Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce's board of directors and the Concerned Chamber Committee has hit canyon-like depths with recent e-mails, voice messages and personal attacks, and over what? Three lines.
When board member and nominating committee chairwoman Deborah Rambo Sinn compiled biographies of the chamber's 26 candidates to be sent out along with the upcoming election ballots, she had no idea she would open her e-mail April 11 and find comments that she called, "zealously vicious."
"I was totally shocked," Sinn said.
The Concerned Chamber Committee was formed following the dismissal of executive director Lee Lawrence in mid-January. The group was displeased with the board's decision, subsequently calling for the board's resignation and new elections.
The e-mails came from CCC member Kevin Wall and co-chairman Ron Ferre. Wall had served on the nominating committee and was upset by the length of certain entries.
"As a member of the nominating committee, I was instructed by you to tell nominees to limit their bios to three short sentences or bullet points," Wall wrote.
Instead, Wall said, certain candidates - Jacques Dulin, for one - had been allowed to submit paragraphs of personal information.
"As I open my ballot I find political statements, paragraphs and information on grandparents for a select few. This is a disgusting display of backroom politics," Wall wrote, ending his e-mail, "You live a lie to yourself and the world around you. But mark my word things are going to change ...."
Wall went on to accuse Sinn of holding secret meetings.
According to Sinn, there were no secret meetings. As she wrote in reply to Wall, "If you had shown interest along the way, I would have gladly shared the bio page with you, but you didn't ask and it never occurred to me that there would be any controversy."
Sinn said the nominees were invited to submit three sentences that could include biographical information and/or reasons why they were running. There was not, however, a limit to the number of words candidates could use, a measure Sinn said she wished the committee had thought of imposing.
"I was just trying to do the right thing," Sinn said.
Ferre wrote: "I am really disappointed in allowing 'your candidates' special treatment with longer than three lines ... As time goes on, your true character has shown you not to be an honest and truthful person."
Ferre goes onto quote Sinn's e-mail to Wall, saying, "Your reply is a bunch of crap."
Ferre even calls into question Sinn's dedication to her faith. In reference to the board's January dismissal of Lee Lawrence, Ferre accuses Sinn of acting like a "nicey nice Christian on Sundays and stabbing your own Christian brother in the back ...."
Sinn is the pianist for Sequim Community Church where Lawrence also is a member.
CCC co-chairman Gil Simon was vacationing when the
e-mails were sent. Although he agrees Ferre and Wall "may have pushed it a little far," he believes they were right to be upset regarding the biographies.
"I also said, 'What happened to the three lines?'" Simon said. "Frankly I'm getting tired of the whole thing. Every time we turn around there's another surprise."
Simon said that Ferre and Wall will not be reprimanded for their behavior.
Sinn said that despite the personal attacks, she plans to stay on the chamber board. If anything, she's become more resolved to push forward with the election.
She described herself as standing in the gap and doing the right thing.
According to interim board president Walt Schubert, the attacks on Sinn are just a small part of what's going on. Schubert, too, has received what he calls threatening voice messages.
"I've never seen people act this way in my entire public life," Schubert said. He added that he's very protective of his fellow board members, seeing them as a kind of family. He said he supports Sinn 100 percent and believes she did nothing wrong.
"You can pick on me, but you can't pick on my family," Schubert said.
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