Puyallup’s city manager resigns; council unanimously agrees to separation

Puyallup’s city council unanimously accepted City Manager Kevin Yamamoto’s resignation at a late executive session Tuesday night.

Yamamoto submitted his resignation eight days before the meeting, where council members considered “the job performance of a city employee.”

Representatives for Yamamoto and the city had been in discussions over the terms of his resignation for more than a month, said the city’s attorney, Joe Beck, but he did not elaborate.

The city responded Wednesday afternoon to a request for the settlement agreement. Yamamoto, whose salary was $163,000 a year, will receive 11 months severance plus accrued vacation leave and health benefits for him and his dependents. All told, the city will pay him more than $219,228, according to the agreement.

Yamamoto is Puyallup’s fifth city manager in 12 years. Hired in 2015, he oversaw development projects, lawsuits and compliance with state and county laws.

Council member Jim Kastama tried to fire Yamamoto last May, saying he was responsible for many costly lawsuits. In Kastama’s resolution, he said Yamamoto was “responsible for the termination of the contract with Conway Construction that involved improvements on 39th Avenue Southwest.”

The council evaluated Yamamoto’s performance last year, according to records requested by The News Tribune.

The council members critiqued him for acting as the “eighth council member,” becoming “headstrong” or “confrontational” during discussions and furthering litigation challenges before ensuring the council understood the risk.

A survey of the city’s staff last June obtained by The News Tribune said that 94 percent agreed or strongly agreed that Yamamoto effectively manages the organization, and that he supported the staff.

When asked if the city council is supportive of staff, only 18 percent of city employees agreed.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Puyallup residents spoke up against Yamamoto’s potential “firing.” Nearly every seat was filled in the council chambers. One by one, they addressed the council.

“He can be tough, but he is tough for the city of Puyallup,” Joan Cronk said to applause from the public.

Kim Field, who co-owns All Things Fun Sports!, said being a city manager is a thankless job, but Yamamoto always looked out for the local businesses and supported them.

“He takes time to talk to us,” Field said to the council.

The city appointed assistant city manager Steve Kirkelie as the acting city manager.

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Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County and Puyallup for The News Tribune and The Puyallup Herald. She previously worked at The News Journal in Delaware as the crime reporter and interned at The Washington Post.