With the community in an uproar over Mayor Harding’s side-stepping a conflict-of-interest issue in this week’s Nisqually Valley News story, listing me as the only person rallying this call as the mayor’s “nemesis,” if reporter Wyble would have had the courtesy to interview me directly, he would have been given the facts that others highlighted Mayor Harding’s previous conflicts of interest:
– Wyble’s former boss, then-Nisqually Valley News (NVN) Publisher/Editor Keven Graves said this in his June 18, 2010 Op-Ed titled “Should the mayor be serving two masters?” when Harding was both mayor and Chamber President:
“I believe the ‘perception’ of a conflict of interest can be every bit as damaging as a genuine conflict of interest.”
– Graves also raised this issue in 2011 when Harding served as Mayor of Yelm and President of the Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce, while also on the citys Transportation Committee. That committee recommended naming a city street ‘Walmart Boulevard’ adjacent Yelm’s Wal-Mart superstore, also a Yelm Camber of Commerce member and another instance where Harding should have recused himself from involvement.
– Harding was told by the State Auditor’s office in 2013 that he should have “bent over backwards” to prevent any and all appearances of a conflict of interest when a Yelm Chamber of Commerce electronic reader board was placed on city property. Again, Mr. Graves said Harding could ‘grease the skids’ for the Chamber over other applicants.
– In January 2013, Harding filed to be interim County Auditor for a then-recently vacated position. The day prior to the County Commissioners decision, Harding withdrew his name. The Commissioners chose Deputy County Auditor & Rep. Gary Alexander, who then selected Harding as his deputy replacement. Mr. Harding kept his Yelm mayoral position and along with his boss Rep. Alexander, they were getting two taxpayer funded paychecks. While legal, there were calls from a large cross-section of the community that Harding had County decisions and oversight involving the City of Yelm, therefore a conflict of interest. He became known as half of the team known as the Double-Dippers.