- 2 Yelm Blogs raise ‘conflict of interest’ issues on city commissions,
- City Council discusses ramifications at their Study Session,
- Citizens report to this blog about community conversations begun,
- One volunteer citizen resigns, other changes enacted by council,
- City should avoid any ‘perception’ of a conflict of interest.
Editor’s note: The Olympian Editorial Board’s astute observation this week brilliantly conveyed the concept of how government works in a Constitutional Republic with their story titled: “Transparency is a two-way street. Government must be open, but citizens must tune in.” We witnessed that in Yelm in the last 10 days.
This was born out in Yelm as this blogger’s October 23rd and Nov. 28th posts about conflicts of interest with the same 2 persons serving on the Yelm Salary Review Commission and on Hotel Tax Committee, and who also are on the Yelm Chamber Board, which was raised in the council’s study session Dec. 4th. Just a week later on Dec. 11th, Mayor Foster announced one of the Salary Review Commission members had resigned, garnering a story in the Nisqually Valley News that said,
“Without a complete board, the commission cannot continue meeting, said City Administrator Michael Grayum.
“The commission was created to independently review and decide whether or not to adjust the salary package of City of Yelm elected officials.”
Bottom line: Councilor Carmody echoed this blogger’s view when she questioned the poor optics of having the same two persons [who both also serve on the Chamber Board] serving on both the city’s Salary Commission and the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC), where they are in a position to have advisory input over dissemination of thousands of dollars in funds making “significant financial decisions.” The cascading effect from citizens who read those blog posts led to required changes that avoid conflict of interest charges.
This from The Olympian speaks volumes and is so pertinent right here in Yelm at the local level: “Government must be open, but citizens must tune in!“
The Washington State Auditors Office issued an Accountability Audit Report for the City of Yelm on February 19, 2013 that said Mayor Harding should have…“bent over backwards” to prevent any and all appearances of a conflict of interest about the Chamber’s electronic reader board on city-owned land. Then-Nisqually Valley News (NVN) Publisher/Editor Keven Graves published an op-ed stating,
“I believe the ‘perception’ of a conflict of interest can be every bit as damaging as a genuine conflict of interest.”
He is correct, of course, and Mayor Foster along with all city officials now and in the future should lead with this quote as their mantra!