noise levels are up, as are dust levels (from increased wake turbulence) and vibration levels. Traffic woes are growing. I’ve yet to hear the POS offer any realistic solutions to the problems they are creating, yet they certainly will tell our city what they want from us. The POS can only dangle the withered “jobs created” carrot in our faces. They do not contribute to our property tax roles; in fact, a percentage of our taxes go to them! (If they’re so successful a business, time to stop the subsidies.)

    While Mr. Forschler’s suggestion to move cargo is at least a suggestion, it does nothing but move part of the problem to another local neighborhood. My late husband believed all unnecessary cargo should be moved completely out of Seatac–to Moses Lake or Ephrata whose open spaces and large airports could easily handle the traffic, and existing train tracks could transport goods to the Sound. Of course, the POS would not want to give up that control, and control is the very reason they offer no innovative solutions to their growth issues.

  7. doris cassan says:

    Average minds discuss events

    Poor minds discuss people

    Great minds discuss ideas

    Thanks to the council members who do their research and investigation before voting and bring new ideas to solve problems and who dig deep into how our tax dollars are spent.

    And yes a portion of our property taxes do go to the port but the airport administrators will tell you none goes to the airport all monies collected go to the seaport.

  8. jellybean says:

    My parents house is under the 3rd runway. Planes are so low you can see the pilots and the noise meter box shuts off as the decimal reading is off the charts. I will be personally delivering my parents memorial announcements to the Port of Seattle. They will have a special seat in front at my parents memorials so friends and family can express their feeling of the Port committing murder and how heartless they are.

  9. Jo Hill says:

    I watched the final 30-40 minutes of this past weeks council meeting and I am thoroughly ashamed by what I witnessed. Starting with ms. Campbell in her arrogant and constant challenging behavior and snide commentary particularly in her attempt with emails to draw the mayor into possibly illegal behavior. It’s very clear, ms. Campbell, that you are angry because your little plot was unsuccessful. Ms Fernald should be equally ashamed with her obvious bad behavior since not becoming Mayor which she thought she deserved.
    Referring to the wonderful open govt plaque on the wall and stating that it’s not seeming very open now?! Seriously?! She should be ashamed of herself and her continued attempts to challenge and undermine the mayor which are simply sour grapes.

    Truly embarrassing was Tony Anderson’s attack on a private citizen in this public forum. He accused this individual of trying to discredit and damage him yet that is EXACTLY what he did to mr. Shea with his suggestions of extremism and most shameful, inferring him a racist. He spoke of this citizen trying to discredit him, the messenger? Again- EXACTLY what he did to the decorated war hero Shea (simply because he disagrees with his politics). And last, but not least, he spoke of ethics. Really now?! After he pushed to have the line taken out of the open meetings and then lied to me about why.
    I applaud mr. Siefkes for calling Tony out on his behavior.

    It seems we still have some ‘bad apples’ left on this council. We got rid of most but the remaining few cannot get over their loss of power and are actively working against the new council, and therefore the WILL of the PEOPLE.
    GROW UP or get out!

  10. Janice Taylor says:

    Jo, I would suggest you do as I tend to: research before you post. I just spent an hour looking up Matt Shea. Guess what? He IS radical! His ex-wife filed restraining orders against him, which he violated. He pulled an illegally concealed, loaded gun during a road rage incident. Many in his own Republican Party, including Sen. Rob McCaslin, do not think he is suitable in office. His anger management issues are well documented, even by the military. (I found no evidence of “decorated war hero.” Only a “10-year veteran serving in Bosnia and Iraq.”) His politics are anti-government and, IMO, anti-women. (Sorry, I have a decided issue with forcing rape and incest victims to carry an unwanted fetus.)

    As for you attacks on the council members who opposed Mr. Forschler, you are entitled to your opinion. I must take exception to your portrayal of Ms. Fernald. I’ve known her many years, and I’ve never once heard her express any desire to be Mayor. I know her as a tireless advocate for SeaTac citizens. Remember, she was the one offering to give up her salary to clean up Tub Lake. She also supported all the new council members in their campaigns. As did I.

    Yes, many of us are upset at such a seeming radical shift because we expected more moderation. But it is our job as citizens to direct, monitor and check our elected officials.

  11. Der says:


    Just because Ms. Fernald has never expressed her desire to be Mayor to you does not mean she does not or has never desired to be Mayor.
    You can sense an attitude change in her since the new council members arrived. I have heard things, but they are just speculation and rumors, but it is interesting to see who she votes with now. Usually Tony and Kathryn. One reason could be that she feels like she deserved the position (because she has been there a long time) and now that they’ve chosen someone else, she’s going to side with the others to “stick it to them”.
    Insinuating people are having private meetings behind her back? Low. (see last council meeting video) Half the time they’re talking about something, she doesn’t even know what page they’re on. Of course, neither does Mr. Anderson. Kathryn, bless her heart, tries her hardest to pretend she knows what’s going on. She makes up for it with her amusing dramatic shows. I’ll give her a pass.
    I personally wish Pam poker face, although it’s quite amusing to watch her facial expressions and body language from the audience. I just wish she’d remove all her jewelry when she grabs her head dramatically. The jangling of jewelry gets more attention than she does. From me at least.

