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Investigation finds ousted North Bend administrator broke no laws

An external investigation into complaints against former North Bend City Administrator George Martinez determined that he did not violate any antidiscrimination law or policy, but ultimately was responsible for his management decisions and style.

The investigation - which took place in April, May and June of 2006 - was conducted by a Seattle law firm at the behest of North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing. The investigation concluded June 26. Hearing publicly stated in late July that he'd notified Martinez July 6 of his impending dismissal. Martinez did not return to work July 16 after a scheduled vacation, Hearing said. At the time, Hearing said Martinez had been fired so the city could move in a more business-friendly direction.

Last week, Hearing said the investigation didn't weigh into his decision to dismiss Martinez.

"There was nothing in the investigation that warranted that action," Hearing said. Instead, his decision was based on his own observations and the direction he wanted to take the city.

According to city documents, the original investigation was to cost less than $7,500, the threshold that requires City Council approval. The final cost was $13,361; on Sept. 5, the council approved payment to the law firm for the investigation. The Valley Record requested the investigation results Sept. 6 and received the 27-page document Oct. 24. The delay was to allow the city attorney to contact sources named in the investigation and to redact names and confidential information.

The report included a three-page legal analysis - subject to attorney-client confidentiality - that was entirely re-dacted.

According to the investigation report, employees had complained that Martinez allegedly created a hostile work environment and displayed behavior indicating gender bias or poor management. He allegedly gave preferential treatment to female employees with whom he'd had sexual relations or were his "drinking buddies." Some employees, including some department managers, complained that his "authoritarian management style" hindered their ability to do their jobs.

There were also complaints of Martinez's use of alcohol at a city staff Christmas party in 2003, a private Christmas party in 2004 and at the North Bend-Snoqualmie cities' softball game. Not all employees complained of his management style or observed behavior they felt was inappropriate.

Martinez told the investigator that he felt his management style fostered inclusion, cooperation and a willingness to listen. He reportedly criticized the person he suspected of filing a complaint against him.

"I found credibility issues to exist with all witnesses," stated Amy Plenefisch, the attorney who conducted the investigation.

Martinez was unavailable for comment.

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