Letter to the Editor: In Response to Former Tenino Mayors on Missing Money


In reply to the joint letter from former Tenino Mayors Mike Brown and Jean Petit.

The state of Washington, along with most other states, passed what we know as “sunshine” laws in order to make the business of government more open and transparent.  In Washington, the Open Public Meetings Act and the Public Records Act are tools to help ensure such open and transparent government, and they are valuable tools.  They are not, however, a substitute for open and honest communication.  As the old adage goes, “you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

If the former mayors truly have the city’s best interests at heart, they would quit invoking the strictures of the Public Records Act, wasting the time and efforts of those involved and take the current mayor up on his offer to have an open, honest and frank discussion about their suspicions and innuendo. This is not the first time Mike Brown has attempted to instigate a crises rather than simply pick up the phone or, better yet, come visit city hall and just talk to me about the things he perceives as “wrong” or “inefficient.”   

As a former mayor, it cannot be that he does not understand there is both a lag between the time a decision is made and a decision is implemented, and the delta between the message that is sent and the message that is received. I am always aware of these two facts of communication and I do my best to inform our citizens and to clarify when I perceive there is a message that was misunderstood. Of course, there are always those times when the answer is what the answer is and folks simply don’t like the answer. When approached in a manner that indicates a willingness to understand, I always do my best to try and help that process.   However, when approached in a manner that indicates a preconceived disposition to distrust, along with a “holier than thou” attitude, I tend to be a bit cantankerous. In my opinion, filing a Public Records Request prior to an attempt to communicate in an unofficial manner is either an act of cowardness or an act of superiority; neither puts the requestor in good stead with me.

Mike Brown filed a Public Records Request seeking very particular documents. The specific documents he requested simply do not exist. He doesn’t like that because he has his own ideas about how things should happen. But just because things aren’t done the way he would do it, does not mean that what was done was done without proper authority. The truth of the matter is that in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was duped and it cost the city a large sum of money. After becoming aware of the scam (it was technically a case of social engineering), I reported it to each and every oversight agency and each member of city leadership along with my resignation. 

After a detailed discussion of the issue in the executive session, the resignation was not accepted. Instead, I was asked to remain and assist the city in aggressively, but quietly, pursuing legal action. The city’s legal team and leadership is very confident of a full recovery and, as is virtually always the case with a complicated situation, full disclosure (and vindication) when the risk of bad decisions due to emotionalism has been eliminated. These past few months have been extremely difficult for many reasons, not the least because my own self-confidence took a severe beating over this. If you want to help, then help. But sniping from the shadows is the work of cowards who fear rational discussion in an open public forum.


John Millard