Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers celebrate 30,000 masks

Cassandra “Cassie” Oakes, founder of Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers, models a mask.

In the last 8 months, Tri-Cities Mask Makers made 30,000 masks for area hospitals, police departments, postal workers, firefighters, hospices, prisons, food banks and dozens of other groups.

According to the group’s founder, Cassandra “Cassie” Oakes of Richland, “We filled all of our orders and everywhere you look now there are masks for sale for a few dollars.”

Oakes, a stay-at-home mother of four boys, started the group in March when she read a Facebook post from a local doctor describing the need for face masks. Oakes said, “I could sew and the community needed masks, so I began making them and started the group.”

March seems like a century ago, but many of us can still remember when the coronavirus first started galloping through areas of Washington. Medical professionals appealed to people to save the diminishing supply of surgical masks and N95 respirators for health care workers on the front line.  They recommended that everyone else make their own masks.

When requests for masks came pouring in, Oakes set up a system so the group could fill them in order. She also organized teams of people for every task.

Volunteers included sewers, runners who delivered supplies to sewers and picked up and delivered finished masks, and cutters who cut the pieces from fabric for the sewers to stitch together.  The group even included elastic untanglers.

Oakes posted a picture on the group’s Facebook page of what looked like a bag full of spaghetti. She asked, “Do we have any takers on untangling this type of elastic & cutting it into 10-yd lengths for kits?”  Within minutes two people volunteered. 

Oakes could not estimate how many people volunteered with her group but eventually her Facebook page, Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers, had 1,500 members. 

Becky Holstein Pospical of Richland made 1,000 masks. Pospical said, “I had nurse friends who asked me to please make masks. At about that time this group popped up.”

“People did whatever they could,” Pospical added.  “My high school friend donated four bolts of fabric.”

“As someone who has sewed my whole life, I was happy to learn that there are others like me out there,” Pospical said.

Amy Hanson, also of Richland, decided that she was not a sewer. She recalls, “I made a few masks and decided – no way!”

Hanson became a runner because she said, “I know how to drive.” 

Hanson recalls, “One lovely lady set up ice coffee for me when I came over to pick up or deliver. I met a lot of happy, nice people.”

DeAnna Winterrose, another Richland volunteer, made almost 2,500 masks but she said, “I don’t deserve all the credit for those.”

“I had volunteer cutters. Their work and other supplies would miraculously arrive at my door. I had a continuous supply. All I had to do was put the word out,” she said.

Winterrose described how she became worried watching the beginning of the pandemic while in Hawaii. “When I returned to Washington, making masks helped take my mind off of it,” she said.

Winterrose also credits a friend at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories who volunteered to check fabrics for their filtration ability. “That way we knew our masks were actually protecting people.” 

Oakes coordinated all of these tasks while making masks herself and even doing training videos for eager volunteers. She said, “Everybody wanted to help in some way.” 

Oakes said that her management skills came from years of motherhood after a career in banking. “I tend to be organized,” she said.

As the group shuts down Oakes admits, “I am exhausted.”

She added, “It feels refreshing to be able to bring people together to do something for the community. Knowing there are so many good humans out there makes my heart happy.” 

Runner Jo Breneman of Richland praised Oakes, “The Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers was an incredible endeavor, and Cassie deserves all the kudos we can give her.”

Randy Notes: the rundown on the November 17 Richland City Council agenda

Daisy, Photo by Jan Taylor

Funding Found for the Animal Shelter

November 15, 2020

Randy Notes translates the gobbledygook of the Richland City Council agenda for you.

If you want to comment on the hearing items go to the city agenda and follow the instructions.

Page numbers given below correspond to the page numbers of the packet items.  

City Council Workshop – 5:00 p.m.

  1. Council members receive training in city social media policy.

City Council Regular Meeting – 6:00 p.m.

Welcome and Roll Call

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda: (Approved by Motion)

Presentations

2. Covid update from City Manager Cindy Reents

Public Hearing:  You can have 3 minutes to comment here.  Go to the agenda (link above) for instructions. The city attorney reads the rules. Questions are not allowed. The rules normally include prohibitions about clapping and other citizen misbehavior that could result in expulsion. However, since she can’t have you kicked out of a virtual meeting, you are free to clap and boo to your heart’s content.

3. Money found for the animal shelter. Each of the three Tri-Cities’ jurisdictions have responsibility for the area animal shelter. Richland had budgeted $!.5 million for its one-third share of the cost. However, the city needed to find an extra $500,000 for its share when construction estimates came in for a higher amount. Since the Washington State Supreme Court decided that Richland and other cities can keep charging the car tab, $500,000 became available for the extra funding. Look at Pg. 29 “General Fund.” This and other amendments to the 2020 budget can be found on Pg. 25-29.

4. In 2021, the city will receive $305,207 dollars in Community Block Grant Funding. Recipients include Elijah Family Homes and Meals on Wheels. For others go to Page 63. The Tri-Cities HOME consortium will receive $700,367 for down payment assistance, pg.64.  Details on the two programs are on pg. 60-107.

5. The city has received an additional $310,301 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It will be distributed as follows: Microenterprise Business Assistance $161,030; Public Service $118,241; Administration $31,030. Pg. 107-112

6. An update of the city employee compensation plan. Pg. 151-156

7. Relinquishment of a utility easement at 2209 Humphreys Street.  Pg.157-160

8. The Port of Benton has requested a portion of easement north and east of Robertson Drive. Pg. 161-164

Public Comments:  You have 2 minutes to talk about anything. Same rules as for the public hearings. No questions allowed.

