The movie CHINATOWN starring Jack Nicholson seemed like a good but distant morality tale before moving to Mason County.
It’s been said (on good authority) if you want to get to the bottom of what’s going on in politics, follow the money! Local resident Pat Vandehey posted a recent article criticizing the EDC’s (Economic Development Council) public funding provided by its friends, Commisioners Tim Sheldon and Jerry Lingle, to the tune of $68,000 during a 4-12-11 county commissioners meeting. As Ms. Vandehey points out, this was double the annual funding from the county for a private corporation with no mechanism in place for public oversight of its operations or spending of public funds. The EDC receives public money from other local government agencies as well…including the Port of Shelton.
Perhaps the problem can best be summed up in Ms. Vandehey’s own words: “Why is an entity which is private, has no public hearings, and gets no input from the taxpayers receiving public funds, our tax money. I was told the public could attend EDC meetings, but no meetings are posted on their website, and the only items on their calendar are membership luncheons every other month at the Alderbrook Resort.”
An investigation reveals the following: According to Scott Bills of the State Auditor’s office, RCW 39.80,030 – .050 exempts government agencies from the requirement of putting up for bid PROFESSIONAL SERVICES provided by such companies. The self policing effect of companies competing to provide goods and services paid for with taxpayer’s money is self evident. But no such requirement exists if those services are categorized/defined as ‘PROFESSIONAL’. In other words, the foxes are guarding the hen house.
Paige Hansen, a Mason County Auditor’s office staffer revealed that unlike bills tendered to other county agencies, those submitted by the EDC go directly to Mason County’s Central Operations. That department was once directed by Betty Wing. But her position was eliminated by Tim Sheldon and the other County Commissioners. So who oversees the EDC contract and makes decisions on what funding to provide/pay the EDC?–you guessed it, Tim Sheldon and the other commissioners who received campaign contributions from those associated with/paid by the EDC!…the SAME Tim Sheldon who directed the EDC for years prior to being elected County Commissioner. Jay Hupp, now Shelton Pork Commissioner, inherited the EDC helm from Tim before moving on to the Port. Currently, Jay funnels public money to the EDC as well. Jay and the same incestuous crowd contributed campaign money to Jerry Lingle and Tim Sheldon. Are we beginning to see a pattern here?
Tim is on the board of directors for Island Enterprises, a Squaxin Island corporation. The Squaxins as well as the Skokomish Tribe were notably absent in the community’s battle to preserve the environment from the likes of Adage. Yet these same tribes invite cooperation from the very same community in preserving their treaty/ancestral rights to their environmental heritage. Having made a Faustian bargain with Tim Sheldon, et ux, they can ill afford to rock the boat at this late date in the name of environmental stewardship and community solidarity.
Tim Sheldon serves many masters, some private, some public. e.g. Northwest Energy Council, a hodge podge of companies promoting electrical generation/development–including nuclear. But while Mason County and Washington State are, for all practical purposes, the same sovereign, the Squaxin Island Tribe/Nation is not! Hence, a conflict of interest exists based on this fact alone. Moreover, Tim (and Jay Hupp) funnel public money to the EDC that results in some of it being returned to them by way of campaign contributions. Each of these self dealing officials scratches the other’s back in turn. The rules of the game are well understood by all the participants. And unlike the federal laws applying to federal regulators/law makers, Washington State has no 2-year required interval from the time a person leaves government service until he/she takes up employment with the company they’d previously been regulating. In Tim’s example, he hasn’t even left government service yet is beholden to groups he supposedly regulates as a county commissioner and a State Senator. Virtually all of Tim’s campaign fund contributions come from corporations according to the State’s Public Disclosure Commission data…left over contributions, once he leaves office, he’s allowed to pocket/keep under State law.
Which weighs more…a pound of feathers or a pound of gold? Having feathered his own nest so prodigiously, Tim is well aware the pound of feathers weighs more…both because there’s only 12 ounces in Troy weight and because the gold will come soon enough. There’s scarcely a pie in Mason County he doesn’t have his fingers in.
