– Editor’s note:
I was asked by a city official a few months ago why I periodically post what was termed as a “gotcha’ piece on city issues. The posts are only “gotchas” to those elected officials that have something to hide!
I responded all of these posts are based on facts for the public to scrutinize and check-out for themselves. I am not afraid to speak-up when I see city issues where the public should be informed. While some of this information may not be popular for leaders to have exposed, I do not care what anyone at city hall thinks about me, nor am I seeking to be their friend either.
This Blogger has always let the facts speak, has never taken a dime from anyone to disseminate info via this site, and owes no deference to anyone, unlike other local news sources who have their alliances and allegiances.
– UPDATE: December 3, 2018:
[As covered here October 23, 2018, “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…. 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.]
– The issue: a conflict of interest
While I know the ladies serving on the citizen committees referenced below have been expecting my blog comments, their concerns of my criticism about them are misplaced, as this issue is not about them. Rather, I applaud their giving spirit in volunteering their time and effort. However, this issue goes way beyond an appearance of a conflict of interest about the city’s leadership that allows the following to go unchecked:
Yelm Salary Commission
* Denise Hibbeln, Line Critchfield were 2 of 3 appointees to the Yelm Salary Commission,
* These 2 of 3 Salary Commissioners also currently serve on Yelm’s Chamber of Commerce Board,
* 2 persons out of 3 from a singular organization can unduly influence the commission’s vote/decisions based on their relationship between the mayor, city, and the Yelm Chamber, either positively or negatively.
Yelm Lodging Tax Advisory Committee
* Denise Hibbeln, Line Critchfield also serve on the Yelm Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which recommends to the council dissemination of tens of thousands of dollars. Hibbeln represents a hotel collecting the tax (Prairie Hotel), Critchfield represents a potential recipient from a non-profit (Yelm Chamber). Yet the Chamber also receives city funding annually to produce a map, joins the city as partner on civic events, and rents the Community Center gratis.
* Margaret Clapp also serves on this committee as the 2nd hotel representative, along with Yelm business owner Cynthia Schmier. Clapp also provides space in one of her buildings to the Yelm Chamber.
* City Finance Dir. Joe Wolfe plus Chair Mayor Foster also serve this group.
* The Chamber website lists councilors Tracey Wood and Terry Kaminski as Board members.
* While well-deserving, the Chamber is a Christmas Parade co-sponsor [with Yelm’s Parks Advisory Committee] and they chose the mayor and his wife as 2018 Christmas Parade Grand Marshalls.
* A blog reader wrote to suggest the Chamber has an “incestuous” relationship with the city. I agree.
* The State Auditor’s Office also raised a city/chamber relationship issue in Feb. 2013.
* The optics on all of this information do not shed the city in a positive light.
* With these kind of issues continuing, city officials should have a mandatory ethics course!
– Bottom Line:
Two non-elected citizens both serving on the same 2 committees which recommend distribution of vast city resources is not conducive to providing the council with the broadest diversity of experience and viewpoints.
What about the city offering other non-profits a seat at the table, rather than always deferring to the Yelm Chamber Executive Director?
A sample of some Yelm non-profits include and are not limited to BFF/Yelm Farmers Market, YoungLife Hwy. 507, Friends of the Library, and Standing Room Only (SRO) Theater Group.
The city needs to be more responsible about avoiding all appearances of conflicts of interest, as the State Auditor’s office previous told city leadership in a former interaction with the Yelm Chamber, as reported here.
If the mayor is not going to assume a leadership role, the council needs to be more aggressive in holding city hall responsible for conducting the highest quality of business ethics.
DOES ANYONE ELSE SEE THIS POINT OF VIEW ABOUT A CONFLICT OF INTEREST, EXCEPT ATTORNEYS?
[As covered here October 23, 2018, “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.” Further, 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 within the city limits, the city 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.]