Sex abuse documents spark calls for Seattle mayor to resign

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (KOMO photo)

SEATTLE (KOMO) - A Seattle council member and at least one mayoral candidate are among the voices calling for Mayor Ed Murray to resign after the re-discovery of decades-old records indicating that Murray had sexually abused his foster son in 1984.

But Seattle's City Council president says that Murray shouldn't necessarily have to resign - and said that no one should have to be judged today for what they did decades ago.

The records, unearthed by Oregon's Department of Human Services, contained a child-welfare investigator's bombshell finding that Murray had sexually abused his foster son, Jeff Simpson, prompting state officials to conclude that "under no circumstances" should Murray serve as a foster parent in the future.

Simpson, now 49, was one of four men who publicly accused Murray this spring of sexually abusing them long ago. Murray has adamantly denied the allegations, but he declined to seek re-election. His term will end in January 2018 if he does not resign.

In response to the latest revelations, Seattle council member M. Lorena Gonzalez and mayoral candidate Mike McGinn called on Murray to step down. Another mayoral candidate, Jenny Durkan, called on Murray to "reflect deeply" about whether he can continue to lead the city.

In a prepared statement, Gonzalez said the city of Seattle for months has "reeled in the aftermath of sexual abuse allegations made against Mayor Ed Murray. I, like many in our community, take these allegations seriously."

While commending Murray's "collaborative approach" and his "tireless commitment to public service," she added that she is "now deeply concerned about this mayor’s ability to continue leading the executive branch in light of the recently released documents."

"As a result, I am asking the mayor to consider stepping down ... and to work collaboratively with a subcommittee of the City Council to craft an executive leadership transition strategy," Gonzalez said.

If Murray refuses to resign, she called on the City Council to take its own action by convening a committee to determine if a transition to another executive leader is warranted under the circumstances.

"This situation is unprecedented in our city’s history," she said. "We cannot pretend otherwise.”

Other members of the City Council, however, were reluctant to forge ahead with any immediate action under Article V Section 10 of the Seattle City Charter, which defines how a mayor may be removed from office "for any willful violation of duty, or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude."

Council President Bruce Harrell, for one, said Murray has been diligent in reporting to work every day and doing his job, despite the latest developments.

"It's been my impression that the mayor has been showing up for his job every single day," he said at Monday's council meeting. "We all know he's not running for re-election and so we do have a short window here. ... We have nine strong leaders at this table - a good team. And we'll work through this together."

Harrell even went so far as to say that the sex abuse, if true, happened too long ago to be relevant.

"We just don't know. And I would ask that I don't want to be judged for anything 33 years ago," he said. "And I would challenge each of you to think about where you were 33 years ago. The question is - are you doing your job today, right now?"

Mayoral candidate Mike McGinn, by contrast, was blunt in his call for Murray to resign.

"The time for denials and victim blaming is over. The city deserves full attention to its pressing issues," McGinn said in a Twitter posting. "In order to focus on the future, for the sake of survivors (and) the city, I feel Mayor Ed Murray should resign."

Murray became Simpson's foster father after counseling him at a Portland center for troubled teens in the late 1970s.

Simpson said the abuse began in 1980, when he was 13 and spending a weekend with Murray. The abuse continued after Murray became his foster father and lasted until he left Murray's care at age 16, Simpson said. At times, Murray paid Simpson $10 or gave him drugs for sex, he said.

The Oregon prosecutor who reviewed the case at the time declined to pursue charges against Murray because of Simpson's troubled personality, not because she thought he was lying.

"It was Jeff's emotional instability, history of manipulative behavior and the fact that he has again run away and made himself unavailable that forced my decision," Deputy District Attorney Mary Tomlinson wrote.

Simpson considered suing Murray in 2008, but his lawyer declined to pursue the case over a statute of limitations issue. By then, Murray was a Washington state senator, Democratic power broker and gay rights advocate. He was elected Seattle mayor in 2013.

Simpson added that he and his attorney had tried to find the Oregon documents backing up his contention that he was sexually abused by Murray, but they were told none existed. They were later found and released in response to an open records request by The Seattle Times.

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