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Mayor’s decision to replace Planning Commissioner met with disapproval

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Last night’s City Council meeting agenda was full of typical city budget and land zoning items. In addition, the appointment and reappointment of four members of the Ferndale Planning Commission was also of no surprise.

But when Ferndale Mayor Jon Mutchler announced only 3 of the 4 Planning Commission members whose terms expired at the end of the year were being reappointed, there was obvious and immediate dissension from most of the councilmembers with the Mayor’s decision.

The councilmembers’ disagreement with Mutchler’s decision could be traced back to the Finance and Administration Committee meeting last Wednesday when he announced he was going to reappoint Sean Cool, Jo Ann Moore and Stacy Miller but not Yvonne Goldsmith. Mutchler told the committee he had interviewed nine applicants including the four current members.

Councilmember Cathy Watson said, “I find it uncomfortable that the one not being reappointed is the person who has questioned your credit card spending and mileage reimbursements.” Mutchler replied, “And that didn’t enter into my consideration at all.” The Mayor then said he wasn’t comfortable in public session to “explain some of the reasons for my decision.”

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Councilmember Rebecca Xczar, who served on the Ferndale Planning Commission for 3 years prior to being elected to City Council, told the committee, “The one Planning Commissioner who will not be returning was a very valuable asset to the Planning Commission.”

Councilmember Greg Hansen noted, “It takes over a year to come up to speed on the Planning Commission.”

Mutchler proposed replacing Goldsmith with Greg Crim who, according to the resume submitted, was the senior associate pastor of Cornwall Church in Bellingham from 2005 to February 2016 and a real estate broker at Bellwether Real Estate in Bellingham since August 2015.

During last night’s City Council meeting, Crim was introduced by Tim Cornwell, a member of Ferndale’s EAGLE Board. Cornwell told the councilmembers when he was approached by Mutchler to recommend a Planning Commissioner candidate, Crim was an obvious answer.

Crim then spoke to the councilmembers, explaining his experiences with land use issues ranging from “co-general contracting” the building of his home in Ferndale to dealing with wetland and stormwater regulations when expanding the Cornwall Church parking lot.

Councilmember Teresa Taylor moved to approve the Mayor’s recommendations but that failed to receive a second so was not voted on. Councilmember Watson then moved to approve the reappointment of the 3 standing commissioners and that was seconded and passed by unanimous vote.

Mutchler then announced he was withdrawing his recommendation to appoint Crim to the Planning Commission and attempted to move on to the next item on the meeting agenda.

Councilmember Keith Olson interjected and said, “I’d like to hear from the candidate you are replacing,” noting “some things were said in committee and I’d like to hear from her.”

Planning Commissioner and former councilmember Yvonne Goldsmith then addressed the council. She said, “During the interview with Jon, Riley (Ferndale Communications and Special Projects Officer) asked me, ‘if there was a way the rift between you and Jon could be healed,’ and I said, ‘no.'”

Goldsmith continued, “He is always looking for ways to get more money. Jon is looking at the city coffers as an additional source of [personal] income. It’s not fair to the taxpayers. In my opinion, I look out for the taxpayers.”

Goldsmith concluded by saying, “I am here tonight not to defend my seat on the commission because Jon controls that. I’m here defending my reputation.” Turning to Crim, she said he looked like “kind of a good candidate.”

After Goldsmith sat down, Councilmember Brent Goodrich said to the Mayor, “It is your prerogative to appoint who you want. But I am very displeased with the way, after all the years of service that Mrs. Goldsmith has given to the city, the way she was kind of treated here at the end, some things that were written about her in this letter were untrue and more of a personal thing between you and her. I am very displeased with the way you as a Mayor and as a Pastor have handled this. We should be giving her an award and recognition instead of this email you sent her.”

Goodrich was referring to an email from Mutchler to Goldsmith which Goldsmith had provided the council copies of. In it, Mutchler informed Goldsmith he wasn’t going to be going to be reappointing her to the Commission. Mutchler explained his decision,

I have known you nearly 30 years and have observed that you have difficulty managing unmet expectations and disagreements with people. You are a very gifted and caring person, but too often angry. And people find it difficult to give you suggestions or correction. This diminishes your effectiveness.

The Ferndale Planning Commission is made up of 7 volunteer and unpaid members who serve 4-year terms. It is the only municipal board or commission required by the State of Washington. Commissioners are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council. lf the council denies an appointment as happened last night, they cannot suggest another candidate. The mayor would have to bring forth another candidate.

After the meeting, Mutchler further explained his decision in an email to Discover Ferndale,

Rather than playing it safe and reappointing a popular Ferndale political personality to a fourth term, I brought to council a fresh face, Greg Crim, who is uniquely qualified and would make a great addition to the planning commission.

The newest commissioners are Sean Cool and Victor Boulos who were appointed by Mutchler earlier this year. Stacy Miller has been on the Commission for two years. Commissioner Goldsmith has been on the Planning Commission for 9 years. Barring any resignations, the next time an appointment can be made will be December 31, 2018 when the terms for Tom Black, Victor Boulos, Susan Cole expire.

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