Seattle, WA – Councilmember M. Lorena Gonzalez (Position 9, Citywide) released the following statement in response to the release of documents related to sexual abuse allegations about Mayor Ed Murray:
“Since April, our City has reeled in the aftermath of sexual abuse allegations made against Mayor Ed Murray. I, like many in our community, take these allegations seriously. As a civil rights lawyer, I also take seriously a person’s inalienable right to due process as guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution.
“Prior to being elected to City Council, I represented survivors of sexual abuse, including foster children. Because of my decade long career in this highly sensitive area of law, I am familiar with the nature of state-sanctioned investigations and the complexity of finding the truth given the power dynamic between a child and a foster parent.
“Foster children are often times victims of prior serious and unimaginable neglect and abuse. These young people often turn to unhealthy behaviors, including drug use and survival sex, to cope with their untreated trauma. This is to be expected, not judged. Moreover, the risk of victimization and abuse is extremely high in these relationships, which is precisely why foster parents must be thoroughly vetted and certified prior to having a foster child placed in their care. It is a foster parent’s duty to understand these risks and to be prepared to hold the line on establishing clear relationship boundaries while caring for the child’s needs.
“The recent article published in The Seattle Times contains additional details about an administrative investigation conducted by a social worker in the State of Oregon’s Child Protective Services unit after Jeff Simpson self-reported being sexually abused in Murray’s home. That investigation file, the prosecuting attorney’s letter and related police reports continue to raise questions about what occurred in the early 1980s between Murray and Jeff Simpson, while Mr. Simpson was placed in Murray’s home as a foster child. These documents daylight additional facts and a related administrative conclusion that the alleged sexual abuse did occur. That investigation resulted in a permanent administrative action that unequivocally prohibits Murray from being a foster parent in the State of Oregon to this date. As a dogged advocate for sexual abuse survivors, I take these administrative findings very seriously, and they raise grave concerns. Those concerns include creating a chilling effect on the willingness of other similarly-situated sexual abuse survivors to come forward and break the silence.
“I have had an opportunity to work both for and with the Mayor, first as his legal counsel and now as a councilmember. I believe that together we have been able to achieve great results for the people of Seattle because of our positive and productive relationship. Together, we have significantly advanced police reform, banned conversion therapy on minors, funded a $1 million civil legal aid program for immigrants and refugees and doubled-down on our welcoming city commitments. For these achievements, I am incredibly grateful to the Mayor and his staff. The Mayor’s collaborative approach and his tireless commitment to public service is to be admired. These achievements and my admiration for his ability to get things done are why I endorsed his bid for re-election before these allegations came to light.
“I am, however, now deeply concerned about this Mayor’s ability to continue leading the Executive branch in light of the recently released documents. While the caseworker’s report is not proof of criminal guilt, the gravity of the materials in the findings and the continued attention these issues will receive, raise questions about the ability of the Mayor, his office, his Department heads and senior management to remain focused on the critical issues facing our city. As a result, I am asking the Mayor to consider stepping down as Mayor and to work collaboratively with a subcommittee of the City Council to craft an Executive Leadership Transition Strategy.
“If the Mayor continues to serve as Mayor, then by no later than July 24, 2017, the City Council should convene its own committee to determine if a transition in Executive leadership is merited under these circumstances.
“A collaborative approach is my preferred approach but the leadership of this City, including the Mayor, must proceed in a manner that will balance the ongoing need to effectively govern while acknowledging the grave harm caused by proceeding with a status-quo mentality. This situation is unprecedented in our city’s history. We cannot pretend otherwise.”