Just who is on the board of EDC directors, anyway? Read it and weep, the names should be very familiar as part of the recent Adage bacchanal:
|Laurie Buhl||Chair||Heritage Bank|
|Kristy Buck||Vice Chair||John L. Scott – Shelton|
|Rob Drexler||Secretary/Treasurer||Windermere Real Estate – Lakeland|
|Pat Cusack||Shelton School District|
|Blayde Fry||Simpson Lumber Company|
|Ross Gallagher||Mason County Commissioner|
Sunlight Woodenworks, Inc.
|Eric Moll||Mason General Hospital|
Mason County PUD No. 3
|Randy Neatherlin||Port of Allyn|
|David Overton||Overton and Associates|
|Mike Pervis||Hood Canal Grocery|
|William Smith||Skokomish Tribe|
|John Tarrant||City of Shelton Mayor|
|Bill Taylor||Taylor Shellfish|
|Steven Taylor||Mason County PUD No. 1|
|Tom Wallitner||Port of Shelton Commissioner|
|Bob Whitener||Island Enterprises, Inc.|
|Jim Zmudka||Olympic Panel Products|
Diane Zoren, the now acting secretary/assistant to the Mason County Commissioners forwarded the following rather ‘sweet’ contract between the County and the EDC:
Pretty sweet, huh? With no impediment to the pork barrel and Betty Wing removed, the EDC invoices receive no oversight save the politicians the EDC staff helped elect. Again, Pat Vandehey summarizes the scandal succinctly when she asks:
If EDC is a private group, why are they entitled to public money?
Why doesn’t the public have input as to what businesses would be appropriate for our area?
Do the board members live in Mason County?
What viable compatible businesses has the EDC successfully brought to Mason County in the past five years?
Does the EDC support the Hills enterprise?
Who started this group, and who decided it should be publicly funded without any accountability to the taxpayers?
Brenda Hirschi, a recent candidate for County Commissioner had discovered this sham when she wrote the following:
Effective Feb 19  Mike Carnavole resigned from the LTAC. Ross [Gallagher] mentioned that Kitsap County will be changing their process and did Tim and Lynda want to make similar changes. To this Lynda said just because Kitsap is making changes that doesn’t necessarily mean that Mason County needs to make changes. Kitsap’s change will not allow representatives who receive grant funding to sit on the LTAC as it decides how to divvy the dollars up. It appears that some of the problems we are seeing in Mason County regarding LTAC is common throughout the state. We also have a “tight knit group of people often looking out for their own financial interest with very little or no public oversight.”
Randy Netherlin (a member of the EDC himself) admits those appointed to its board of directors are those who have contributed to it. EXCUSE ME?! So John Tarrant, mayor of Shelton, has contributed to EDC and funnels city taxpayer funds to the same corporation? This entire scheme starts to look like a family of 1st cousins from Arkansas. Randy candidly declares: “That’s just how these things work.”
Mrs. Vandehey goes on to observe:
In the EDC website it is stated:
“The EDC offers businesses the benefit of a single source business data and demographics and process facilitation. Through visionary thinking and strategic relationships, the EDC eases the way for efficient business location and expansion assistance.“
“ The EDC of Mason County will work to expedite the permitting process required for business location or expansion. Local government is experienced with fast-tracking permit approvals.”
This sounded suspect to me as to whether the concerns, safety, or health of the community ever comes into the picture. I believe that the EDC should be put under scrutiny. Taxpayers should be informed about the EDC’s activities, and be given information when a business is be considered or promoted, so that it is not greased through before anyone knows about it.
The EDC doesn’t precisely spell it out, but strongly hints they can grease the regulatory skids and shepherd/expedite the permit application through the hurdles of various administrative agencies. So by paying off EDC, whose staff in turn contribute to certain campaign funds, Corporation ‘A’ gets a leg up in the permit process at the expense of John Q. Citizen who isn’t as sophisticated or well endowed. Do these EDC concierges know somebody? Randy Netherlin was candid enough to admit they did. Again, he opined, “That’s how these things work in the real world.” [Especially in Mason County]
The Belfair locale Renaissance Fair that was nixed by Tim Sheldon’s invoking the DNR a couple of years ago (along with the infu$ion 80,000 patrons would have brought to North Mason County) is a good example of the cost of failing to payoff the EDC (and contribute to the right campaign coffers) before embarking on such a project. And the scantily clad barristas might have kept their jobs if their manager had been more sophisticated about “how it works” in Mason County.
Timber baron Tim’s pretext for shutting down the Renaissance Fair venue near Belfair? The promoter had lease-purchase optioned approximately 250 acres and (Gasp!) cut down some trees in preparation for the event’s 80,000 visitors…ironic, in hindsight, given this is the very same County Commissioner who had difficulty distinguishing between a 7-11 store and Adage. (But Tim openly boasts he’d rather see trees horizontal than vertical, lectures county residents about the meaning of the buzz saw in Mason County’s logo while eulogizing it as the history and future of this county!)
As to oversight?–there is none and it’s on YOUR dime! In Mason County, if you wanna play, you gotta pay…unless you’re a simple taxpayer–they only get to pay…and then some.