Assistant City Administrator Larry Burks might have violated etiquette or protocol when he asked Bellevue resident and mayoral candidate Chuck Fredrick to leave a city office, but his behavior “certainly” did not constitute a criminal act, according to a report filed by Bellevue Police Chief Mark Elbert.
Elbert’s report was presented to City Administrator Dan Berlowitz April 15, six days after Fredrick filed a police complaint against Burks on April 9 concerning an incident that took place March 31.
Elbert said he interviewed five city employees and concluded the incident was largely “uneventful.” He said no information was uncovered suggesting Burks behaved in a threatening manner toward Fredrick or that violence was ever a possibility.
Those findings contradict a statement filed by Fredrick on April 9 in which he said Burks stood in an office door “with his fists clinched” and behaving in an intimidating manner before ordering Fredrick to leave.
According to Fredrick, he visited Human Resources Coordinator Cathey Rabbass March 31 in her office to request a copy of the minutes of a recent Civil Service Commission meeting. After being told the document would be ready later in the week, Fredrick remained for between 20 and 30 minutes, according to the testimony of a witness, discussing his upcoming birthday and the progress of his mayoral campaign.
It was during this conversation, according to the report, that Burks appeared in the doorway of Rabbass’ office and suggested the two conduct their conversation in a different area, away from sensitive personnel documents.
At this point, testimony differs as to the tone of the encounter, but not its substance.
CDBG Specialist Abby Highland, Administrative Services Director Karen Jackson, and Michelle Bagby, a personnel technician, all recounted how Burks asked Fredrick what his business was with Rabbass, that Rabbass told Burks Fredrick liked to drop in and chat occasionally, and that Burks suggested they conduct the conversation elsewhere.
Burks emphatically denied to Elbert that he behaved in a threatening manner, denied ever having clenched his fists, and suggested that Fredrick was blowing the incident out of proportion for political purposes.
Burks said he acted out of a concern expressed at a recent meeting of city leaders that some residents waste the time of city employees by showing up without an appointment and then dominate valuable working time. In addition, he said, the confidential nature of documents in Rabbass’ office was a real concern.
“From a risk management perspective, Mr. Fredrick’s history of possible access to highly confidential and personal information, albeit inadvertent, needed to be eliminated,” Burks said.
“I would have taken the same action with anyone else, given the same risky visitation history.”
Burks said he believed Fredrick might be playing politics.
“Since Mr. Fredrick is a political candidate for mayor, his actions and claims are no doubt politically motivated,” he said.
Rabbass told Elbert she found Burks’ intervention “bizarre” and took offense at any suggestion she would allow Fredrick or anyone else to see sensitive city documents.
“In my opinion, Chuck was not doing anything inappropriate, loud or offensive that would have caused Larry’s outburst or for him even to come to my office,” she told Elbert. “The whole thing was bizarre.”
Elbert said the key witness was Bagby, whose desk sits about 2 feet from Rabbass’ office and who therefore had the best vantage point.
“She did hear bits and pieces of the conversation, but she does not describe Mr. Burks’ actions ... as some sort of loud outburst, something that would be threatening, intimidating, or what we would typically consider ‘a disturbance’ between two men,” Elbert said.