Washington Attorney General to Sue Wapato City Administrator Juan Orozco
Washington Attorney General, Bob Ferguson filed a suit on Friday, against Juan Orozco- the city administrator of Wapato. Ferguson claims Orozco of using his former position as Mayor to ‘enrich himself’ unlawfully. In the lawsuit Ferguson, also named the current Wapato mayor, Dora Alvarez Roa and City Council of Wapato.
Ferguson filed the lawsuit in Yakima Superior Court on 7th June 2019. The lawsuit further claims that Orozco created a new post of City Administrator with an annual package of $95,000 and then Orozco himself took that post.
The lawsuit mentions, the Wapato City Council scheduled an early morning ‘special meeting’ and failed to inform the people in advance about the subjects discussed. In that special meeting, the council recruited the former mayor Orozco to this new position of the city administrator, without providing any public notice, nor discussed with the public, nor did he apply for the post.
Using a public office to enrich yourself is an abuse of the public trust and a violation of the law. Violating our transparency laws undermines Washingtonian’s ability to remain informed about the decisions their government officials are making.
State Auditor of Washington Pat McCarthy mentioned that fundamental accountability standards were seriously violated by the City of Wapato and was disclosed in their audit report. He welcomed the action taken by Attorney General Ferguson in this matter.
The officers of Auditor carried out a regular audit of the Wapato City and presented the audit report in May 2019 to Ferguson.
Several accusations are made in the lawsuit against the former mayor Orozco such as violation of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and the Code of Ethics for Municipal Employees. It has even named Wapato Mayor Dora Alvarez-Roa and Wapato City Council for violating the OPMA.
Back in November 2017, Orozco was elected to the post of Wapato Mayor. The auditor’s report of August 2018 reported that Orozco informed Wapato city attorney to propose an ordinance and create a new city administration post, add lucrative agreement for the new post. The agreement was created with an annual salary package of $95,000, and the agreement lasted for seven years. If in case the agreement ended early or city administered was fired, the agreement allowed the city administrator to receive severance pay for the period of 6 months.
Orozco resigned from the Mayor post on September 4, during a meeting and was instantly appointed to the new post by Dora Alvarez-Roa.
The audit report stated that the City did not carry any advertisement for the City Administrator post, which is needed according to City policy, and neither the mayor filled and signed the application for the post.
As per Auditor’s report,
The City Administrator contract, provided to the council within their packet before the special meeting on Sept. 4, already had the Mayor’s name filled in.
further, the city council was unaware of the plan of Orozco, of creating a new city administration post. The city council only knew it during a special meeting of September 4, 2018.
The lawsuit seeks the court to demand Orozco to resign from the office and impose a fine of $500 on Orozco for breaching the Code of Ethics for Municipal Employees. The lawsuit also called on the court to order training for all members of the Wapato City Council in OPMA.