Yelm City Council candidate James Blair raises “serious” questions of city leadership – lack of transparency, city council in the dark!
- Editor’s note: Yelm City Council candidate James Blair (Pos. 1) asked the mayor, city administrator and council about two line item requests in the state budget for Yelm: 1. $307,000 for the nonprofit Historic Water Tower Preservation foundation, 2. $200,000 for the City of Yelm to create a business incubator space.
- Blair asked why the $200,000 funding request was listed if the city council did not originate this in the first place. There was no public request and/or council approval for such.
- Blair said he heard through an anonymous source that the city was attempting to divert the nonprofit’s funding for the city’s incubator space and requested the council look into this further.
- Councilor Carmody asked, “Are you saying the city was attempting to take money from the water tower project for the incubator” space. This is “a serious allegation to take a non-profit’s money for the city’s purpose,” Carmody said. Blair confirmed.
- Blair made his point that the city should not be interjecting the city into the private market by using taxpayers dollars, which he called the definition of cronyism. Councilor Stillwell said business incubator spaces created with public funding work, as he explained was the case of the Ellensburg (WA.) Business Incubator, where he had familiarity.
- Councilor DePinto said he was not fully briefed on the city’s $200,000 line item in the state budget request. Mayor Foster deferred to City Administrator Grayum to explain. Grayum said he had mentioned this previously to DePinto in a phone call. Yet if so, this should have been sent to the entire council PRIOR to the city’s request to the state legislator(s).
- Councilor Carmody was concerned the city leadership requested $200,000 from the state for a business incubator with an over-budget (by $160,000) Yelm Splash Park that needs to be funded, and especially for a project (the business incubator) NOT approved by the council.
- Councilor Wood asked for a full explanation since he was unaware of the city’s funding request to the state for this.
- The fumbling and bumbling responses by Mayor Foster and City Administrator Grayum were especially troubling, as the perplexed council’s questions reflected.
- Later in the session, Grayum said he found the e-mails related to the incubator funding request and will forward to all councilors. He also said he located the two original requests the city sent to the legislature and will forward to councilors. THESE were the requests that circumnavigated the city council, about which Mr. Blair commented.
+ Bottom line: Three things were very apparent in this exchange –
- Mayor Foster “threw City Administrator Grayum under the bus” yet again, as the mayor would be aware of any funding request that was submitted to our state legislators, yet said nothing to address the particular “serious” allegations,
- Was there evidence the city attempted to get a portion of nonprofit’s funding diverted and if an elected official is aware such information exists, they have a fiduciary responsibility to honor their oath of office and share that on-the-record to the city council,
- The city council MUST initiate an investigation on why they were not informed nor included in the decision-making about this issue, the 640 acre contract, and other key areas of their oversight when city leaders go rogue on them!
Unclear was if the city is getting the $200,000 from the state or not, and if so, the council will have to vote on whether that goes for a business incubator or reducing debt on the Splash Park.