Consent Calendar:   The Council lumps everything into this category. The items receive little if any discussion and only one vote so that no one can be held accountable.

Minutes

9. Approval of the November 3, 2020 minutes

Ordinances – First Reading

10. See Item 3 under the Public Hearing section. These are the amendments to the 2020 budget which include the new animal shelter. Pg. 25-29.

Ordinances – Second Reading & Passage

11. Proposed 2021 budget and 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.  The budget proposal is online.  

12. Amending Chapter 2.04 of the Richland Municipal Code. This eliminates the position of deputy city manager and eliminates the assistant city manager as someone who is hired and instead makes the position someone who is chosen by and directed by the city manager. It also makes the descriptions of the city manager gender neutral. It changes the names of several city committees and departments to reflect their current responsibilities.  For instance, Parks and Recreation becomes Parks and Public Facilities. Pg. 30-45

Resolutions – Adoptions

13. Columbia Center Parkway will eventually go through between Gage and Tapteal.  This approves the $400,000 funding from the Port of Kennewick. Pg.46-52

14. The Port of Benton will contribute $50,000 for the same Gage to Tapteal project above. Pg.52-59

15. CDBG funding was the subject of the Item 4 hearing under the Public Hearing section. Pg. 60-107

16. CARES Act funding was the subject of the Item 5 hearing under the Public Hearing section. Pg. 107-112

17. This authorizes the circulation of a petition for residents to approve the annexation of Badger Mountain Vineyards at 1106 N. Jurupa Road.  The land would be zoned low density.

18. Apollo Inc. of Kennewick submitted the lowest bid, $4,405,295.72, for improvements to about a mile of Columbia Park Trail East.  The packet provides details.  Pg. 123-145

19. The city has hired a new civil engineer but until that person is up to speed, the city will pay RGW Enterprises a consulting fee for services regarding the new Horn Rapids and North Richland development projects. This will add about $93,000 to the original contract.  Pg. 146-150

20. Item 6 from the Public Hearing section, the compensation plan for city employees. Pg. 151-156

21. Item 7 from the Public Hearing section, relinquishment of the easement at 2209 Humphreys Street. Pag. 157-160

22. Item 8 from the Public Hearing section, relinquishment of an easement to the Port of Benton. Pg.161-164.

23. The owners of 4 homes on Allenwhite Drive live on a little island of land in the middle of the city. See for yourself on this map of Richland.   The paperwork doesn’t include an explanation as to how this happened, but the annexation petitions reads, “petitioners pray that the City Council of the City of Richland, Washington entertain this petition.” Pg. 165-171.

Items – Approval

24. Lizzy Ridley will be appointed to the Planning Commission. Ridley is a land use planner at J-U-B Engineers. The firm advertises as working in “Transportation, Water Resources and Land Development.”  Pg. 175-176.

Expenditures – Approval

25. All checks written in October.  Pg. 177-212

Items of Business

Nothing

Reports and Comments

City Manager, Council and Mayor – blah, blah, blah

Secret Executive Session

26. The council estimates 30 minutes for this secret meeting.  You can keep your television or computer engaged to see when Mayor Ryan Lukson comes out to declare it completed.  Taxpayers are paying for “retained legal counsel” for current or potential litigation.

Animal shelter plan gives Richland City Council sticker shock

Correction Oct. 21:  The price estimate given for the shelter was $550 a square foot not $850.  The city paid $400 a sq. ft. for the new city hall. Neither price includes the land.

Consultant David Robinson of Strategic Construction Management surprised the Richland City Council with a price of over $550 a sq. ft. for a new Tri-Cities animal shelter. 

Robinson recommended building the new shelter on the old site in Pasco.

Robinson estimated the total would be $4.8 to $5.8 million split between Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, the three cooperating jurisdictions.

City Manager Cindy Reents pointed out that the new city hall had cost $400 a square foot.

The City of Pasco has taken the lead in the planning of the new shelter. Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell and Pasco Administrative and Community Services Director Zach Ratkai attended the meeting to help explain the plan.

Councilmember Bob Thompson said, “We have sticker shock.  Can we find a grant?” 

Mayor Ryan Lukson asked, “Could we renovate a building at another location?  I’m looking for ways to reduce costs.”

Ratkai said, “We couldn’t find any other buildings that were compatible.”

Zabell added that he had looked at the shelter in Spokane that was built in an old Harley Davidson showroom.  According to Zabell, “It cost a lot of money but did not turn out to be the best facility.”

Councilmember Michael Alvarez said, “I like the plan but I think it is expensive.”

Councilmember Philip Lemley wanted to know, “With our exploding population, how long before we outgrow this shelter.”

Robinson replied that there was no way of knowing but a more attractive shelter would attract families who would adopt pets at a faster pace.

“Richland needs to work with Kennewick and Pasco to use a design-build contract to cut costs as much as possible and perhaps also involve Benton County. We all want a new animal shelter but we need to look for the most cost-effective way to build it.  We need to explore every option.”  Lukson concluded.

Escape Covid with a tiny town tour

“Wild Life” sculpture by Tom Otterness

Although Covid may have dashed your dreams of a cruise or some other bucket-list trip you had planned, you can still travel. In less than an hour, you can be in Connell.

The Observer highly recommends a walking tour of this tiny town of about 5,600.