  12. seatac resident says:

    Why are you slamming down the three council members? Kathryn, Pam and Tony are addressing a valid point, why are we not starting the recruitment process for City Manager? Why are our tax money going to an Interim City Manager as a test drive? Would any of you not like a chance to become a Interim City Manager and given a chance. The real world does not give chances. This is a crucial time “BUDGET” so far the City has spent, spent, spent. When are they going to address the budget?

    Council member Pam said the right thing about the plaque behind the wall. During the discussion of starting the recruitment process of CM, three SeaTac residents came to the podium and agreed to start the process, no one came up and disagreed however the four new council members still voted no. How is that listening to the needs of SeaTac residents? This is the best example of the council members doing what they want. Shame on the new four.

  13. Der says:

    I don’t know if you know how blogs work, but this is the comment section. You are allowed to leave a comment, which usually contains nothing but your opinion. Feel free to shame me, or be petty and vote me down, but I have just as much right as you do to leave a comment.
    P.s. I read every comment, even if people try to hide them by voting them down. I don’t believe in suppression. It’s reminds me of communism.

  14. Der says:

    And what’s with commenting on people’s comments?? Comment on the blog post, not on people’s comments.

  15. Jo hill says:

    Your ‘so-called’ research on Mr Shea is quite faulty and much has been misrepresented and reported by the ‘nasty’ left who doesn’t agree with his politics.
    In the road rage incident, he was the victim. By showing his gun (even the perpetrator told the police he never pointed it at him) the attacker backed off and this passive action by Shea most likely saved his life.

    He is a decorated war hero:

    Awards Bronze Star Medal
    Meritorious Service Medal
    Army Commendation Medal (2)
    Army Achievement Medal (4)
    Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
    Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
    Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
    Combat Infantryman Badge
    NATO Medal
    Order of the Spur
    Order of Saint Maurice

    Official Military service
    Allegiance United States
    Service/branch United States Army seal United States Army
    Seal of the United States Army National Guard.svg Washington Army National Guard
    Years of service 1996–2000
    Rank US military captain’s rank.gif Captain

    Bosnian War
    Iraq War
    Matthew Thomas “Matt” Shea (born April 18, 1974) is an American politician of the Republican Party. He is a member of the Washington House of Representatives, representing the 4th Legislative District.

    If your an extremist on the left, then you may think a politician who supports Bundy (whom was unfairly targeted and fined by the federal govt) is the extremist.

    • Jo hill says:

      Additionally, his gun was not ‘illegal’. His permit had simply expired. Anyone who has these permits knows this happens frequently since the permit runs for 6 years and no notice is sent to the
      Holder. One simply needs to ‘remember’ 6 years down the road.

      • Janice Taylor says:

        Well, if you need a concealed carry permit to carry a concealed weapon, and you are carrying a concealed weapon without a valid permit, I believe it’s considered illegal. Driving a car with an expired license is illegal. Also, Mr. Shea’s weapon was loaded. Since he had no valid CC permit, he was in violation of RCW 9.41.050 2(a) which states: A person shall not carry or place a loaded pistol in any vehicle unless the person has a license to carry a concealed pistol.
        As a person who has one of these permits, it is MY responsibility to keep it current.

    • Mysty Beal says:

      Bundy unfairly targeted?!? Well, the feds just rounded up another 16 of their ilk from the Bundy-BLM stand-off, so 5 Bundys are now in jail with dear old dad. Hope the feds seize their cattle next that have been illegally grazing on public lands for 20 years. Yee-haw, get along little bundys! Then I hope they go after Shea and Fiore for aiding and abetting known felons.

    • Mysty Beal says:

      Updated on the “unfairly targeted Bundys”:

      UPDATE: The U.S. Attorney has announced 14 more indictments, and all of those indicted have been arrested:

      A superseding criminal indictment was returned by the grand jury on Wednesday, March 2, and now charges a total of 19 defendants. The 14 new defendants are Melvin D. Bundy, 41, of Round Mountain, Nev., David H. Bundy, 39, of Delta, Utah, Brian D. Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nev., Blaine Cooper, 36, of Humboldt, Ariz., Gerald A. DeLemus, 61, of Rochester, N.H., Eric J. Parker, 32, of Hailey, Idaho, O. Scott Drexler, 44, of Challis, Idaho, Richard R. Lovelien, 52, of Westville, Okla., Steven A. Stewart, 36, of Hailey, Idaho, Todd C. Engel, 48, of Boundary County, Idaho, Gregory P. Burleson, 52, of Phoenix, Ariz., Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, 43, of Cottonwood, Ariz., and Micah L. McGuire, 31, and Jason D. Woods, 30, both of Chandler, Ariz.

      Got ’em all except the youngest brother because he’s not yet 18. Hope they seize their assets next or call in Ammon’s $528,000 small business loan (hypocrite!)

      Hey! There’s supposed to be a rally for them somewhere in Nevada or Arizona – hope you’ll attend and show your support…