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Teamsters drops grievance against Monte city administrator

MONTESANO — The business agent for the Teamsters Union withdrew its grievance against Montesano City Administrator Kristy Powell, which originally alleged various forms of harassment against three Public Works employees and two clerical staff members at City Hall.

On Tuesday, Business Agent Mike Werner with Teamsters Union Local 252 wrote to Mayor Ken Estes that they were “withdrawing the charge with prejudice.”

“We look forward to moving forward and working together to improve the working relationship between the city and the unit members,” Werner wrote.

Mayor Estes released Werner’s letter, reading it out loud to the public and his City Council members during the regular council session Tuesday night. Estes also read a press release out loud to those at the council meeting, noting that the withdrawing the grievance with prejudice “means that it cannot be brought up again.”

In July, independent investigator Jim Webber cleared Powell of allegations that she engaged in harassment, age discrimination and retaliation against city employees.

Although Webber’s report cleared Powell, it did identify more than just one “isolated incident” where Webber confirmed that Powell may have slapped an employee’s butt, put an arm around an employee’s shoulder or said an inappropriate term to an employee.

However, he says those incidents shouldn’t constitute a trend.

The union grievance was filed in April amid several investigations the city was conducting among its Public Works crew and other employees.

“It is a shame that a dedicated city employee like Kristy has been charged with this grievance and tried in the press and social media for complaints that were unsubstantiated, ” Estes wrote in his press release. “We are rapidly completing all investigations. When they are finalized we will move ahead to provide the citizens with the services that they expect. Citizens can assist us by supporting our effort rather than launching attacks in the press and on social media. It is my desire, as well as the city administrator’s, that we move forward to begin to re-establish a solid and respectful working environment in the city.”

Mayor Estes said the city was standing behind Powell, based on the independent investigator’s findings. If the union didn’t drop its grievance, then it would have had to force the issue into arbitration.

“I did nothing wrong,” Powell said Tuesday night, thanking the mayor for his support.