In a telephone conversation Connell City Administrator Maria Pena told the Observer, “We are proud of Connell and particularly the art that you will find on our streets and trails.” She recommended the map from the town’s website.

So, grab your map and take highway 395 to northern Franklin County. 

You can stop at Country Mercantile about midway. The Mercantile has produce, both fresh and preserved, as well as a public restroom.

Exit at State Route 260, turn right at Columbia Ave., Connell’s main street. Start your tour at Franklin St. and N. Columbia Ave. 

In addition to the art, Columbia Ave. has a mix of historic, brick buildings constructed after a fire destroyed most of the town in 1905 and newer, mid-century buildings.

Four of Tom Otterness’s six bronze and cast concrete sculptures, “Wild Life” sit along the two blocks between Franklin St. and Borah St. As you walk, you will also see murals depicting local history painted by Pat Boyer.

An Otterness “Wild Life” sculpture. The duck has an ace behind his back.

One of Connell’s largest employers, the Washington Department of Corrections Coyote Ridge Corrections Center working with the State Arts Commission funded the statutes. Local businesses contributed to the Boyer murals.

Coyote Ridge, north of Connell, houses 2100 inmates and employs many of the local residents.

For lunch, both the Pizza Station at 238 N. Columbia Ave. and Papa Ray’s across the street at 245 N. Columbia have carry-out. 

Husband Bob and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger and fries from Papa Ray’s at the table with the Otterness train sculpture next to Connell City Hall and Police Department. According to Pena, “The table and sculpture sit just outside my office window.”

Pena encouraged visitors to have lunch at any of the tables with the sculptures.

Walk about five blocks south on Columbia Ave. to see the other two Otterness sculptures between Elm St. and Gum St.  

On the way to the sculptures, take a short side trip up W. Adams St. to see the 1904 Presbyterian Church which now houses the Connell Heritage Museum. Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed.

Pena pointed out that along Highway 395, the city has installed a one-mile walking path that connects Gum Street and Clark Street. Tall steel flowers by Jean Whitesavage and Nick Lyle sit along the path. Coyote Ridge and the State Arts Commission also funded these.

Connell’s impressive public school complex fills several blocks on W. Clark.

Connell grew from sheep and cattle country to a railroad town after the golden spike joined the western branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad with the eastern branch at Gold Creek, Montana in 1883. Former President Ulysses S. Grant and other luminaries traveled to Montana to celebrate the achievement.

Wells provided the town with water but growth has always strained the supply. Dry land wheat has been the most important product through most of Connell’s history. 

State Sen. Sharon Brown’s 2005 postnuptial agreement earns her an exemption from financial disclosure.

State Sen. Sharon Brown

September 29, 2020

Editor’s note: This story is a little unusual because it involves a complaint that I made to the PDC following an article that I wrote in July.

Correction:  Sharon Brown received the second highest number of votes in the primary.

The Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) retroactively granted state Sen. Sharon Brown an exemption for her financial record due to her postnuptial agreement. 

Brown is currently running for a local judgeship.

The decision means that she did not violate state rules when she failed to report her then husband’s assets in 2015, 2016, 2017.  According to the PDC, the period prior to 2015 was beyond the statute of limitations for enforcement action.

“Incredulous,” said Benton County Democratic Chair Judith Johannesen when she learned of the decision.

Johannesen went on to say that if agreements between spouses can be used to avoid full disclosure, it frustrates the purpose of the reporting requirement.

The PDC requires that each year all candidates and elected officials submit financial information about themselves and their spouses as well as report campaign contributions and expenditures.

The reports give the public the opportunity to see if there are any conflicts of interest.

John Trumbo, a former reporter with the Tri-City Herald and a member of the Kennewick City Council, submitted a 50-page complaint to the PDC.

Trumbo listed 14 limited liability companies that belonged to Brown’s husband Fraser Hawley that Brown had not listed on her financial disclosure forms.

In its response the PDC explained the decision for the exemption.  

The commission writes that it can grant an exemption if compliance “causes a manifestly unreasonable hardship on the applicant and that granting the modification would not frustrate the purposes of the Act.”

Brown’s attorney, Mark Lamb of Bothell, Washington wrote the commission that Brown “was unable to fully disclose financial information related to her former spouse due to the restrictions of a postnuptial agreement signed in 2005.”

The commission wrote that it granted her the exemption, “therefore relieving her of the obligation of full disclosure.”

Brown married Hawley in 2004.  They divorced in Walla Walla County in 2018.

The complaint from the Observer addressed the $4 million that a business, partially owned by Brown and Hawley, owed Banner Bank.  Brown had signed as a guarantor on the loan according to court records

The Commission agreed with Lamb who argued that “the debt was not owed personally by Brown.”

In closing, the PDC finds, “no further action is warranted and has dismissed this matter.”

Brown has represented Washington’s Legislative District 9 since she was appointed in 2013.  She served on the Kennewick City Council from 2009 to 2013.

Brown’s senate term will expire in 2022. This year she filed to run for a judgeship on the Benton-Franklin Superior Court.  She received the second highest number of votes in the primary and advanced to the November general election.

My Hat is in the Ring

I am pleased to announce that I have applied to fill the vacancy on the Richland City Council, where, if appointed, I would focus on improving residents’ access to the Council. We need more opportunity for people to have their questions answered and their opinions heard. If you agree, please contact the Richland City Council to support my appointment: citycouncil@ci.richland.wa.us

As you know, I ran for Richland City Council in 2019 and received 7126 votes, 48%. Councilmember Brad Anderson recently resigned leaving an opening that the six remaining members of the council will vote to fill.  

