Woodway City Manager resigns amid allegations of sexual harassment

Posted at 4:20 PM, Mar 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-10 12:18:57-04

On April 5, Yost Zakhary resigned from his position as Woodway City Manager. He gave 60 days written notice of his resignation, meaning his last day would be in June.

On Monday night, the city council made a unanimous decision to make his resignation effective immediately.

This comes after they unanimously decided to place him on administrative leave last Friday.

A lawsuit filed against Zakhary on March 26 alleges that he "ridiculed" female employees about their weight, breast size and physical appearance. 

The lawsuit says that Sandra Bickel, an employee of the city for 17 years, filed the lawsuit against Zakhary. The suit claims that Bickel and other female employees of the city were victims of sexual harassment "and/or assault" by Zakhary. 

Attorneys Scott James and Ryan Johnson, who are representing Bickel, said that an investigation uncovered that Zakhary allegedly "ridiculed and insulted specific female employees and/or former employees" and "engaged in sexualized, unwanted touching of multiple female employees." 

The city of Woodway sent this press release clarifying the terms of Zachary's resignation:

I feel it is necessary to correct some misinformation that has apparently been put out about Yost Zakhary’s resignation from employment with the City of Woodway.

First, the City does NOT owe and will not be paying Mr. Zakhary for the remaining term of his contract.  Mr. Zakhary resigned, and the City has no obligation to pay the remaining years under his contract.  What Mr. Zakhary will be entitled to be paid is any accrued vacation and holiday leave—which any City employee is entitled to on separation.

Second, no agreement was entered into with Mr. Zakhary for the submission of his resignation.

Finally, without creating liability to itself and handing an employee a reason to sue, a city cannot simply fire a public employee who is employed under a contract without providing procedural due process, which requires notice of the charges, notice of the evidence, a hearing, and a meaningful period to prepare to defend against the charges at a hearing.  If the City Council would have terminated Mr. Zakhary’s contract without going through this process, it WOULD have likely been liable for the rest of his contract. 

Zakhary chose not to attend Monday night's meeting, but he did give the following statement: 

It is with a great deal of mixed emotions that I announce my resignation from the City of Woodway. 

As provided under the terms and conditions of my employment with the City of Woodway, I am providing 60 days written notice in advance of the effective date of my resignation so that my resignation will be effective on June 5, 2018. However, in the event the City Council wishes to formally accept my resignation at an earlier date, then I am agreeable to such earlier effective date. 

Thank you for the opportunity to serve the City of Woodway for almost 40 years.

The suit also alleges that Zakhary had taken unauthorized pictures "of at least one female employee's body part on his phone." 

The council released this statement last week:

After receiving and reviewing additional information, the feeling of the council is that more serious action must be taken. However, because there is no action item for tonight's meeting; a meeting for Friday will be scheduled by a posting tomorrow morning to address the matter of Mr. Zakhary's employment. The City of Woodway and its City Council support the City's employees and will not tolerate inappropriate conduct.

Zakhary had been with the City of Woodway since 1979, where he began as a dispatcher. He was appointed Chief of Police in 1985 and City Manager in 2001. 

Zakhary resigned on March 19 as Director of the Public Safety.

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