Sun, Feb 23, 2020
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Willapa Harbor Herald • Town Crier
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Vader redoubling PR efforts in light of corruption claims

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The Vader City Council has decided they will step up efforts to reach out to community members in light of recent accusations of corruption in City Hall by former council members.

Mayor Ken Smith told officials during Thursday night’s meeting it is his desire to bring back the regular newsletter Vader used to publish during his first term in office, stating he felt the current concerns among residents signal it is time to re-examine such options.

"Perhaps we could exercise some more enhanced public relations efforts to ensure the residents of Vader are being kept up-to-speed as far as what the council and the city administration are doing," he said, hoping such a publication could directly address accusations brought by former council members Linda Newton and Janet Charlton that Smith is attempting to run the city behind closed doors.

Charlton and Newton had resigned Feb. 6 and Feb. 13, respectively, and insist Smith has encouraged an attitude of cronyism and back-door politics in Vader, causing them to no longer feel comfortable serving on the council. Smith has flatly denied these claims, insisting his record on office supports his compliance with state laws, and stating Vader has not faltered in its responsibility to operate transparently.

If a newsletter were to be published, continued Smith, the intention would be to include such letters with the sewer bills on a bi-monthly basis. City Clerk Jill Neilson said this would save the cost of mailing out the newsletters by themselves, adding she expects the total added cost to the city would be no more than $50 per publication to pay for printing and the time it would take to stuff envelopes, noting $50 was a generous estimate.

It was also discussed the city could begin publishing the recordings of their council meetings online so residents would have un-fettered access to such information.

Council Member Joe Schey said it would simply be a matter of posting the audio recordings on YouTube under a channel designed for and owned by the city, and later linking the recordings to the city’s website.

"It’s easy," he said, offering himself as the individual who could post the recordings. "We could do it right now, and it’s free."

Council members gave their consensus to have the recordings uploaded, as well as for Smith to investigate the costs and feasibility of re-starting the newsletter.

With regard to the allegations brought against Smith’s administration, which have included specific instances of financial malfeasance and the notion Smith has been colluding with Council Member Kevin Flynn to run the city, Town Crier has requested extensive records from City Hall to corroborate these claims, including all written correspondence between Smith and Flynn during the last year, and have yet found no material evidence supporting these accusations.

Similarly, when investigating claims against Newton and Charlton as to their motives for speaking out, Town Crier has found no basis to prove such impropriety on their parts.

When informed of Town Crier’s findings, Charlton replied, "We know the truth that’s what matters to me. I trust in karma and what comes around goes around."

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