The council intends to appoint someone to the job by October 6.  If appointed, my plan would be to put the TriCities Observer on hiatus to minimize distractions and focus on the council.  Rest assured, I would be doing my part to keep you all informed of what the city is doing, whether it is on this blog or not. 

Last year, the Tri-City Herald as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Laborers’ Local 348, the UA Local 598 Plumbers and Steamfitters and the Teamsters Local 839 endorsed me.

In the city’s 60+ year history only 13 out of 72 city council members have been women. Only one serves now. I would work hard to bring the change that the city council needs.

In the meantime, for all blog posts related to the city of Richland until the selection is made, I will include a reference to my status as having applied for the council job, for purpose of full disclosure.

Richland City Council Determined to Eliminate Term Limits for Boards and Commissions

Richland City Hall

Despite opposition from residents, on Tuesday Richland City Council will consider for a fourth time eliminating term limits for Boards and Commissions. Board members are now allowed to serve 12 years with the possibility of a one-term extension.

Councilmember Terry Christensen initiated the proposal, according to Mayor Ryan Lukson.

At the last meeting of the council on Aug. 17, for the third consideration of the matter, Mayor Lukson moved to remove it from the consent calendar for discussion and a separate vote. Only four of the six councilmembers were present: Lukson, Christensen, Councilmember Phil Lemley and Councilmember Sandra Kent. Councilmember Brad Anderson had resigned before the meeting began.

Only Kent voted “no” and said, “Twelve years plus the possibility of an additional extension is enough for anyone to serve.”

Since a majority of the council must approve the change, the elimination of term limits is once again on the consent calendar for Sept. 1. 

In a telephone conversation with the Observer, Councilmember Bob Thompson indicated that he supported the change to boards and commissions. There is no limit on council members’ terms. At the end of his current term, he will have served 27 years on the council. 

Residents can comment about the term limit change at the Tuesday, Sept. 1 meeting that begins at 6 p.m. Testifiers must fill out a form before 4 p.m. Tuesday and then call in before citizen comments begin.  The meeting is televised on Cable Channel 192 and streamed on City View   Residents can also email the city council at citycouncil@ci.richland.wa.us.

The council first voted to eliminate term limits in a first reading as part of the consent calendar at their March 17 meeting. All the items on the consent calendar are approved with one vote. 

Days later, Governor Jay Inslee shut down the state due to Covid-19 with instructions that local governments were only to consider essential business at meetings, since residents could not attend them. 

Nevertheless, the council scheduled a final vote for its April 7 meeting. After people objected, the item was pulled from the agenda. 

At the time Mayor Lukson said, “The council plans to bring up the term limit elimination proposal again when citizens can attend the city council meetings.”

Currently five members of the boards and commissions have served beyond their limit. Marianne Boring, the spouse of a member of the City of Richland Development office, has served the longest. When her terms are up, she will have been on the Planning Commission for 18 years and the Board of Adjustment for 20 years.

Richland City Councilmember Bob Thompson Pleads Guilty to Reckless Driving

After months of hearings and conferences regarding his charge of driving under the influence, Richland City Councilmember Bob Thompson pleaded guilty on July 21, 2020 to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

Washington State Patrolman James Stairet stopped Thompson for speeding at midnight on June 29, 2019, when Thompson was Richland’s mayor. Thompson’s eyes were “watery and bloodshot,” and Thompson held the driver’s side door for balance as he got out of his car, Stairet wrote in his report of the stop. Thompson declined to take a field sobriety test and said he wouldn’t complete a breath test, wrote Stairet, who then arrested Thompson.

Thompson, a lawyer, regularly defends clients who have been charged with DUI.

In a telephone conversation, Thompson likened his case to others. “As many as 75% of first offenders accept a plea agreement,” he said.

Thompson said he will lose his license for 30 days. “Probably September,” he said. 

But he’s not required to have an ignition interlock device, and a reckless driving conviction won’t prevent him from travelling to Canada, where he sometimes attends conferences to represent the city’s support for the Hanford cleanup.

According to the court docket, Thompson paid a $1,233.97 fine and completed both a victim impact panel and Alcohol Drug Information School. 

Thompson’s two-year, unmonitored probation requires that he not possess or consume alcoholic beverages, marijuana or controlled substances or drive without a valid license and proof of insurance.

He acknowledged a second incident could bring stiffer penalties. “If you’re dumb enough to have another similar incident, you’re in big trouble,” he said.

Councilmember Brad Anderson Resigns and the Richland City Council Votes to Eliminate Term Limits for Boards and Commissions

Update Aug 19, 2020:  Last night the City Attorney Heather Kintzley advised Mayor Lukson that the vote of three members, a majority of those present, could pass a change in the term limits for boards and commissions.  However, Mayor Ryan Lukson emailed me this morning that she was wrong; a vote of four is required. According to Mayor Lukson, “Not sure if it will come up again but for now it is dead.”

Mayor Ryan Lukson began Tuesday night’s meeting by reading Councilmember Brad Anderson’s resignation letter. Anderson said that health issues required lifestyle changes that were not possible while holding down a fulltime job plus serving on the Council.   

Anderson has served on the Council since defeating incumbent Ed Revell in 2011. He ran unopposed in 2015 and defeated Shir Regev in 2019. 

The Council will pick a successor to Anderson from applicants. The appointed member will serve until the next election in 2021.

