The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

There is no trust, so mayor and three must go


November 29, 2018

To The Eagle:

More of the same: At the October Cathlamet Town Council meeting, town councilor Sue Cameron discussed having invited John Morgan from the Morgan Group to speak with the town council. The purpose was to meet the council about helping them develop strategies when making decisions on major issues. She publicly stated he had been referred to her by Bill Fashing, the Council of Governments director. In fact, she had known Morgan since the 90’s when she worked with him in Tillamook. This really isn’t a big deal, except at that meeting, the council approved a $20,000 contract to John Morgan, without getting any other bids (?).

-- Why do our elected council members need to spend $20,000 to learn how to make decisions?

-- Why didn’t the council use the traditional bidding process to make sure $20,000 wasn’t too much for the service?

--Why did councilors Cameron, Burnham and Smith coordinate to meet Morgan separately, rather than as a council quorum, and why weren't councilors Tanya and Laurel Waller invited to meet him?

It’s also interesting that The Morgan Group’s initial findings were that our council “worked inefficiently, with a lack of responsibility and decision making ability, and with no established goals, objectives or planning actions.” Hmm.

At the November town council meeting, councilor Cameron presented a draft copy of a proposed code of conduct for our town meetings. One of the stipulations is that “speculation on council members’ motives is not allowed.” It appears she’s proposed this draft largely because the mayor and councilors Cameron, Burnham and Smith don’t like the negative feedback to their actions or lack of that they’re receiving. The negative feedback comes from multiple tax paying residents in attendance, and is usually well warranted.

When the mayor and councilors are confronted with questions about the gifting of public funds on questionable land purchases, or why they state, “Why should we have to tell anyone what we’re doing with the town’s money,” or why salient facts are omitted on issues that could hold the town liable on town real estate purchases, they push back and minimize concerns. The mayor’s usual defensive response is, “Thank you for your comment,” and the issue is simply dismissed. This is sad and not being accountable.

So let’s put this into perspective: This summer, Council Members Cameron, Burnham and Smith obsequiously approved the mayor's unapproved purchase of the Butler Street parking lot without checking out the town’s legal exposure or even seeing a copy of the purchase agreement, if one even existed at that point. If this code of conduct had been in place when the three council members and the mayor agreed to buy this gravel parking lot, there could have been no discussion allowed regarding:

- why they bought it?

- why the three council members have contrasting ideas on what they want it for?

- why we paid one of their friends so much for it?

- why they bought it knowing the state has environmental holds on the property, as well as ongoing concerns regarding allowing any type of soil disturbance on it.

I’ve recently learned through the Public Information Act that not only did the town pay twice ($68,000) the market value of the property if it could be developed (the mid $30,000), but to comply with existing state testing, we’ll need to spend another roughly $20,000 for the first test, and then likely another $18,000 or so ($9,000 twice) within the next five years. This is all before we’ll ever know if the soil can even be touched. The town will probably end up with a still-polluted parking lot valued at $30,000 or so at most and an out of pocket cost of almost $100,000. Moreover, there’s still no guarantee we’ll ever be allowed to do anything with it.

I couldn’t make all this up if I tried. Fortunately, it’s available to source through the Public Record Act and the town’s monthly meeting minutes.

We need to be able to trust the mayor and all of the council. It’s time for Mayor Jacobson and Council Members Cameron, Burnham and Smith to resign.

Bill Wainwright



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