Anybody who’s ever sweated out a middle-school math class has probably run into the odd phenomenon of using the wrong steps to solve an arithmetic problem, yet still accidentally stumbling onto the right answer.
That’s why we give the city of Selah a C-minus for its handling of the ugly and embarrassing tenure of ex-City Administrator Don Wayman.
Mayor Sherry Raymond announced in a written statement that Wayman had been “released of his duties” Tuesday after a closed-door meeting of the Selah City Council.
We fully support his termination, but we have little to go on when it comes to understanding how Mayor Raymond and the City Council arrived at the long-overdue decision. Maybe if Selah’s public servants were a little more transparent and willing to explain their reasoning, we’d think differently, but nobody is returning reporters’ calls since the termination.
That’s typical. In recent years, Selah’s city leaders have clung to secrecy as they’ve obstinately refused to do the public’s business publicly. Public engagement has been limited at council meetings, and Raymond, Wayman and other city officials have routinely swatted away questions from journalists and constituents.
Questions about Wayman, however, have been numerous and troubling — especially in the past year or so.
As Black Lives Matter demonstrations swept the country last summer, Wayman ridiculed the movement and ordered city workers to erase BLM chalk art in residential neighborhoods. He also ordered staffers to take down signs posted by the Selah Alliance for Equality urging racial equity and Wayman’s dismissal. He was even caught on video taking down some of the signs himself.
The SAFE incidents resulted in a U.S. District Court lawsuit claiming Wayman violated the group’s free-speech rights. It also cost the city its police chief, who resigned in August, citing Wayman’s heavy-handed management style and his handling of the chalk art controversy.
Before all that, that same heavy-handedness contributed to delays and an ultimate scaling back of a voter-approved $6.2 million Selah Aquatic Center expansion.
And with COVID-19 raging, Wayman disparaged Asian people with offensive language when he referred to the pandemic.
In short, Wayman‘s five years in Selah have left the community with one black eye after another. The city should have cut its losses and cut him loose long ago.
While Wayman’s dismissal is a step in the right direction for Selah, our hunch is that it was more the result of mounting legal and public pressure on City Hall rather than wise and considered thinking.
However it came about, Selah eventually got the right answer in the Wayman case. But city leaders are lucky they aren’t in a middle-school math class — otherwise they’d need to show their work.