Later the council approved a Lukson motion to pull two items from the consent calendar for discussion and a separate vote, one to eliminate term limits for boards and commissions and the other to limit parking on Hains Ave.

Of the four members present only Councilmember Sandra Kent voted to maintain the term limits. She said, “We already have the ability to extend an appointment by one term beyond the 12-year limit.  I think that is long enough. We need to work harder to find qualified people.”

Terry Christensen who, according to Lukson, proposed the change said, “We need institutional knowledge that long-term committee members provide.”

Lukson and Councilmember Phil Lemley voted with Christensen to allow board and commission members to serve for an unlimited amount of terms. Councilmembers Robert Thompson, Michael Alvarez and Anderson were absent.

The other item would limit parking on Hains Ave. to one side of the street. The Councilmembers voted unanimously to postpone a decision on that until they had more information.

On the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, TriCities Women Still Struggle to Win Election to Local Government

On Aug.18, 1920, the United States ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

Today women hold 41.5% of the seats in the Washington State Legislature but only 14% of the seats on the four local city councils and the two county commissions.

To better understand why so few women serve in the Tri-Cities, the Observer sought records from the cities of Richland, Pasco, Kennewick and West Richland, and from Benton County and Franklin County as well as the Benton County Election Office, the Franklin County Election Office and the Washington State Archive.

The Observer talked to current city council members Kate Moran and Gail Brown of West Richland and to former city council members Carol Moser of Richland and Rebecca Francik of Pasco.

They all agreed that raising money was one of the issues that prevents more women for running for local office. Plus, they all said they believe that women underrate their experiences and qualifications.

Richland

Seven members serve on the Richland City Council and the members elect a mayor after each election. Since the city was incorporated in 1958, 72 people have served on the Richland City Council. Only 13 of those were women, and they served 71 of the 434 council member years. Currently, one woman, Sandra Kent, sits on the council.

In the City of Richland, which provided more complete records than the other jurisdictions, six of the 13 (46%) women who have served there were first appointed and avoided campaigning and fundraising. Only 11 of the 59 men were appointed (19%).  

Carol Moser was appointed to the Council in 1995 and served almost 10 years until she resigned to accept an appointment from Gov. Christine Gregoire in 2006 to serve on the Washington State Transportation Commission.

Most people on the council serve until they resign. Only eight men (13%) who have run again have lost their post in a re-election, but five women (38%) have.

Moser explained the difference. “While councilmen often run unopposed, councilwomen usually have opponents in their elections. Women are viewed as weaker candidates.” 

She said that she ran in 1995 when she became concerned about the lack of parks in South Richland. At the time, that side of the Yakima River had only one large park, Claybell Park. She worked to add Badger Mountain Park to the area. 

From 1996 to 2000, three women served on the Richland City Council at the same time. According to Moser, the three referred to themselves as MazurMoserMunn as their names were read in the roll call. Rita Mazur served 14 years starting in 1995. Wanda Munn served four years starting in 1995.

Moser said, “You know it’s still a good old boy system when you see that only one woman has been mayor in 68 years.” Pat Merrill was mayor from 1958 to 1962.

Kennewick

Since the Council-Manager form of government was adopted in 1954, only six women have served on the Kennewick City Council and for only 30 of the 462 Council member years. No women have served on the council since 2013. One woman, Paula Drew Lockwood, served as mayor from 1990 to 1992. 

Pasco

The Observer obtained records for Pasco that went back to 1977. During that time seven women served on the council for 46 of the 301 council member years. Of that seven, two serve today. 

Rebecca Francik was appointed to the Pasco Council in 1996 to replace Joyce DeFelice who was appointed in 1989. DeFelice resigned to become the district director for then-Congressman Doc Hastings. 

In 2005 DeFelice, using her maiden name Olson, ran for re-election to the council, defeating incumbent Eileen Crawford 3190 to 3188.  In 2010, Olson, who had served several terms as mayor, resigned to marry her high-school sweetheart who lived out of state. 

Francik recalled, “On my first council everyone was expected to pick up their packets, read them, research and bring their A game to council meetings. It was an analytical group.” 

“As a woman and the mother of seven children, I had a different perspective than the men on the council. I had spent many hours at the swimming pool with my seven children, and I knew why residents were complaining that there was no shade there.” Francik added, “I don’t think this area appreciates the different experiences that women bring to the councils.”

Francik remembers she first worked with Pasco City Council when she proposed having the City of Pasco annex her neighborhood. Almost a third of the houses in her area had failing sewer systems and homeowners wanted to connect to the Pasco sewer system.

Francik lost re-election in 2017 to David Milne.

West Richland

West Richland has a strong-mayor system of government. There are seven council members and an elected mayor. The Observer was able to obtain West Richland records back to 1986. The city clerk directed the Observer to the minutes at the Washington State Archives and the online Benton County Election records.

From 1986 until the present, 11 women have served on the West Richland City Council and voters have elected two mayors. Kate Moran first ran in 2017 and lost. After that election, she was appointed to the West Richland Planning Commission. In 2019, she was elected to the council.

She said she ran when she discovered how hard it was to obtain information from West Richland.

“The difficulty was not deliberate lack of transparency,” she noted, “but rather poor accessibility.” She added “Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of electronic record keeping and communication.”

Gail Brown has served longer, 23 years, than any other member of a local council except Bob Thompson in Richland, who has served 26 years.

Brown said she ran because she was “mad about potholes.” 

