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

It's time to be candid and frank about council


December 20, 2018

Reader Commentary by Bill Wainwright

In last week’s Letter to the Editor, town Councilor Sue Cameron illustrates again how tone deaf and deceptive the many narratives issued by our town council have been. Mayor Dale Jacobson and majority of the council have pretty much disregarded the issues voiced by many of our tax paying town residents. It still looks like more of the same.

In her letter, Cameron spins a series of half- truths and omissions to justify some of the council’s recent actions, primarily regarding the town’s finances and planning. She says our voiced concerns are “misconceptions, conjecture and assumptions.” Hardly. I won’t bother reiterating the multiple facts that we’ve presented that explain why her explanations and justifications are not valid. Anyone who has been attending the town meetings and paying attention will be aware of the town’s disingenuous actions, and frankly, there’s no need to drag The Eagle’s readers through them again.

However, for the sake of clarity, let me give you just two examples of why I say this:

First, regarding the dismal Butler Street purchase, Cameron said the council performed their due diligence before purchasing the property (I’m assuming regarding the town’s financial and ecological exposure). On March 25, 2018, well before the transaction took place, the mayor sent an email to the town council regarding an email he received from the Washington State Dept. of Ecology “Toxic Site Clean Up” manager. The manager stated the Butler Street property would not be permitted for any land use because of remaining contamination. The comment ending the mayor's email was that things looked “kinda ugly.”

Then, in early August, the town was again notified by the same state official that the Butler Street property was still deemed toxic. Moreover, around the same time this summer, the town was notified that the state didn’t recognize the letter the bank supplied the previous owner that exempted the owner of the property of any environmental liabilities. Any liabilities would accordingly apply to the current owner, which of course is now the Town of Cathlamet.

To top things off, it was around this time that the town was notified by the same engineering firm that provides services for the port district that the cost to monitor any soil clean up would cost the owner (Town of Cathlamet) tens of thousands of dollars. Again, all before we ever know if we can even touch the soil surface.

Regardless of these “facts,” Councilors Cameron, Burnham and Smith quickly voted to proceed with the purchase of the overpriced property owned by a friend. This doesn’t meet our definition of due diligence, or for that matter, meet fiduciary responsibilities. Rather, it strikes me and other town residents as misfeasance.

The second example is tough to choose because there are so many. I’ll go with her code of conduct comment though because it’s easiest to address:

- -At times, the town council meetings have a toxic environment because of the council’s action.

-- Inflammatory comments and attacks are directed to the mayor and Cameron, Smith and Burnham because of their actions, and often “lack of” action. We don’t feel you’re representing the town as elected to.

- -We don’t like hearing councilors say, “Why should we have to tell the town residents what we’re doing with the town’s money.” Sorry, but after the Butler Street purchase, we no longer trust Mayor Jacobson or Councilors Burnham, Smith or Cameron with our money. If you can’t stand the heat of (being accountable), get out of the kitchen.

These four seem to have their own agenda which often seems to run counter to the town’s best long term interests. We stand by the facts we’ve presented to the public in the past, and dismiss any attempts by these four to selectively spin information to justify actions. If any new readers would like to meet and discuss this in further detail, I’d be happy to sit down with you over coffee and talk about things in greater detail.

Cathlamet’s financial and planning future can’t stand another 2-3 years with Mayor Jacobson and Councilors Cameron, Burnham and Smith remaining in office. This isn’t conjecture, or harassment, or any degree of personal attack. This is just reality.

This isn’t going away anytime soon, and we still strongly encourage these four to resign promptly. Doing so would be in the town’s best interests and ultimately, theirs as well. There are other, better qualified individuals willing to step up and take over to fulfill their responsibilities.


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