Letter from county employee raises question of bias

A letter sent to the Battle Ground City Council is raising a few eyebrows. The letter comes from Max Booth, who was recently named chief building official for Clark County by Community Development Director April Furth. Booth has worked with the department since January 2017.

Booth also filed to run for the Battle Ground City Council seat currently held by Mayor Philip Johnson. However, the Clark County League of Women Voters announced at its July 6 candidate forum that Booth declined to attend stating he was no longer campaigning for the position. In a July 20 email to The Columbian, Booth confirmed he has withdrawn from the race but his name will still appear on the Aug. 1 primary election ballot.

Booth’s letter was sent to the city council on June 5 in response to a proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month that the council was scheduled to consider that day.

In his letter, Booth said Battle Ground has a diverse population and asked the council to consider that while some residents may choose to celebrate Pride Month, many others do not.

“Making a blanket statement on behalf of the entire city about a ‘potentially controversial’ matter seems to go against the intent, if not the requirement, of the city’s governance manual,” Booth wrote adding the council shouldn’t be voting on “controversial, political, or religious” matters.

Booth urged the council not to move forward with the proclamation.

“If you are intent on moving forward with this, can you please ensure that council members are given the opportunity to vote on this matter so that the will of the people can be expressed through the vote of our elected officials,” Booth asked in his letter.

Battle Ground does not require the council to vote on proclamations, which was approved by Johnson at the meeting.

Vancouver resident Missy Fant said she became aware of Booth’s letter through a public records request. Fant said she contacted the county’s human resources department because “his words go against county standards.”

Fant said being part of the LGBTQ community is not controversial, political, or religious and that Booth clearly demonstrated he has a bias against the community.

“I worry that with his shown bias, he will use it in a manner not conducive to his job and could harm members of the LGBTQ-plus community,” Fant said.

She said the county’s human resources policy manual clearly states the county is an equal opportunity employer and that discrimination or harassment of those within protected classes, including the LGBTQ community, is prohibited.

“I believe that this letter, written to the entire city council of Battle Ground, is discriminatory against the LGBTQ-plus community and the public that Max Booth serves,” Fant said.

Fant is asking the county’s human resources department to investigate further.

Booth did not respond to requests for comment.

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