She noted that she went to the city council to complain and found herself spending more and more time there. Soon she was elected to serve on the council. She said that she has continued to serve because of her interest in protecting the older residential sections of West Richland.

Brown noted that as West Richland has grown, it has become more and more expensive to run for a seat on the city council. 

Brown recalled a particularly memorable vote to appoint a replacement member on the council in 2006. The council called a special meeting to decide which of two candidates, Maggie Valcich or Merle Johnson, members would choose. 

“This vote really demonstrated the difference between men and women on the council,” she remembered. 

Brown, Julie Jones and Nancy Aldrich supported Valcich. The men on the council supported Johnson. After going into executive session on and off for almost three hours, Mayor Dale Jackson broke the tie and the council appointed Johnson.

Benton and Franklin County Commissions

Since 1905, only three women have served on the three-member Benton County Commission and for only 16 commission years out of 345. Kathy Utz served from 1976 to 1980. Deborah “Debbie” Reis served from 1982 to 1986. Sandi Strawn served from 1988 to 1996.

Reis ran for Mason County Commission in 2008 but lost in the primary. Currently she serves as chair of the Mason County Board of Equalization.

The Observer was able to obtain records back to 1990 for the Franklin County Commission. No women currently serve on the Franklin County Commission. 

Since 1990, only two women have served on the commission. Sue Miller  was elected in 1992, 1996 and 2000.  She served as chair in 2001. Neva Corkrum was elected in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.  She was defeated by Brad Peck in 2008.

Despite Citizen Opposition, Richland City Council will Vote to Eliminate Term Limits for Boards and Commissions

Richland City Hall

After public outcry, the Richland City Council in April pulled its proposal to change a city ordinance to eliminate the 12-year term limit for members of city boards and commissions. Proponents said the proposal would make city policy conform with actual practice.

Back in April, Mayor Ryan Lukson said that the matter would be brought up again when citizens could “attend” the meeting.

However, the matter is once again on the agenda, even though citizens cannot currently attend meetings. The full text of the proposal appears on Page 80 of the city council packet.

Five members have served beyond the 12-year limit.   Marianne Boring, the spouse of a plans examiner in the City of Richland Development Office, has been a board member longer than the other four. At the completion of her terms, she will have served 20 years on the Planning Board and 18 years on the Board of Adjustment. Some members of those boards have not been approved to serve for the full 12 years.

The proposal appears on the Consent Calendar with 13 other items. Council members approve all items on the Consent Calendar with one vote, unless a member moves to have an item considered separately.

The council meets on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. The instructions for commenting appear at the top of the agenda.

Sloppy Record Keeping for Weapons, Ammunition and Weapons Training Described by Benton County Sheriff’s Deputies

Benton County sheriff’s deputies describe sloppy record keeping for weapons, ammunition and weapons training certification in a 61-page collection of interviews given to the Observer. The interviews are part of an administrative review of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.  

Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher requested the review from Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond after almost 14,000 rounds of ammunition and 2 firearms, all Benton County property, were discovered at Hatcher’s former home

The findings are included in the review conducted by Franklin County sheriff’s investigators. 

When asked to describe how ammunition is inventoried and stored, Benton Detective Todd Carlson in charge of training told investigators that “there was no inventorying policy that he knew of.” The detective said he would issue ammunition to deputies who needed it. 

As to record keeping on firearm certification, the detective told investigators, that with multiple firearms trainers, “sometimes the sheets aren’t promptly turned in, or they are left in cars, etc.” 

The detective said he often did not know who used the shooting range until he got a record.

Sometimes, the detective was told when a deputy’s weapons qualification was overdue, and he then had to track it down.

Several people had access to firearms records, the detective told investigators. 

”There were a number of people who could access and make changes to the records,” the detective said, according to investigators. 

Commander Jon Law said that, “There is a policy [for inventorying firearms], but honestly it is sloppy at times.”

The review was controversial from the beginning.  The Fraternal Order of Police and the Benton County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild pointed out the close working relationship between Raymond and Hatcher. 

The unions said an agency outside of the Tri-Cities should conduct such a review.

Some of the interviewed Benton deputies pointed out that a criminal investigation into potential wrongdoing normally precedes an administrative review.  Those deputies hesitated about talking to Franklin County investigators because they feared retribution from Hatcher. At least two deputies obtained “whistleblower” protections, Sgt. Jason Erickson and Lt. Erik Magnuson, documents show.  

The two Franklin investigators, captains Adam Diaz and Monty Huber, told the deputies that they were consulting with Raymond and could not assure that he was not sharing information with Hatcher.

The review documents sent to the Observer are attached to this post.  Investigators summarized their findings starting on Page 56 of the report.

In response to the administrative review, Erickson, who recently filed to petition for Hatcher’s recall,  submitted a complaint in Benton-Franklin Superior Court (No. 20-250460-11) to obtain records he said were not provided in earlier requests.   

Erickson asked for records of all communication between Hatcher and Raymond, and between Huber and Diaz and either Hatcher or Raymond.

Erickson had obtained an email written by Raymond to Hatcher, Franklin Prosecutor Shawn Sant, Franklin Chief Civil Deputy Jennifer Johnson, and Captain Ronelle Nelson regarding his public record request of April 17, 2020

In the April 20, 2020, email, Raymond refused to turn over the Administrative Review.  He accused FOP attorney Alan Harvey of being “up to his usual antics” and “his usual crap” in making a public record request to obtain a copy of the review. 

