Clock ticking on $1 million suit for damages

Preemptive action by city manager claims breach of contract, defamation and indifference
By Dan Aznoff | Aug 22, 2018

Although the city council has not made a determination on the future of Mill Creek City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto, the embattled administrator has filed a nine-page complaint against the city asking for $1 million in damages.

The council has scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday night (Aug. 22) to determine what, if any, action will be taken regarding Polizzotto. The extended leave of absence granted to the city manager on June 19 is scheduled to expire on Friday, Aug. 24.

The city has 60 days from the date it was filed to settle or reject the claim. The damage claim noted that “No fraud was found” in he transactions reviewed by the Fraud Unit in Auditor’s office

The seven-figure request for damages filed by an Everett attorney on behalf of the city manager takes issue with the actions taken against her since a second whistleblower complaint was submitted against her in April by members of the city staff, Police Chief Greg Elwin and three department directors in City Hall. The complaint said Polittozzo created a “hostile work environment” in city hall and managed her staff through “bullying and intimidation.”

Polizzotto claims she sat through a three-and-one-half hour interview with an outside attorney in an attempt to sort out the charges against her.

The claim filed on behalf of the city manager outlined how, “The city took action to deactivate Mrs. Polittozzo’s access card and blocked access to her email and documents.” I went on the charge, “The (city) council provided no notice to Mrs. Polittozzo of any of this action.”

According to the complaint, the city manager “learned of her administrative leave through the news media.” Mayor Pam Pruitt advised Polittozzo that she would be allowed to retrieve personal items from her office if accompanied by two members of the council.

City officials were quick to clarify that employees on administrative leave are prohibited from accessing the city’s email server and from using issued-owned computers.

The city manager has not been in City Hall since mid-April. She reportedly used her own sick leave to cover the first portion of her absence claiming to be suffering severe bronchitis. Pruitt said Polittozzo had initially applied for Family Medical Leave, but later corrected herself to say the city manager has been used her own sick days before being put on a 45-day administrative leave.

The original investigation into Polittozzo’s actions were expanded by the state Auditor after a routine review of city expenses exposed questionable charges on the city-issued credit card issued to the city manager.

The charges in question included $955 for expensive meals, some of which were purchased during a conference where meals had been provided, as well as $269 in charges for alcohol. City regulations prohibit the use of city credit cards for the purchase of alcohol.

The $1 million action also included a claim the city manager had been treated differently because of her gender. A labor complaint that had been filed and withdrawn against Elwin was used to support the allegation.

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