Behind Closed Doors
(w/certain highlighted retractions plus apologies to Amy Davis & spouse for inaccuracies and misidentifying Sheri Staley as her: mea culpa!–see comments. The Mason County Blog regrets the error.)
Newly elected County Commissioner, Terri Jeffreys called an informal meeting of ‘liberals’ from the community (according to one giggling source in the know) at Osaka’s restaurant in Shelton less than 1 day after being sworn in.
Learning of the planned caucus of Mason County Democrats (women, as it turned out), yours truly had only 1.5 hours to get all beautiful before showing up at the appointed 5:00 pm hour–but not beautiful enough, it would appear. Not that the press wanted to engage the women in small talk, but this meeting wasn’t called as a quilting bee or social. It’s purpose was for Jeffreys to shore up her political base since none of the ‘liberals’ attending had supported her in the narrow race for County Commissioner. Nor is she a Democrat. But she has taken detailed notes from Tim Sheldon’s playbook on how to leverage cross-party politics to her advantage. She’s proving to have been a dedicated student during her internship and later stint as the head of the local Chamber of Commerce.
While the State’s Open Meetings law doesn’t appear to have been technically violated when this ladies group excluded the press from reporting on the huddle concerning local policies & concerns, the spirit along with the point of these very party loyalists’ prior objections to a long history of insufficient transparency in Mason County government certainly was. All that was missing from the smoke filled room was the cigars.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but, this coalition of Mason County Democrats supported Ross Gallagher running against Terry Jeffreys. They have groused about the good ol’ boys network in Mason County government. Moreover, that Sherri Staley felt at liberty to exclude the press from a meeting Commissioner Jeffreys had called, given Terri’s tacit approval to the reporter, says something about the hierarchy in Mason County. Perhaps Tim Sheldon is correct when he chides party bosses and the Mason County Democrats as an organization?
Ironically, the well known and accepted Tom Davis expressed objections to being excluded from a Seattle Convention, hosted in a hotel, which included reps from Adage during its ill received presence in the community–the point of Mr. Davis’ interest in attending. Similarly, Katherine Price, herself, participated in a rally seeking an audience (denied) with U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell when she blew through Shelton for a fundraising ($100/plate) event at Xihn’s Restaurant where only those with the $ were permitted access to the senator. Katherine was part of the group of demonstrators seeking redress for local environmental problems who were excluded. But, there’s nothing to salve a green conscience like being invited inside the tent. It’s an old story: Buy a beggar a new pair of shoes, and soon he’s using them to kick his contemporaries–her offer to ‘filter’ a report from the meeting notwithstanding.
Over 3,000 signatures on a petition requesting an advisory ballot vote were presented to the County Commissioners, about the time Adage still breathed and threatened to consume almost everything in sight. The board unanimously rejected it despite Mr. Davis offering to pay the entire cost such a ballot question might incur. His argument: Let the voters decide…or at least listen to what they have to say and offer a remedy for their having been excluded from/kept in the dark about the process.
Paradoxically, during a citizens advisory work group studying a recommendation on increasing the County sales tax 0.1% to fund additional mental health services, Mr. Davis took the opposite tack. After enjoying almost unanimous support from the group, Tom recommended the Commissioners be invited to impose the tax increase without asking the voters to weigh in on what they’d end up paying. Openly expressing reservations about trusting the community with the ballot box on the issue, the tax was passed without voter approval in a cynical move designed to exclude them from the issue. This is an example of why the press should not be excluded from such gatherings–there’s entirely too much at stake.
This evening, a theme cut from the same warp & weave was played out. Policy, suggestions, and the state of the County was discussed behind closed doors with the press being emphatically excluded. The reporter on hand wore a press badge in plain view and announced his purpose…to no avail as the sirens of open government reversed course and admitted giving little/no thought to the need for it when it applied to them. Their mumbled excuses/pretexts can be heard on the audio file linked below.
Katherine Price was there. She’d been contacted before and expressed no objections, but neither did she defend the concept of transparency when the crunch arrived. Neither did Jeffreys who also had been contacted before hand by the reporter. Several other local women Democrats were seated at the table in Osaka’s. They can be heard chatting with the waitress taking their orders. Then Sherri Staley arrived. She immediately displayed a hostile demeanor and stated she wasn’t ‘comfortable’, that the meeting was ‘private’ or just the ‘girls getting together’ in an unorganized fashion, ignoring the reality it was Terri Jeffreys who’d called the meeting.
Ms. Jeffreys was asked to comment on this rebuff to the public’s ear. She mumbled an insincere apology along with some of the others but did nothing to remedy the situation. So the new bosses of Mason County are starting their tenure, not with a bang, but a thud.
At one point, gender pretexts are offered to justify excluding the press, though Staley can be heard making the most vehement objections.
“Private Little Meeting”:
CLICK to hear: Insufficiently Female