Carnation city manager resigns following union-busting arbitration

Ana Cortez’s resignation comes two months after the city was ordered to issue full back pay and reinstate four employees who had been laid off.

The Carnation City Council voted to accept a resignation agreement with now-former City Manager Ana Cortez during a regular meeting on July 2.

Cortez’s resignation follows a May 7 decision by a third-party arbitrator concerning the wrongful termination of four unionized city employees.

The city was ordered to reinstate and award full back pay to the four employees who were let go in February 2023: Becky Buelna, a community economic development technician; Carl Mueller, a building maintenance worker; and Elizabeth Maurer and Stacy Starns, two accounting clerks.

Matthew House, a senior business agent representing the Teamsters union, wrote that three of the employees — excluding Buelna, who declined an offer to return to work in April — received reinstatement offers effective June 24. One of the three employees accepted the return-to-work offer, while the remaining two declined.

The total award — estimated by Teamsters to reach $500,000 split between the four employees — is not yet known, but House wrote that the city began issuing back pay the week of June 17.

“The Union is pleased with the council’s decision to hold Ana Cortez accountable for her actions,” House wrote. “We look forward to a more positive and transparent labor relationship with the city going forward.”

Cortez was recently in the running as a finalist for a San Juan County Manager position up until the county council announced the hiring of another candidate on May 14, according to the Islands Weekly.

Rhonda Ender, the city’s deputy city manager, has been appointed interim city manager.

The Valley Record will update this story when the resignation agreement is made public.