“We (FCSO) are not going to fulfill Mr. Harvey(‘s) request as this matter belongs first completed and placed in the hands of Sheriff Hatcher,” Raymond said in the email.

The complete Complaint can be read here.

Franklin County Deputy’s Past Violations Have Similarities to Jones Shooting

Clarification:  The Toppenish Police Department’s newly purchased vehicles do not have dashboard cameras.  The article has been edited to reflect that.

A Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy had enough violations at his past job to warrant serious counseling from the police chief, according to documents obtained by the Observer. Eighteen months later on November 18, 2019, Deputy Code Quantrell killed Dante Jones in circumstances similar to those he had been counseled about in Toppenish, where Quantrell was a police officer. The Observer obtained the three-page counseling memo written by Toppenish Police Chief Curt Ruggles and a citizen complaint against Quantrell by submitting a public record request.

According to Ruggles, Quantrell pursued a vehicle in a reckless manner for 30 minutes for a traffic violation; pulled a gun on the wrong suspect in a motorcycle reckless driving case and then failed to report the use of force until a complaint was filed; and he damaged patrol vehicles 7 times. 

In his memo Ruggles describes the problems with Quantrell’s vehicle pursuit: 

“1. The pursuit was initiated for a traffic violation of failing to stop/yield while exiting an alley. This is a civil infraction.

 2. At best the actions of the suspect vehicle would constitute a Reckless Driving charge, which is still a gross misdemeanor.

3. The pursuit lasted for approximately 30 minutes, in which almost all of the driver’s actions caused a significant risk to the public’s safety, responding officer’s safety as well as your own safety.

4. Several times throughout the pursuit you mirrored or mimicked the reckless and dangerous actions of the suspect. Both while there was no traffic as well as times where there was traffic.

 5. You intentionally caused significant damage to your patrol vehicle, by driving around/through a dead end street/barricade to continue the pursuit.”

The night of the shooting of the unarmed Dante Jones, Jones was clocked at speeds of anywhere from 55 mph to 87 mph on a rural Franklin County Road at around 3:00 a.m. After the initial pursuit involving two other officers, Sergeant Gordon Thomasson says over the police radio, “he’s not driving recklessly or anything at this point, he’s pretty much slowed down to highway speeds”.  (Radio transcripts were included in the Tri-Cities Special Investigative Unit Report obtained by the Observer with a public record request.) He “commanded” that Quantrell “terminate the pursuit” (Page 6 of the report). Instead Quantrell continued until he claimed that he was being brake checked and almost hit by Jones. “Assault 1” he said (Page 57 of the SIU report).

In counseling Quantrell in Toppenish, Ruggles quotes Pursuit Driving Policy (SOP 40.005):  “Also, reckless and unsafe driving after police engagement is not part of the determination as to whether or not the suspect vehicles’ actions create an immediate risk to public safety.” 

On the day of the Quantrell counseling in Toppenish a motorcyclist registered a complaint against Quantrell for pulling a gun on him for alleged reckless driving.  The motorcyclist was stopped by Quantrell at an ATM because his clothing matched a report on a reckless motorcyclist made by another officer. Quantrell claimed the motorcyclist was trying to flee even though the cyclist said his motorcycle was not running. According to Ruggles’ memo, “Again, this is 6 minutes after the initial call and nowhere near the area of town the motorcycle would been intercepted if it would have continued northbound on North Meyer… This stop is merely a stop for reckless driving, there has been no violence towards another.” The memo notes that Ruggles “viewed the video.” It is not clear where the video originated, but some Toppenish police cars have dashboard cameras.

Ruggles continued in the memo: “I do not feel the force option of drawing your duty weapon and bringing on target was reasonable or necessary for that time and that place. That aside, the tactic of you advancing on the suspect with your weapon drawn, without cover officers being present is not a tactic that has been trained at this department or even a tactic that is safe.” He continues: “What you did is considered ‘Tombstone Courage’ and that behavior has resulted in injuries and even death in police officers nationwide.”

Furthermore, Ruggles wrote that Quantrell “employed a deadly force option and failed to document the incident until the next day, after Lucas had already called the department indicating his desire to file a complaint and speak with me.”  Ruggles cited this as a violation of SOP 40.002 – Departmental Use of Force.

In the Dante Jones case, Quantrell stated that when Jones pulled his vehicle next to his, he got out of his patrol car with his weapon in his right hand, opened the passenger side door and reached in with his left hand to take keys out of the ignition. He claims Jones hit the gas and Quantrell had to shoot the unarmed Jones four times because he was trapped in the car and feared that he would be “drug under the car or ran over” (pg. 6 of the SIU report). According to the police radio transcript, no more than 39 seconds elapsed between Jones pulling up to Quantrell’s vehicle and shots being fired.

The Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team concluded: “Four shots were fired into the vehicle striking Mr. Dante Jones multiple times from the open passenger door/window while he was in the driver seat.”(Page 478 of the report). 

According to the crime scene team, three of the four shell casings were found on the road; one was found in the car. “All of the bullet paths associated with the multiple gunshot wounds to Mr. Donte Jones were from his right to left.”

The Observer contacted Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond to ask what policies and investigations he used in the process of hiring new deputies.  He responded: “Hiring of Sheriff Office Employee’s/Deputies is extensive. One must first pass a written and physical testing process to establish themselves on a Civil Service list.  Once on a hiring list and before the being hired the agency does an exhaustive background investigation on the person. An investigation which involves visiting past employers, neighborhoods where the person lived and so on. After this process is complete the applicant has to undergo a polygraph, medical and psychological examinations. Then they are offered a position if the Sheriff or Chief chooses as you get to pick from the top five applicants.”

