Washougal Mayor, Councilman Butt Heads Over Meeting

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Washougal Mayor Sean Guard and Mayor Pro-Tem Jon Russell are not seeing eye to eye on a city government matter.

This time it’s in relation to an email Russell sent out last week publicizing a “Faith-Based Public Forum.”

The special meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday inside Washougal City Hall, 1701 C St. The meeting’s purpose is for leaders of nonprofits, religious organizations and other groups within the city to share ideas how to better work with the city to benefit residents.

Both Guard and Russell agree having such a meeting is a positive thing. What they don’t agree on is who had the power to set the meeting’s agenda and whether city business will be conducted during the meeting.

“(I)ndividual council members do not set agendas for the meetings of the city council,” Guard wrote in an email sent Friday to media members, city administrator Dave Scott and finance director Jennifer Forsberg.

“For an individual council member to send out an email saying this is what the agenda is doesn’t mean anything to us,” Guard said in a phone interview this week. The mayor added, “(Russell) needs to follow the council’s own rules and policies.”

Russell disagreed. Fellow council members Connie Jo Freeman, Caryn Plinski and Jennifer McDaniel sponsored the meeting, along with him. No council member objected to the meeting, he noted.

“It is a council-drawn initiative,” Russell said during a phone interview this week. “(The mayor) has nothing to do with it.”

Russell said he had no animosity against the mayor, but also “didn’t pretend to understand why he does the things he does.”

“If he’s upset about it, that’s on him,” Russell added. “We’re trying to do things that are conducive to having a good relationship with nonprofits in the city.”

Councils can take votes at a special meeting as long as they follow the prescribed agenda.

“(H)opefully substantial business will be conducted during this meeting,” Guard wrote in his email.

Russell envisioned a different gathering.

“There really doesn’t need to be any votes,” Russell said. “It’s just a forum.”

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