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Investigation into allegations of misdeeds by planning manager cost city nearly $12K

The fact-finding investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by a manager at Bainbridge Island City Hall cost the city nearly $12,000.

City officials launched an investigation in October after two Bainbridge residents claimed that Josh Machen, the city's planning manager, had improperly used his city job to promote his private window-washing business. It was a probe that came up empty, as the investigator found no evidence of bad behavior by Machen.

Claire Cordon, a Seattle attorney who specializes in whistleblower complaints and workplace investigations, began her look into the claims of misdeeds in October.

Billing records obtained from the city show that Cordon, who was paid $225 an hour, worked for more than 52 hours on the investigation. She submitted an invoice to the city for $11,745 on Dec. 20, the day after her 27-page investigation report was finalized and released by the city.

The invoice indicates that Cordon worked on the investigation on 27 different days, for less than an hour on some days, to more than six hours on other days.

By her own estimate, Cordon interviewed 38 witnesses and reviewed hundreds of documents.

Interviews began on Oct. 29, with former city councilman Bill Knobloch and Planning Director Kathy Cook. Knobloch claimed Machen had committed ethics violations while employed by the city in a widely circulated email sent by the Bainbridge Defense Fund on Oct. 9.

Cordon continued the investigation by next interviewing Machen and other planning department employees the following week.

The investigator followed up with other potential witnesses, including Bainbridge residents and Interim City Attorney Jim Haney.

Billing records show Cordon conducted additional follow-up interviews with Knobloch and other former city council members and city employees, and did three more interviews with Machen in the weeks that followed. Cordon began to prepare the factual outline of the investigation on Nov. 26, and conducted 19 interviews in the weeks that followed.

In her report, Cordon said she found no evidence of unethical conduct or a conflict of interest involving Machen.

"There was no evidence Machen engaged in quid pro quo solicitations involving his private window-washing business and his duties as a [city of Bainbridge Island] employee," Cordon wrote in her report, and noted that some of those interviewed for the investigation called the allegations against Machen "ridiculous" and "spurious."

 

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