Gig Harbor investigating complaint of disparate treatment of women by city administrator

Gig Harbor City Administrator Wade Farris was placed on paid leave in May because of a complaint alleging that he treats women in the workplace differently than men, the city has revealed.

A May 31 letter signed by Mayor Kit Kuhn informed Farris of the complaint.

Farris has been directed not to access the workplace or attend scheduled meetings with outside agencies or community partners. He also was informed not to participate in any city functions related to his position.

The letter stated Farris will be contacted by the Human Resources manager to set up a meeting to provide information about the allegations about him.

In response to a public records request from The Gateway, the city also released the text of a reprimand Farris received in April alleging “unprofessional conduct during a hiring interview.”

“You did not respond appropriately when concerns about your behavior were raised,” Mayor Kit Kuhn told Farris in the April 12 letter. “In particular, you failed to bring the matter to my attention.”

The letter told Farris he was being “removed from the hiring process from this point forward.” He was also placed on an “individual performance improvement plan,” according to another document released this week.

The letter gave no further details about the alleged incident, and Kuhn has declined to elaborate. It is unclear whether the hiring incident was the only complaint against Farris, or was among others.

Reached by the Gateway, Farris, placed on leave June 3, declined to comment. City Council members also have declined to discuss the matter.

At a city council meeting July 8, Kuhn defended the city’s reluctance to discuss the case.

“ I am just following standard procedure,” he said. “We have to go through the process and I am being as transparent as possible without putting the city at risk for liability.”

Farris has been city administrator for less than a year. He began work on Aug. 9, 2018 at an annual salary of $158,000 a year

Kuhn said he selected Farris after seven months of searching and interviews.

Farris has been the Othello city administrator for five years. Before that, he had a long career in the Air Force and retired as a major general in 2013. He graduated from the University of Alabama and has a master of arts degree in organizational management, with a focus on public administration, from Ashford University.

Kuhn said Farris’ military background was one reason he picked him over two other finalists, because authority was a characteristic he wanted in a new administrator.

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