– Editor’s note:
2 of 3 Salary Commission members who both also serve on the Chamber’s Board can unduly undermine trust of the commission’s recommendations, as they can always have the majority say.
The October 2nd Yelm City Council approved three citizens who applied for the 3 positions on the Yelm Salary Commission: Denise Hibbeln, Ken McCulloch, Line Critchfield. While I applaud these citizens for committing to public service and all being outstanding givers in the community, I e-mailed City Administrator Michael Grayum for his comment on the poor optics of having 2 of 3 Salary Commissioners who currently serve on the Board of the Yelm Chamber of Commerce. Summarizing his response; the city had advertised extensively and only received these three people as respondents. I replied that a majority of 2 persons out of 3 from a singular organization can unduly influence the vote/decisions based on their relationship between the city and the Yelm Chamber, either positively or negatively. I received no response from Mr. Grayum to that observation.
To just accept only these folks on the committees just because they were the only applicants, full well knowing there was at best an appearance of a conflict of interest, is not in the public’s interest.
In a city of almost 10,000, the staff can get more interested persons to serve if only they would make an effort, i.e solicit business owners and managers to apply at the Yelm Chamber Forum, Yelm Real Estate Network, Yelm Schools (teachers, administration), and non-profit Boards in our community, etc. Where there is a will, there is a way to attract talented individuals to participant.
Further, other entanglements between the Chamber and city require reconsideration:
* Denise Hibbeln, Line Critchfield also serve on the city’s Hotel/Motel Tax Committee directing tax funds,
* The Chamber website lists Tracey Wood and Terry Kaminski as Board members. If Wood and Kaminski are both still members of the Chamber Board, having 2 councilors on their Board is another questionable entanglement, as the Yelm Council votes to provide annual taxpayer funding to the Chamber for tourism support, which necessitates Wood and Kaminski recusing themselves on the council’s funding discussions and vote to disseminate funds to the Chamber. One city rep. on their board is sufficient.
* The Chamber has been receiving extensive use of the Community Center gratis from the city for their forums under the proposition that the Chamber provides promotional opportunities for the center. I “get it,” however at what point is “enough is enough” of this freebie and the Chamber pays rent for the facility like other organizations? My point is simple you see – what if that freebie ends and the 2 Chamber board members would have an issue that could affect their Salary Commission decisions and be perceived as being tainted?
– Additionally, the three female councilors were not present even though the council had a quorum for their Oct. 2nd session, so the four male councilors approved the vote. A quorum vote with all of the female councilors absent should be avoided in the future. Again, while following the rules, the optics of this just don’t look good! Action items should be postponed out of erring on the side of caution whenever this occurs.
– Bottom Line: The Yelm Council should direct that two persons from the same organization’s Board can not serve on the Salary Commission, and request more pubic participants to apply. Otherwise, every decision from the Salary Commission can be called into question as being partisan – not a good place for a Commission where 100% trust in their recommendations is a requirement.
The City of Yelm leadership was advised twice previously in the last 10 years by the state auditor’s office that they should avoid any and all appearances of a conflict of interest. Yet the perception of cronyism that has been the hallmark of Yelm’s mayors for the last 13 years continues unabated!