Stober resigns as communications director for King County assessor

Former Kent City Council candidate, King County Democrats chair to receive $37,700 settlement

Bailey Stober, a three-time Kent City Council candidate and now a resident of Auburn, resigned Monday as the communications director for King County Assessor John Wilson.

King County placed Stober on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave Feb. 12 because of his controversial conduct as chair of the King County Democrats. Stober resigned from his chair position earlier this month.

“His resignation is one part of a separation agreement between Mr. Stober and King County,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the King County Department of Assessments. “The separation agreement stems from conduct and events occurring in Mr. Stober’s role as the Chair of the King County Democrats.”

King County hired attorney Patty Eakes, of Seattle-based Calfo Eakes & Ostrovsky, to investigate allegations against Stober that he harassed Natalia Koss Vallejo, the former executive director of the King County Democrats. The county paid Eakes $25,360 for the two-month investigation that resulted in a 29-page report.

“King County’s investigation substantiated some of the allegations and some were unfounded,” according to the statement. “The investigation did not find that Mr. Stober engaged in any misconduct while performing his official duties for the King County Department of Assessments. However, King County determined that recent conduct and events made it so Mr. Stober could not continue in his role at the Department of Assessments.

“King County believes that Mr. Stober’s resignation and this separation agreement allows the Department of Assessments to move forward from this matter and that it will protect King County and King County taxpayers from the possibility of a lengthy and costly lawsuit. This settlement agreement with Mr. Stober provides the equivalent of approximately four month’s severance pay and contains a no-litigation clause that protects King County from legal liability.”

Stober will receive a settlement of $37,700, according to the separation agreement. Stober received an annual salary of $98,008. He began his county job in January 2016.

The Eakes investigation found that Stober, in his role as King County Democrats chair, “engaged in conduct that was outside the bounds of an appropriate employer-employee relationship, including his use of derogatory language about his employee (Koss Vallejo); juvenile behavior directed toward Ms. Koss Vallejo; and frequency of after-work social events and the amount of alcohol consumed at these events.”

According to the report, “Mr. Stober called Ms. Koss Vallejo a bitch both verbally and in writing. A number of witnesses offered corroborating accounts regarding Mr. Stober’s use of this language at or about Ms. Koss Vallejo.”

Stober denied to investigators that he called Koss Vallejo a bitch except in a Dec. 27 text message, which he said was a slang expression not meant to be derogatory.

The juvenile behavior incidents included Stober accessing Koss Vallejo’s Facebook page to post what he later called a “stupid joke” but what investigators concluded as inappropriate to access the account and to post an embarrassing message.

The other incident involved Stober spraying Silly String on Koss Vallejo while she was driving and posting a video of it to his Instagram account.

As far as alcohol consumption, Koss Vallejo told investigators that about 80 percent of her meetings with Stober involved alcohol and included meetings at his King County Democrats office and after-work meetings at bars.

Stober, who lost general election Kent City Council races to Deborah Ranniger in 2011 and Ken Sharp in 2013 as well as a primary race in 2015 against Tina Budell and Hira Singh Bhullar, sent a resignation email to Wilson as part of the settlement agreement.

“It is with mixed emotions that I offer you my resignation as your Director of Communications and External Relations, effective immediately,” Stober said in the email. “It has been one of the greatest honors of my career to serve both your administration and the constituents of King County, over nearly two and a half years. I am extremely proud of the work we have done under your leadership, in an effort to improve the quality of life for King County residents.”

Stober helped manage government relations for 39 cities, including Kent and Auburn, and hundreds of taxing districts.

Prior to being hired by the county, Stober worked on Wilson’s campaign for assessor in 2015.

“When I asked people if I should take a risk and manage your campaign, they told me it would be a longshot and didn’t stand a chance to succeed,” Stober said in his email to Wilson. “I’ve enjoyed every single minute of proving them wrong, winning all 17 legislative districts in King County and constantly delivering results with you. From election night to our work on affordable housing to protecting seniors to increasing transparency – it has been an honor and a privilege. It has been a gift that I thank you for entrusting me with.”

Stober remains under investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office for alleged campaign violations in his 2015 Kent City Council race.

In 2015, the state Public Disclosure Commission levied a $4,000 penalty against Stober over campaign disclosure and record-keeping violations related to two separate Kent City Council campaigns he ran in 2011 and 2013. Half of that penalty was suspended unless Stober committed further campaign finance violations within four years.

The Attorney General’s Office enforces the state’s campaign finance disclosure law to ensure free, open and fair elections in Washington state.

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