Selah Mayor Sherry Raymond cast the deciding vote to give City Attorney Rob Case a raise on Tuesday as protesters chanted “No Raise for Case!” outside City Hall.
The chant could be heard on the Zoom call as the council approved a $1,000 per month raise for Case, who works for the city on contract. His new compensation of $10,000 per month will match the one given to his predecessor, Bob Noe.
“There was an understanding that this was more of a “get to know you” price as far as his monthly and yearly income,” City Administrator Don Wayman said, noting record-breaking sales tax receipts the past two months gave the city adequate funds. “As far as the mayor and I are concerned, he’s more than earned the ability to draw on the additional thousand dollars to put him on par with our previous attorney.”
Council members Kevin Wickenhagen, Jacquie Matson and Cliff Peterson joined Raymond in voting to approve the raise. Although Russ Carlson and Roger Bell praised Case’s work for the city, they voted no along with Suzanne Vargas, arguing the raise should wait until the next budget at the end of the calendar year.
Some members of the public went further, saying Case should no longer work for Selah given his role in several recent controversies. Case wrote a letter warning a Selah family it could be prosecuted for writing Black Lives Matter chalk messages on the street and filed a lawsuit as a private individual against Selah citizens for defamation.
Case repeatedly spoke out against chalk art, including when he spoke to talk radio host Dori Monson on a Seattle-based station about city employees removing a memorial to a fallen soldier on July 4. Community member Anita Callahan said although Case wanted to show messages weren’t being erased due to political content, she believes that was just an illusion.
“He was on there and it was almost like he was braggadocious about removing it,” Callahan said via phone call Tuesday night. “That was just sickening.”
She also joined others in expressing concern that Case has worked in a private capacity for Wayman, who recommended the raise. Wayman said Washington State Bar Association ruled it’s not a conflict of interest, and both he and Case have signed waivers to that effect.
Five of the 24 public comments read by executive assistant Monica Lake urged the council to vote against a raise for Case. Another 11 criticized Wayman or the city in general and one condemned Black Lives Matter protesters. Lake said seven other comments could not be read.
During the meeting, about 26 protesters gathered outside to raise awareness for SAFE, the Selah Alliance for Equality. They left around 20 signs for Black Lives Matter and advocating for the firing of Wayman.
Community member Bill Callahan said it’s illegal for the city to continue to remove political signs, such as the ones put up outside of Selah’s convention center. He said Public Works Director Joe Henne told him to call Wayman for more information as to why the signs were taken down while a sign promoting Republican gubernatorial candidate Raul Garcia remains in front of the building.
• COVID grants: Wayman said the city should be able to distribute about $150,000 to Selah businesses adversely affected by COVID-19.
Katrina Henkle of the Selah Downtown Association expects those grant applications to be available by the beginning of next week. She also noted that more free masks for businesses are available and a group of volunteers is working on webinars to help people deal with mental health issues related to the virus.
• New police, fire chiefs: Four candidates, including two in-house, have already applied to replace outgoing police chief Richard Hayes.
He plans to retire at the end of August, and applications will close for initial review on Aug. 31. Deputy Chief Eric Steen will lead the department on an interim basis and Wayman is confident the city will find a strong replacement.
Selah Fire Chief Gary Hanna plans to retire next year. If fire commissioners approve, Deputy Chief Jim Lang will take over the top spot and someone will be hired to fill his position.
This story has been changed to correct Don Wayman's title and that five letters opposed a raise for City Attorney Rob Case.