The Thurston County Republican Party announced last week that Yelm Mayor Ron Harding is one of three candidates being considered to replace Kim Wyman as Thurston County Auditor.
What qualifies Mayor Harding to be considered as Wyman’s replacement?
Harding’s actions as Mayor of Yelm for 7 years are inconsistent with the Auditor’s Mission Statement.
Quoting the Thurston County Auditor’s website:
The Thurston County Auditor’s Office is entrusted by the citizens, mandated by law, and driven by integrity to:
– Process licenses and titles with knowledge and proficiency to ensure excellent customer service;
– Record and preserve documents accurately for current and historical research;
– Promote excellence in public finance and ensure integrity in financial reporting;
– Administer accurate, fair, transparent, and impartial elections.
Harding’s actions as mayor have demonstrated he lacks the requirements of the county Auditor position, supported by, yet not limited to, these facts:
– In Spring, 2006, Mayor Harding’s first encounter with dissatisfied constituents came from the city’s stand allowing Wal-Mart to build a Superstore here. A Yelm anti-Wal-Mart citizens group was formed and Professional Engineers, Ecology employees and local property owners raised issues with Mayor Harding and the city council about groundwater run-off, traffic and effects on the aquifer what with a city well nearby. On April 23, 2006, even then state-Rep. Tom Campbell said in his Yelm Town Hall Meeting that the city council, directed by Mayor Harding, approved Wal-Mart using incorrect traffic numbers and were permitting every development then proposed to the city, leading to the creation of major issues for traffic, water and sewage.
Against city policy to name a street after a business, Mayor Harding led the city council into a vote to rename the eastern end of the Yelm Bypass Wal-Mart Blvd., on June 28, 2011, in another string of “appearances of a conflict-of-interest” that even the local newspaper called “a silly move.”
– In January, 2007, a report revealed the city had no contract for Yelm taxpayers to get reimbursed via an EIS for the Thurston Highlands developer’s portion (approx 52%) of the $550,003 authorized for a water study the City Council funded for the purpose of a development on private property, which Mayor Harding oversaw via his City Administrator. The development went bankrupt, the city never filed a lien on the property and the taxpayers were left to pay the entire amount.
– In May, 2009, various area media reports pointed to a lack of oversight by city officials that the Thurston Highlands development was in arrears in city remittances for $121,500 plus back-taxes, the city filed no liens against the properties and did not inform the public this happened 8+ months earlier. Harding’s lack of oversight of the city’s Community Development Dept. came under scrutiny, even reported in The Olympian.
– In October, 2009: After years of subterfuge and inaccuracies promulgated by Harding about Yelm water issues, which led to a WA. Supreme Court ruling against the City of Yelm costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, “In a letter dated October 26, 2009, Mayor Ron Harding wrote private citizen Alice McMonigle to condemn her water rights. Mr. Harding stated that the city intends to acquire those rights ‘through the exercise of power under eminent domain for the purpose of providing municipal water for the City Water System.'”
– Throughout Spring, 2010, Mayor Harding told the public the City of Yelm could only afford to spend up to $600,000 to purchase a library building, then on April 27, 2011, Harding presented a plan to the Timberland Regional Library (TRL) Board to purchase the leased 2nd-floor Yelm library facility for $1.2 million. During his presentation, he told the TRL Board he had not previously discussed this proposal with the Yelm City Council, against the Yelm Municipal Code and Revised Code of Washington (RCW).
The City of Yelm’s website:
“The Council acts as a body. No member has any extraordinary powers beyond those of other members.”
– On June 18, 2010, Nisqually Valley News (NVN) Editor/Publisher Keven Graves asked in his Op-Ed “Should the mayor be serving two masters” where Graves vigorously examined an appearance of conflict of interest by Mayor Harding as the-then Treasurer & president-elect of the Yelm Chamber of Commerce, who “brought a proposal to the chamber board to purchase an electronic sign.” The sign would be rented to advertisers and placed on a city-owned easement. Graves observed, “As mayor, Harding has the potential to knowingly or unknowingly ‘grease the skids’ for the chamber in this process.”
– On Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 after a closed-to-the-public City Council Executive Session item, Council member Mike McGowan was the only one voting “No”, saying public notification and responses from the Executive Session were required prior to the vote. Harding continued with the vote anyway, usurping the public’s right-to-know. Even Tim Ford in the state attorney generals office said of Harding’s actions,
“Obviously it is in the public interest of transparency and accountability to provide as much detail as possible.”
“It is also in the citys interest to do so in order to avoid being accused of violating the OPMA [Open Public Meetings Act].”
– On June 11, 2012, the Tacoma News Tribune published an investigative report that the Yelm Municipal Court hindered access to public files. Lack of training and city officials’ oversight was cited as the cause.
– On June 12, 2012, Mayor Harding oversaw Yelm’s City Council adding $1,000,000 to the library bond for a community center without public input, one he said the city could not staff. Yelm has a community center and a second proposed by the Lion’s Club. Why is the city’s third one necessary, and without public approval?
Mayor Harding has continued to demonstrate time and again that he does not have the skills required to be County Auditor nor has the public’s interests as his number one priority.
Mr. Harding is a very warm and personable fellow, a likeable guy, however nothing personal, I just don’t support his policies.
And cronyism with fellow Republicans does not qualify one for a County Auditor position.
Mayor Harding’s “small-minded, politics-as-usual” practices have no business in County government and beyond!
UPDATE: January 18, 2013
Mayor Harding said in the local newspaper’s front-page story:
“In the private sector, Harding said he spent many years in business management.”
That is very interesting because his resume includes no business management experience, only being a contractor in his firm R & M Construction and co-owner of Harding Florist. While he may assert ownership
of partner-based proprietorships gives him business management experience, his background has no business management experience.
The Olympian’s Editorial Board said in 2005 about Harding’s then-candidacy for Yelm mayor after he was interviewed by them that he lacked business management experience.