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When I read ProtectYelm.org’s expose April 14th on the Yelm Chamber Forum luncheon Awards given on May 12th, I paused with stunned amazement. In reading the awards, I noticed that all of the awards were going to Chamber Board members’ businesses.

I immediately wrote the Chamber’s Executive Director Cecelia Jenkins asking how the Award Winners were selected. Cecelia said:
“We have an awards committee that nominates members that have volunteered/helped throughout the year and the Board votes by ballot on those nominated.”

So an awards committee nominates the award recipients and the Board votes by ballot?
Interesting then that the Board selected all of their own members’ businesses for an award!

My wife & I had the opportunity to ask a long-time Chamber Board member about this and he said “you honor the 5% that pull the weight of the 95%.”
I said that is well and good, however perhaps the better choice would be to have a special service award for the Board members only annually.
After all, you have over 400 other members that might be more inclined to participate more if the annual awards did not go just to Board member’s/elected officials’ businesses that the Board themselves select.

I wrote this to the Chamber Board as a Yelm Chamber of Commerce member for 5 years:

“I have to tell you that I have lived all over this country and on all three coasts as an airline executive and grew up in the Midwest and I have never seen any Chamber of Commerce Board Members select their own Board Members’ businesses and elected government official’s businesses and even elected officials in an annual award of acknowledgment of their service.
Everywhere I have lived, elected officials’ businesses & Board/Committee members’ businesses are not allowed to participate in an annual award to prevent conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety; Board members’ businesses have always been required to recuse themselves in any annual award.

I have never heard of a Chamber award for Outstanding Citizen of the year going to an elected official and Board Treasurer, who was elected to serve their community; and in the very first place service to the community that comes with the territory, because of their position anyway;
Humanitarian Award or some sort of other recognition outside of this format, yes.

Same with a newspaper, as they naturally serve in that role in which they are positioned in the community.
No disrespect intended to Mr. Harding, for his volunteering here in the community is commendable,
however we have a Mayor who has been a speaker twice this year at the Chamber Forums and that is only in the last 4 months, is the current Chamber Board Treasurer and is up for re-election this Fall and a probable mayoral candidate again this Fall.
Is that not enough?

Was there not any other person in the community not an elected official or Chamber Board member not deserving of this award?

While everyone greatly appreciates the fabulous service of this Mayor, Council members, newspaper & your committee members have contributed in service to their community, there are hundreds of other member’s businesses of this very Chamber, some of whom would have been recognized and might even step-up to the plate to do more, if the aforementioned 2008-2009 Award Winners’ businesses had been recused.
That would certainly have been more ecumenical, in my view.”

Now we have a Mayor and city government under the microscope for mismanagement of taxpayer funds and three from City Hall get an award this week?

Mayor Ron Harding, Citizen of the Year Award
Cindy Teixeira (former NVN award-winning investigative reporter), Community and Government Relations Coordinator for the City of Yelm will receive the Chamber President’s Award.
John Thompson, Yelm City Council member will receive the Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award.

While the Yelm Chambers awards to city officials this week lauding volunteerism is notable, those officials first responsibility is to protect their community and constituents from any harm. They apparently sacrificed that mandate for the advancement of a private developer and at the expense of their town, which tarnishes the validity of these awards.

The Yelm Chamber Board:
Debbie Caudill, President
Glen Cunningham, President-elect
Ron Harding, Treasurer
Steve Ruff, Past President
and these following board members:
Denise Bagwell
Angie Evans of the Nisqually Valley News, whose business received an award
Sandi Hanson
Scott Mills
Leslie Koch
Matt Purcell, whose business received an award
April Sage
Roger Smith, whose business, where he is in customer service at Baydo Chevrolet received an award
Gary Vallandingham


Posted by Steve on May 12, 2009 at 6:27 am | Permalink

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