Reading through Vancouver council emails the other day, I was able to confirm that Councilor Alishia Topper, who took office in January, hasn’t lost her enthusiasm for the job.

First, councilors received this email:

From: Richard Stelloh <>
Date: January 10, 2014 at 4:57:34 PM PST
To: <>, <>,
<>, <>,
<>, <>, <anne.mcenernyogle@>
Subject: 10% Late Fee on Water Bills!
Tim Leavitt,
What is the deal with you rotten thieving no good so and so’s on the city council
mandating a 10% late fee on water bills? What a bunch of jerks! Did you all come from
JP Morgans Revenue Enhancement Division? If a person struggles a bit after well over
a decade of multiple property ownership then what does your 10% late fee work out to
per annum if he’s late with partial payments a couple of times?
I have paid water bills on two properties (duplexes – 4 units) since 2001 and now that I
struggle a bit I find these “*&^%($” at the Water department insufferable, unyielding
and completely impossible to deal with. They say they are under mandate from the city
council and I am up “city creek”! Once I had tried to make arrangements and was only
$60 behind (including your blatantly usurious (interest rates, I mean) late fees) and
they spent more money on coffee, donuts, cigarettes, fuel, labor, material, and benefits
to drive out to my house and post notice on my door then knock on my tenants door and notify them that their landlord is delinquent on his bill and their water was going to be shut off. Not to mention the coffee, cigarettes, donuts, labor costs and benefits of the dispatcher, supervisor, mechanic, fueler etc of the guy they sent out for NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER!!!!!!

And while on the subject of uselessness, don’t you people have anything important to
do other than screw the property owner to support you useless government/metro
employees, build convention centers to benefit the rich and the connected not to
mention your massive public housing projects that drive rent into the ground, make
your buddy De Angelo richer, screw over the small landlord.
I suggest you follow the lead of Clark County Public Utilities. There you are treated
with dignity. You have to pay your bill but reasonable arrangements can most always
be arrived at and accommodated. The Citizen is respected and the workers understand
the “pecking” order. They are “Public Servants” not holier than thou horses behinds
like you find working for the City of Vancouver! But then, you know how organizations
are! Top down.

10% Late fee! If indeed this is a mandate of your City Council then one can quite
objectively arrive at the conclusion that you guys are a BUNCH OF FREAKING
CROOKS. There is no fixing a system whereby crap like this takes place as a matter of
routine city business. The only hope is the whole damn thing burns damn.
Have you no decency you jag offs? Have you no decency?
Sincerely, Piss Off!
Richard Stelloh

Topper sent an email to City Manager Eric Holmes, asking he explain the city’s policy on late fees the next time they met. Then she emailed Mayor Tim Leavitt: 

From: Topper, Alishia
Sent: Monday, February 03, 2014 10:04 PM
To: Leavitt, Tim
Subject: Fwd: 10% Late Fee on Water Bills!
Hi Tim,
I’m assuming that you responded to this email on behalf of council… If not, I have a response I’d like to send as a councilmember.
But don’t want to be redundant if you already responded.

Leavitt’s response to Topper: 

RE: 10% Late Fee on Water Bills!
From Leavitt, Tim Date Tuesday, February 04, 2014 9:17 AM
To Topper, Alishia
Subject RE: 10% Late Fee on Water Bills!
Hi Alishia —
Feel free to respond to the email if you’d like.
However, you (and we) will receive hundreds of emails from individuals (some constituents, and some not).
Typically, when an email if this vulgarity is sent….I determine there are more productive conversations I can be having with others who have emailed with constructive and respectful intent.
Thanks, tim

Brian Carlson, the director of public works, ended up responding:  

Begin forwarded message:
From: <>
Date: February 4, 2014 at 10:35:07 AM MST
To: Richard Stelloh <>
Subject: Re: 10% Late Fee on Water Bills!
Dear Mr. Stelloh
I apologize for a delayed response to your e-mail.
Your concerns and comments are noted. While it is your right to think and say what you want, I
respectfully disagree with your assessment of the City of Vancouver, its leadership and staff.
A clarification is warranted with respect to your comment that late fees are mandated by the City Council.
They are not. It is true that the City Council has adopted them but that is different than a mandate. Late
fees, such as the City of Vancouver charges, are a standard business practice within the utility industry
and the amount is in-line with what other municipalities and other public and private utilities charge. It is
our opinion that they are not unreasonable and provide equity for the vast majority of customers who pay
their bills on time as they should not be subsidizing those customers who fail to pay their bills or are
consistently late in their payments.

As you are aware we do offer payment arrangements for customers that may find themselves in temporary and challenging financial circumstances. Our goal is always to find ways to find payment solutions sensitive to those challenges. However that also relies on the customer living up to the commitments that they make for financial arrangements. I think that you will also find this standard within the industry including Clark Public Utilities. As you are also aware, we do have the ability to waive late fees once per a 12-month rolling billing period as we do understand that challenges come up now and then. Our goal with late fees is not to make money but to promote good payment behavior by our customers and to provide equity as previously mentioned.

With regard to dignity and decency, we instill within our employees to treat all of our customers with
dignity and decency in all interactions no matter how challenging they may be. But at some point lines are
crossed and they have the right not to have to continue to endure being belittled and not shown common
Best regards
Brian Carlson

And the gentleman’s response to Carlson: 

On Jan 10, 2014, at 6:01 PM, “Richard Stelloh” <> wrote:
Should have included you. Not that you would give a damn!

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at or 360-735-4508.

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