Emails Reveal Rift Within Yelm Council

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The Yelm City Council and Yelm’s city government in general has experienced a great deal of change the past year.

Since Mayor JW Foster has been in office, two people have been appointed to the council, EJ Curry and Jennifer Littlefield. The council was split 3-3 on both appointments and Foster broke the tie.

After the appointment of Littlefield in October, Councilor Molly Carmody sent an angry email to Foster where she stated: “Ron Harding runs city council. We all know that Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Councilors Tracey Wood and Russ Hendrickson) run racing to Ron before they make any decision. Curry’s been best buds with him forever, and Littlefield is his lapdog. They’ll all do his bidding, which means that Ron still controls City Council, which means that he controls you. Congratulations! You’re a puppet mayor, doing Ron’s bidding whether you like it or not … too bad you didn’t have the spine to change things. Dance, Marionette, dance!”

Foster responded 15 minutes later, first thanking Carmody for her service to Yelm during her time so far on council. He added: “If you think you can no longer be effective in working with me and the others in that concerted effort, I would gladly accept your resignation and rush to appoint Scott Bradley in your place. He has demonstrated a much better temperament for the job. However, I will continue to do the job of Mayor as best I can with the council I have. My dedication is to the residents and businesses that make Yelm a great place to live, work and play. Your assistance in that effort is appreciated. Your mean-spirited words are not.”

Bradley was the other person nominated for both positions.

He also forwarded the original email to the rest of the council. When he forwarded the message to council he said he appreciated the support most members had given him during the appointment process.

“I believe I made the right decision,” Foster said in an email the Nisqually Valley News acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request. “This is a letter of ‘support’ that I got from council member Carmody. Not helpful.”

Later that night Carmody responded saying: “I will of course continue to work tirelessly toward the betterment of Yelm in my position on city council until my term ends in 2019. I hope we can find a way to work together in that goal. I am open to any ideas that you might have in that direction.”

Littlefield’s email response to Carmody’s email, sent to the rest of council and the mayor, was: “She has issues.”

Since then, she said her and Carmody have been able to work well together.

“I think it was an email sent in the heat of the moment,” Littlefield said. “I have no issues with Council member Carmody.”

Since Carmody’s email in October, Foster said she has been an active and productive member of the council. Carmody served as one of the three councilors on the finance committee who worked to create the 2017 budget, which she called a good step in the right direction not only for transparency but to increase city staffing levels to keep up with the demand of services.  

“We are working together,” Foster said. “I don’t think this is a dysfunctional council.”

The email exchange was brought up by Hendrickson at the Nov. 16 study session.

“I just want to say that was unprofessional and I don’t appreciate it,” he said.

Councilor Joe DePinto said he believes Foster violated the Open Records Act by sharing the email with the rest of council.

“My sharing of the email was in no way a violation of that act because I didn’t share it with the public. I shared it with the other council members,” Foster said at the meeting. “I did it because I needed to demonstrate the type of support or nonsupport I got in a very difficult decision-making process for the appointment of that council position.”

In the weeks since the email exchange and the discussion at the study session, Carmody stands by her words.

“I do stand by my words, I believe Yelm has been controlled by the same few families over the past few years,” she said. “My words may not have been elegant but they got my point across, that is what I believe.”

In a written statement she said she was disappointed with Foster’s decision to appoint Littlefield and she believes this is a continuation of the “old guard” families who have run Yelm for the better part of a decade.

“Previous Mayor Harding was one member of that old guard, and for many years, he controlled Yelm city government as a virtual demagogue, with the sitting council acting as his puppets,” Carmody wrote. “They voted exactly how he wanted them to and approved his many grandiose and cost-overrun projects that the citizens repeatedly voted down. For too long, Yelm has been ruled by the same small number of elite families that have lived here for generations, and that don’t acknowledge that Yelm has changed dramatically even in the past eight years, when it has nearly doubled in size. They are content to run Yelm as it was run many years ago.”

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