Council was to consider her ouster in wake of accounting irregularities
On the day she was due to return from vacation, Mayor Stacee Sellers submitted her resignation.
Sellers e-mailed the letter announcing her immediate resignation to city staff members during the lunch hour Monday. In the letter, Sellers said she intended to fulfill her commitment to the city of Washougal but has been given another opportunity she would be “foolish to pass by.”
In her resignation letter, Sellers said people have been peering in her windows and threatening her for the last several months. While on vacation, Sellers said she received a barrage of e-mails and text messages from people asking of her whereabouts.
“Since announcing my run for re-election, I have received anonymous letters, threats of all sorts, people going through my garbage, people caught by my neighbors looking in my windows, etc.,” she wrote in the letter. “I thought this type of behavior would end after the elections, it has not. In fact, it has escalated.”
Sellers did not return The Columbian’s request for comment Monday.
The Washougal City Council voted Oct. 30 to censure Sellers for behavior and lack of effective communication. Last week, City Councilman Jon Russell announced his plan to bring a resolution asking for Sellers’ resignation before the council at its Monday night meeting. At the time, he said he hoped Sellers would resign before the meeting so the council wouldn’t need to take action.
“We take no pleasure in seeing a former teammate go down this road and end up like this,” Russell said Monday night. “It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this.”
Sellers has been under fire since the Washington State Auditor’s office released its findings from an accountability audit of the city in late October. The auditor discovered about $100,000 of revenue from city-sponsored events was unaccounted for and criticized thousands of dollars in charges on city credit cards and gifts of city money. Sellers has also drawn scrutiny for charging nearly $700 on her city credit card for food and alcohol while on a four-day business trip in Las Vegas in May.
In her resignation letter, Sellers briefly mentioned the auditor’s findings.
“Many have shared the errors. Taking the full blame of the findings on the audit is what a leader does,” she said. “I could have gone into details about where prior and current staff and council fell short, but did not.”
Mayor Pro Tem Molly Coston will fill in until Mayor-elect Sean Guard takes office in January. Guard defeated the one-term mayor by garnering 72 percent of the vote in the Nov. 3 election.
Guard said with his victory, voters said overwhelmingly they did not want Sellers in the mayor’s position.
“People need to know that there are people in charge who want to be in charge, who fill those roles and can do the job,” Guard said.
Guard said he is grateful Sellers made the decision to quit.
“In the end, I think she, hopefully, thought of the citizens,” Guard said.
Now, Guard said, the city needs to focus on hiring a new city administrator and getting the budget ready for approval by the end of the year. Until he takes office in January and while serving as mayor, Guard said he will continue to work to mend relationships with local and neighboring organizations.
Camas Mayor Paul Dennis said he believes leaders of the two cities will be able to work together.
“We’ll move forward together and renew some of the partnerships that may have fallen by the wayside,” he said.
Dennis said the city of Camas has extended a hand and offered to provide assistance to the neighboring city in any way it can. The two cities share numerous services and Dennis said the city of Camas has offered to send employees to Washougal to help.
“Our hope is they can pick up the pieces, rebuild and move forward,” Dennis said. “And if we can help be a part of that, we’re willing to be a part of that.”
Sellers said serving the citizens of Washougal has been a “tremendous honor” and thinks the city may face problems in the future.
“While I believe Washougal has a bright future, it will be very difficult with the new mind set of some of the elected officials,” Sellers wrote in her letter.
Sellers listed several of her accomplishments while in office — downtown improvements, four years of balanced budgets, implementing sustainability policies and numerous other programs — but blamed the media for not focusing on those aspects and instead attempting to “tear down a community and all the good will.”