 Prosecutor Shawn Sant wrote the Observer a month ago, “I am still awaiting evidence to be evaluated and returned from the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory. I will not be able to complete my findings until I have ALL available evidence for review and consideration.”  He has not responded to a recent request for additional information.

Judicial Candidate Sharon Brown Wants to Move From the Defendant’s Chair to the Judge’s Chair in Benton-Franklin Superior Court

Since 2012, judicial candidate Sharon Brown and her ex-husband Fraser Hawley have been almost continuously involved in lawsuits filed against them in Benton-Franklin Superior Court.  Now she wants to be a judge there.  In her official Candidate Statement she emphasizes her lawmaking in the Washington State Senate:

“As a business lawyer, a City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem, and finally as your State Senator for the past eight years, I have developed a broad and unique skill set to make me an outstanding judge.  Since 2013, I have been creating, revising and establishing policy to become law, thus I understand the true meaning of the law, and how it should be applied.”

Brown did not return calls requesting comment.  However, public records from the Superior Court as well as Benton County property records and newspaper articles provide information about five lawsuits in which she was named.  Settlements were reached in four cases and dates are noted but the full details are not available to the public.  The fifth suit is ongoing.

December 11, 2012, Nor Am Investment LLC sued Fraser Hawley and Sharon Brown for payment of a promissory note for $300,000 due to be paid on April 25, 2012.  At the time Hawley was working on development in Badger Mountain South.  In the court papers Hawley responded that the $300,000 was for earnest money on property for which a purchase and sales agreement had been executed.  In addition, Hawley responded that the plaintiff had not compensated Hawley for the reasonable value of the benefits of Hawley’s designs, efforts, engineering and resources.  The case was settled in March 2013.

December 2, 2013, Brown and Hawley were sued for “Fraud, Misrepresentation, and Conversion.” According to the complaint in the court records, the plaintiff gave a check to Hawley written to Cynergy Tower Investco for $101,106.33 on July 8, 2011.  The check was intended to be an investment in a 22,000 square-foot condominium structure on the real property owned by Cynergy LLC.  Hawley and one or more of the other defendants represented that the plaintiffs would become percentage owners of Cynergy Investco.  Some months later Plaintiffs discovered that Cynergy Investco was not a legally registered in the state of Washington until about July 9, 2013.  In the complaint the plaintiffs asked for interest on the $101,106.33 from July 8, 2011 to September 5, 2013 when the defendants had issued a check for the sum to the plaintiffs.   The case was settled in June 2016.

August 29, 2017 Fraser Hawley and Sharon Brown and their business partners sued Banner Bank which was preparing to foreclose on their property at 4309 W. 27th Avenue in Kennewick for a loan of $4,136,678.11 that was due May 30, 2017.   The plaintiffs argued that the bank was not negotiating in good faith and fair dealing.  They claimed that the value of the Banks collateral greatly exceeded the amount owed on the loans and monthly payments were always timely paid.   The owners said the bank knew that while the owners had sufficient assets for repayment, the assets were not liquid and would need to be obtained with the assistance of some financial planning.

On September 12, 2017, Banner Bank countersued Sharon Brown and Fraser Hawley and their business partners regarding the delinquent loan.   According to court documents, the original promissory note had been signed on or about April 26, 2007 with an original maturity date of May 1, 2014.  But the loan was amended and extended until May 30, 2017.  The Bank claimed that they were entitled to immediate turnover of the collateral by the defendants.

The lawsuits were combined and according to court records a settlement was reached in early 2018.  Hawley and Brown divorced on March 30, 2018 in Walla Walla, Washington Superior Court.  She received the Kennewick property in the divorce settlement but later sold her share to partners on the project.

August 28, 2018, Michael Shemali, owner of MS Properties LLC and a former neighbor of Hawley and Brown, sued them and Thomas W. Arnold for repayment of two loans. This suit is the basis for Kennewick City Council Member John Trumbo’s “investigation” into the sale of Brown’s house and her knowledge of the marijuana business which resulted in an ethics complaint against him.     

Shemali claimed that Hawley and Arnold had borrowed $500,000 on February 10, 2016 to be used to purchase equipment, build structures, and otherwise fund the Pure Green cannabis operation.  About October 26, 2016, Shemali made a second loan of $250,000 for additional expenses at the cannabis operation.  As evidence, Shemali presented the two promissory notes that appeared to have been signed by Hawley and Arnold.

In her response, Sharon Brown claimed that she was not involved in and had no knowledge of the alleged promissory notes and the plaintiffs’ claims against her should be dismissed.  Hawley claimed in his response that he had never been provided proof of any money being transferred from Plaintiff Shemali.  In addition, Hawley claimed that Arnold and Shemali negotiated the various loan agreements without Hawley.

January 29, 2019, Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom ruled in favor of the plaintiff:

The Court finds that the Complaint does not assert a claim against Ms. Brown in her individual capacity.  Rather the Complaint seeks to hold Ms. Brown’s and Mr. Hawley’s marital community, and Mr. Hawley’s separate property, liable for the debt owed on the promissory notes.

The Shemali suit against Brown, Hawley and Arnold continues in the Benton-Franklin Superior Court while Sharon Brown campaigns to be a judge there.