Mayor Ed Murray resigns after Seattle Times reports new accusations
SEATTLE - Mayor Ed Murray abruptly announced his resignation from his post Tuesday, about two hours after The Seattle Times reported that his cousin said Murray had repeatedly molested him in the 1970s when he was a teenager.
Murray's cousin became the fifth man to accuse the mayor of sexual abuse. Earlier allegations of sexual abuse prompted Murray to drop out of his campaign for re-election but he had steadfastly refused to resign until now.
He said his resignation would be effective Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our City government to conduct the public’s business," Murray said in a statement issued at about 1:10 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’m proud of all that I have accomplished over my 19 years in the Legislature, where I was able to pass what were at the time the largest transportation packages in state history, a landmark gay civil rights bill and a historic marriage equality bill."
“But it has also become clear to me that in light of the latest news reports it is best for the city if I step aside. To the people of this special city and to my dedicated staff, I am sorry for this painful situation."
Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement saying he backed Murray's decision to resign.
“Mayor Murray is doing the right thing by stepping down. He has done good things for Seattle and his resignation will allow the city to move forward.”
Under terms of the Seattle city charter, City Council President Bruce Harrell will now take over as Seattle mayor and will decide within the following five days whether he will fill out the remainder of Murray's term, which would have ended in January 2018 if he had not resigned. Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon are facing each other in November to become mayor. Because the office is vacant, the winner will take office as soon as the election is certified.
"I intend to make an announcement within five days on my intentions and will talk to my family, my colleagues on the Seattle City Council, and trusted members of our city on this decision with the understanding that the City and continuity of governance comes before all other factors," Harrell said in a news release.
If Harrell decides to decline the position within the next five days, the City Council will select one of its members as mayor, according to the news release. Harrell has until Monday at 5 p.m. to decide if he will accept the position as mayor.
Harrell said in the release that the accusations against Murray are "unspeakable and require the utmost attention from our legal and social service system no matter how long ago they might have occurred."
Both Moon and Durkan said they were satisfied that Murray resigned.
Moon had called a news conference to call for Murray to step down, then was told as it was going on that the mayor had resigned.
"Thank you. Thank you for stepping down and doing the right thing," Moon said.
Durkan said Tuesday was a "tragic day for the city."
She had been endorsed by Murray but called for his resignation earlier in the day. She removed his endorsement from her campaign website.
"I think it was in the best interest of the city for the mayor to step down," she said.
Council member Kshama Sawant released a statement expressing relief that Murray had resigned.
"I had made clear in my July 31 editorial that while no one should be tried in the court of public opinion, Murray had failed as an elected leader by repeatedly attacking the character of his accusers, and shifting the focus to their troubled backgrounds to suggest they cannot be trusted."
The Times reported that Dyer, 54, said the molestation occurred when he and Murray shared a bedroom in the Dyer family home on New York's Long Island. Murray and his siblings went to live in New York after their mother died.
Dyer told The Seattle Times that the molestation stopped after a boy in a Catholic group home where Murray worked accused Murray of abuse.
Murray on Tuesday morning denied the new allegations in an interview with the Seattle Times, saying he did live with his cousin, Maryellen Sottile, and her children in New York but did not abuse Dyer. He said there has been a rift in the family for years, and this accusation is untrue.
Murray has also denied the allegations made by the four other men who previously accused him of molesting them when they were teenagers.
The Seattle Times' report on the latest allegation broke on Tuesday morning, just as Murray and representatives of the Oak View Group were going to detail plans to redevelop KeyArena. That announcement and news conference were abruptly canceled.
Several people had been calling on Murray to resign from the mayoral post even before the latest allegation of sex abuse, including Seattle City Council members M. Lorena Gonzalez and mayoral candidate Cary Moon.
The pressure for him to resign intensified in July after long-lost 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, in 1984. The finding prompted Oregon state officials to conclude that "under no circumstances" should Murray serve as a foster parent in the future.
In an interview on Tuesday, Simpson, 49, said he had been praying for the resignation all along.
“Thank you Jesus, it’s about time. These are prayers answered,” Simpson said. “It’s been hard, it’s been hard. It has almost ruined my life.”
Simpson said Murray was like a father figure to him when he was a 13-year-old orphan living at a group home in Portland during the 1970s, but Simpson claims Murray violated that trust and sexually abused him.
“He ended up later raping me at age thirteen against my will, and I remember crying and screaming, no I don’t want to do this,” said Simpson.
Simpson said Murray’s resignation is a first step, but he wants an apology and an admission.
“Do the right thing, you know what you have done,” Simpson said, addressing the Mayor. “I think everyone knows what you have done.”
After Simpson's accusations surfaced, other members of the City Council declined to call for his resignation or to take any action to remove him from office, including Council President Bruce Harrell. Harrell even went so far as to say that the sex abuse, if true, happened too long ago to be relevant.
Now that Murray has resigned, he is likely to face lawsuits and claims filed by his accusers.
Delvonn Heckard of Kent, one of Murray's original accusers, earlier filed a claim with the city of Seattle, saying he wants $1 million to $3 million from the city. He contends he was defamed by Murray and his lawyer after his allegations became public.
Dyer has not submitted any legal claims, but he did issue a declaration through his attorney saying that he was the victim of "repeated and prolonged" abuse.
"Murray is an aggravated sex predator, and I was his victim for an extended period," Dyer said in the declaration. He says in the declaration that he is willing to testify in court or impeachment proceedings against Murray.
Murray earlier served as a state representative from 1995 to 2007 and as a state senator, from 2007 to 2011, where he made a name for himself championing LGBTQ rights. He was elected as Seattle mayor in 2013, and began serving in January 2014.
Tuesday, Mayor Murray released the following statement:
“I am announcing my resignation as mayor, effective at 5 p.m. tomorrow.
“While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our City government to conduct the public’s business.
“I’m proud of all that I have accomplished over my 19 years in the Legislature, where I was able to pass what were at the time the largest transportation packages in state history, a landmark gay civil rights bill and a historic marriage equality bill.
“And I am proud of what we have accomplished together at the City during my time as mayor, passing a nation-leading $15 minimum wage, and major progressive housing affordability and police accountability legislation, as well as negotiating an agreement to build a world-class arena that I believe in time will bring the NHL and NBA to Seattle.
“But it has also become clear to me that in light of the latest news reports it is best for the city if I step aside.
“To the people of this special city and to my dedicated staff, I am sorry for this painful situation.
“In the interest of an orderly transition of power, Council President Bruce Harrell will become Mayor upon my resignation, and will decide within the following five days whether he will fill out the remainder of my term. During this time Director of Operations Fred Podesta has been tasked with leading the transition.”