Sparks fly over chamber’s letter to city council
By KEVIN HANSON
Enumclaw Courier Herald Senior Writer, Editor
February 2, 2009 · Updated 9:03 PM
A strongly-worded letter from the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce – which took certain city leaders to task for alleged unprofessional conduct – sparked verbal fireworks during the Jan. 26 meeting of the City Council.
The letter, written and signed by chamber president Beverly Olson, had been delivered to council members several days earlier.
In her five-paragraph missive, Olson alleged there has been “a pattern and campaign of intimidation and harassment” initiated by City Hall and directed at the chamber’s executive director, Cathy Rigg.
Specifically, Olson complained about visits paid to Riggs’ office by Mayor John Wise and City Attorney Mike Reynolds and a subsequent phone call from City Administrator Mark Bauer. All complained about the chamber’s decision to survey members and determine if there was support for a new logo the city was considering adopting.
“Using one’s perceived power to intimidate our director will not be tolerated, anymore,” Olson wrote, adding a request that future meetings between city officials and the chamber director also include the chamber president.
Reynolds has explained that he visited as a chamber member and not in his city capacity.
The tense scene during the most recent council meeting began when Councilman Kevin Mahelona noted that all council members had received the letter and wondered aloud what should be done about it.
Councilman Jeff Coats noted that it was a personal issue that should be worked out privately between the mayor’s office and chamber leadership and fellow Councilman Jeff Beckwith suggested that a council committee work to set up a meeting between the two entities.
Councilman Mike Ennis took the discussion in a different direction, noting that “council has a vested interest” when accusations are made against those holding the city’s highest office. Beckwith agreed that council needed to get involved, as the letter also lodged complaints against Bauer and the city attorney.
Councilwoman Liz Reynolds, raising her voice slightly to be heard, noted “this is not to be taken lightly.”
Wise asked that the matter be discussed in executive session, meaning it would go behind closed doors, out of public view and away from the all-seeing eye of Enumclaw City Television.
The city attorney agreed that the matter qualified for executive session, but council members chose to keep the discussion public.
“There’s no reason for you to get involved,” Wise said, pointing out that no allegations were made against the council. He made it clear that he was unhappy with the matter being discussed in a public setting and said it was “inappropriate” that the letter had not been sent to him.
Olson had e-mailed the letter only to council, but her final line noted that each should feel free to share the letter with administration.
“We need to have transparency,” Liz Reynolds said, defending the council’s right to be part of the discussion.
Ennis complained that the “contents of the letter are being swept under the rug.”
In the end, Wise said he would be happy to meet with both Rigg and Olson in an effort to iron out their differences.
Rigg was out of the chamber office last week due to a family emergency, so a meeting had not been arranged by Friday afternoon.
In a related matter, toward the end of the Jan. 26 meeting, Beckwith held up a resolution in support of the chamber that was, he said, written by Ennis with the help of other council members.
The resolution acknowledged “the professionalism and competence” of both Rigg and assistant Kim Peterson while also city the chamber’s board of directors as “a strong and able body with the necessary resolve to issue positive guidance” in support of the chamber’s mission.
The resolution, though introduced, was not acted upon.
Reach Kevin Hanson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-802-8205.Contact Enumclaw Courier Herald Senior Writer, Editor Kevin Hanson at email@example.com or 360-802-8205.