Yelm City Administrator Michael Grayum Subject of Two Harassment Investigations

Cities of Yelm, DuPont Investigate Allegations of Harassment Between Grayum and Female Employees

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The cities of Yelm and DuPont have released the results of two investigations that looked into the alleged harassment of three female employees by Yelm City Administrator Michael Grayum.

The documentation obtained through a public records request by the Nisqually Valley News shows the sexual harassment allegations in Yelm date back as recently as last month. The DuPont harassment allegation dates back to 2013 when Grayum still worked as mayor for the city.

Grayum told the Nisqually Valley News on Tuesday, Oct. 5, “as we do with all personnel matters, I will not comment publicly out of respect for everyone involved. I am focused on the work of the city.”

According to Yelm’s records, on Sept. 1, Yelm Human Resources Specialist Karen Bennett shared with Yelm Administrative Services Director Lori Lucas that a city of Yelm employee had reported an unwanted touch by Grayum.

The employee reported the incident to her supervisor, Yelm Public Services Director Cody Colt, who shared the information with Bennett.

“Cody shared with Karen … that Michael had put his hand on (the employee’s) knee while they were at her desk,” Lucas wrote in her investigation, noting no one else was present in the area at the time of the incident.

On Sept. 2, a second employee from Yelm came forward to her supervisor, Community Services Manager Kathy Linnemeyer, and told her of times Grayum had said or done things that made her uncomfortable, Lucas wrote.

The employee had been known to banter back and forth with Grayum, Lucas wrote, but she had come forward to ask that Grayum “stop joking with her.”

Lucas, Linnemeyer and Aaron Green — the shop steward for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — met with the second employee on Sept. 3.

“(The employee) shared several instances of conversations between her and Michael where she felt uncomfortable,” Lucas wrote. “(The employee) stated that Grayum asked her how many guys she slept with when she went to the Columbia River Gorge for a three-day concert.

“She also shared a conversation that she stated she had with Michael Grayum where she said that ‘she gets along well with the public services guys,’ and Michael said ‘that he gets along with them also and he doesn’t have to bend over to get along with them,’” Lucas wrote.

According to the documents, the second employee asked to see the building Grayum had purchased as a rental property and, when Grayum took her there, he “put his hand on her back while at the house and it made her feel uncomfortable,” Lucas wrote.

During the investigation process, city officials met with both Yelm employees who leveled allegations, with Lucas asking the first employee if Grayum had ever made her feel uncomfortable, to which the first employee replied “no.”

However, during the meeting with the second employee, the employee told the investigators she had already reported the incident to Mayor JW Foster.

“(The employee) shared that, after comments were made, she informed JW (mayor) and was told it is her job to train male supervisors on how to act with female employees,” Green wrote in his investigation notes.

Later in his notes, Green wrote the second employee saw an increased frequency of unwanted remarks by Grayum after Foster allegedly spoke to him about the issue.

“The employee stated after discussing with JW, Michael’s comments became more direct and frequent,” Green wrote. “She didn’t feel JW made any comments to Michael about it.”

Green also wrote the second employee had expressed to him she had not come forward previously with similar issues involving Grayum, because “she was nervous about talking with Lori due to it possibly making it back to Michael and causing further issues for herself.”

During the investigation, no other employees or former employees were interviewed.

During the investigation, they asked only one question to the first employee and conducted one interview with the second, according to documents. City officials looked to Foster to remedy the situation.

Foster held a “coaching session” with Grayum. The two spoke about the unwanted comments and behaviors the city administrator had allegedly exhibited.

The public records request included an email with the subject line titled “MG letter” where Lucas and Foster exchanged emails without using Grayum’s name. Foster had written “see how by not using his name I’ve avoided the email search? So clever.”

While trying to set up a time to speak about the matter, emails show Lucas stated she didn’t “want to put anything” on their calendars in correspondence to Foster. 

Foster directed Grayum to avoid closed door meetings with individual employees and told him to not speak with the two women about the allegations, even to apologize, “as that would just continue the dominant role and elicit an ‘expected’ acceptance of the apology.”

During the session, Grayum admitted he was a “touchy” person “and frequently would reach out to touch a person’s arm or back during conversation or when passing, and now understands that he should not do that,” Foster wrote about the coaching session. “He also conveyed that he always thought he was interacting with people on a level with which they were comfortable, but then admitted that he needed to change that behavior and remember that, in his position of authority, he needed to take the high road and set the example for appropriate behavior.

“(Grayum) had some initial confusion about how he should interact with a female employee vs a male employee but then understood our direction for him was to consider his role in modeling appropriate behavior for all employees at all times,” Foster wrote.

The Washington State Council of County and City Employees drafted a letter on Sept. 17 to Yelm officials asking for a third-party consultant to investigate sexual harassment allegations levied against Grayum.

The union alleged Yelm’s investigation into the allegations was too limited and there was a conflict of interest, as it was conducted by an employee serving directly under Grayum in the city’s organizational chart.

Public records the Nisqually Valley News received from the city of DuPont, where Grayum was mayor from 2012 to 2016, detail how a female employee of the city reported that Grayum had behaved in a way toward her on multiple occasions that was allegedly unbefitting of a person in an authority position.

She reported Grayum had harassed her about her inability to set up a meeting with him, told her she was “passive aggressive sometimes” and that an email she wrote to him where she explained her job duties to him was “cute,” but that he thought the email she sent was her way of telling him to “(screw) off.”

During the course of the DuPont investigation, Grayum admitted to the actions the employee detailed, and the employee shared she no longer wanted to pursue the complaint, because in the time following the incidents her working relationship with Grayum had improved.

The investigation still ran its course, in line with the city’s reporting procedures, stated documents.

Both investigations ended with no disciplinary action being taken.

In Yelm’s investigation, Foster had stated a note would be entered into Grayum’s confidential personnel file.

One of the employees who filed complaints had been moved out from Grayum’s direct supervision, stated Foster’s email, and she was placed under the supervision of someone else at the office.

Foster previously told the Nisqually Valley News that the city does not “discuss personnel issues,” but noted the city “will rely on our risk management services agency to recommend next steps and follow their advice.”

The Risk Management Services Agency is a branch of the Association of Washington Cities.

KBM lawyers was chosen by the risk management agency to take on the matter, with Amanda Butler being the lead attorney, Foster said on Tuesday, adding that he did not know the name of the assigned investigator.

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