Mayor Ed Murray resigns in wake of a fifth sex abuse claim

Mayor Ed Murray resigns in wake of a fifth sex abuse claim

Mayor Ed Murray resigns in wake of a fifth sex abuse claim

Hours following a Seattle Times report on Tuesday, Sept. 12 that one of Ed Murray’s cousins is accusing him of sexual abuse, the mayor resigned, turning control of city briefly over to City Council president Bruce Harrell.

Just a few days later, the council voted to make Councilmember Tim Burgess Seattle’s 55th mayor.

The embattled former Mayor Murray had rejected previous requests that he resign amid accusations by four other men last year that he had molested them while they were teens.

Jeff Simpson accused Murray of abusing him while the mayor was a counselor in Portland, claiming it continued while he was living with Murray. A Portland child welfare official concluded Murray likely did sexually abuse Simpson, but he was never criminally charged, according to the Seattle Times.

Lloyd Anderson backs up Simpson’s allegations, and said he was also paid by Murray, according to the Times.

Delvonn Heckard filed a lawsuit in 2016 claiming Murray raped and molested him in the 1980s while living in Capitol Hill. He withdrew that lawsuit, but is claiming the city owes him damages because Murray used his office to defame him.

The Seattle Times reports Heckard’s friend, Maurice Lavon Jones, also claimed Murray paid him for sex while he was struggling with a crack addiction in the 1980s.

It was Murray’s cousin, Joseph Dyer, whose accusations that the mayor sexually abused him while they were sharing a room in New York in the 1970s, that resulted in Murray’s decision to resign. However, Murray continues to deny these and all other allegations of sexual abuse.

“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.

Murray’s statement goes on to tout his accomplishments during his 19 years in the Washington Legislature and one term as Seattle mayor.

“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,” Murray said. “To the people of this special city and to my dedicated staff, I am sorry for this painful situation.”

Seattle City Council president Harrell assumed the position of mayor following Murray’s resignation, and -- under city code -- had five days from the start to decide whether to complete Murray’s term. He took the five days to sign several pieces of legislation before deciding not to complete the remainder of Murray’s term. Harrell said he wanted to continue as council president. Had he accepted the position, he would have had to step aside in November with more than two years left in his term.

“First and foremost, my heart goes out to survivors and their families who have been affected by sexual abuse and the re-traumatization these allegations have caused,” Harrell stated. “These accusations are unspeakable and require the utmost attention from our legal and social service system no matter how long ago they might have occurred.”

Murray announced in May that he would not seek re-election as, at the time, he was fighting Heckard’s sex abuse allegations. Once the lawsuit was dropped, Murray decided not to run as a write-in candidate during the August primary.

Mayoral candidates Moon and Durkan issued statements prior to Murray’s announcement requesting he resign.

“It is time for Mayor Murray to step down,” Durkan said in her statement. She had received an endorsement from Murray earlier this year. “I previously urged the Mayor to reflect deeply about whether he could continue to lead and what was in the best interests of the city. It’s clear that it is in everyone’s best interest for him to resign.  As a parent, former public official and openly gay woman these allegations are beyond sad and tragic; no official is above the law.”

Moon went as far as to convene a press conference, which occurred roughly around the same time that Murray announced his resignation.

“As a mother I am angry, as a resident of this city I am ashamed,” Moon said in a prepared statement. “Mayor Murray’s response to the many allegations of sexual abuse have been deeply inappropriate and harmful, especially to survivors, LGBTQ people and young people everywhere. Survivors of sexual assault must be believed and treated with respect.”

District 3 Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant also issued a statement, saying she was relieved by Murray’s decision to step down.

“I commend all individuals and organizations - including Danni Askini of the Gender Justice League, the City of Seattle’s LGBTQ Commission and Human Rights Commission, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and Councilmember Gonzalez - who showed courage and leadership in calling on Murray to resign,” reads a portion of Sawant’s statement. “Unfortunately, the majority of the City Council failed to show any such leadership.”

City councilmember Tim Burgess was selected by a 5-1 vote to complete the remaining 71 days as mayor before either Durkan or Cary take the seat on Nov. 28. Sawant was the sole dissenting vote, claiming Burgess would continue “business as usual” in the governance of the city. Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez nominated Burgess for the position.

Burgess acknowledged the unusual way he came into office in a speech at a swearing in ceremony.

“This is certainly not the way anyone would have chosen to become mayor of our great city. It is, however, where we are,” he said. “I promise to work every day for the next 71 days as mayor to help us heal and move the city forward.”

Burgess, a Seattle native, was first elected in 2007. He spent nearly 50 years as a radio journalist, police officer and public relations business owner before taking his position on the council. The 68 year old touts his achievements with city-subsidized preschool and as the sponsor of the $15-an-hour minimum wage legislation in the city.

He decided months ago to retire at the end of this term rather than seek a fourth term, meaning he will not lose his seat by becoming mayor. The former chair of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Committee ran for mayor in 2013, dropping out before the primary filing deadline and endorsing Murray.

Burgess ended his remarks by planning for transition and the budget process.

“I take this transition from the legislative to the executive branch with all the gravity and seriousness of purpose the office demands. But, I cannot do it alone,” Burgess said. “I need the help of my colleagues here on the City Council, the team in my new office, the 11,000 City employees who work across the city every day and every hour, and, of course, my family.”