Well folks, the VinMachine has been spinning merrily, trying to cast the lay-offs of two deputy clerks as a budget cutting move. What’s been largely lost in the ensuing rhetorical circus is the voices of the two City of Montesano clerks who were laid off, Chelsea Anthony and Ashlee Sund.
Conservelocity recently spoke with both Anthony and Sund to get their side of the story. That would be the side you most likely haven’t heard. Here’s Part 1, with Deputy Clerk Chelsea Anthony.
Chelsea Anthony is the mother of five. Her children are “almost 3,” twin boys aged 11, a 15 year-old, and a 16 year-old “who’ll be 17 next month.” A graduate of Montesano High School, Class of 2002, Anthony has lived in Montesano “on and off for 15 years.” She worked in Customer Service for Verizon prior to hiring on with the City of Montesano in December of 2011. Here’s what she had to say:
“I had a scheduled surgery on the board for two, maybe three months. So I get out of surgery on a Monday, home on Tuesday. I get a text and then a voice mail from Vini (Mayor Samuel) to call her. Vini says, ‘Me and Doug (Streeter, the city’s newly-hired CFO and chief Anybody But Estes cheerleader) are sitting here and I just need to inform you that you’ve been laid off.”
Ain’t that sweet?
Anthony, who was heavily medicated following major surgery, responded in disbelief:
“Is this a joke? Vini goes, ‘No Chelsea, it’s not a joke.’ I asked her, ‘Why?’ She said it’s ‘because we don’t have funding for your job. The General Fund is in deficit. If we keep going the way we’re going now, we’ll only have 96 cents at the end of the year.’”
Anthony says she tried to explain to Samuel that she’s not paid out of the General Fund. “She didn’t want to hear it. I offered to drop out of the union, take a pay cut, and take away my benefits for a while and keep my job. She was like, ‘No, we’re not doing that.’ She had it (laying Anthony and Sund off) in her mind from Day One. Any time she doesn’t want to hear, she just sticks her hand in your face.”
Charmed, I’m sure.
Anthony says she “Never got a written notice that my job was going to be cut or I was going to be laid off. Not once.”
According to Anthony, her doctor told her, “You can’t go back (to work at the city.) It’s too damaging and too stressful.”
Anthony sent this info. from her doctor to Doug Streeter by fax. If you thought the above was straight out of a B grade movie, check out what happens next:
“I got a knock on the door at home. There was a guy standing there I’d never seen before in my life.” (The city typically has uniformed police officers delivering certified or otherwise sensitive mail.) “He said, ‘I have a letter I need to give you.’ She (Mayor Samuel) had to have hired him out. We have police officers who do that. So they’re saying they don’t have money for my job, but they can afford to hire people out to deliver letters?”
The May 4, 2016 letter, signed by Mayor Samuel, informed Anthony that her last day of work was being bumped up by 10+ days, from May 31 to May 20. The reason given in the letter, says Anthony, was “since your doctor said you can’t come back to work until the 31st,” (Samuel & Son decided to) “move up my last day date to May 20.”
For a PDF, click Mayor Samuel Letter May 4, 2016
But wait. It gets better.
Anthony said after receiving the letter, she emailed Streeter about wanting to get her personal notes and personal effects from the office (see below. For a PDF of the email exchange, click Anthony.Streeter ‘Personal Property’ Email – May 5, 2016.). She said she told Streeter:
“I want to come in and get my stuff. I want my notes on my desk and I want them to remain untouched. I went in on a Saturday evening, with a police officer escort. I turned on my computer to get pictures of my daughter (she used the pictures as her screen saver). The password had been changed.”
Anthony says when she went in to city hall to retrieve her personal items per the above, “Stuff was missing out of my desk. Everything was in disarray.”
That kinda tends to happen when the goon squad is going through your stuff, looking for payback. Or just generally acting like callused, cold-hearted jerks. Take your pick.
Anthony says she called Montesano Chief of Police Brett Vance about the situation and the changed password. She said Vance responded, “I don’t know anything about that.” Anthony said she’d been laid off, not fired. Referring to the police escort, Anthony told Vance, “And you‘re treating me like a criminal.”
Vance responded that the escort was standard procedure for anyone accessing city hall after hours. Anthony countered that people are often in city hall after hours without a police escort, like the cleaning lady. “She didn’t need an escort.”
Vance told her, “Don’t blow it out of proportion.” (Whatever the h-e double hockey sticks that means.) Anthony responded, telling Vance to call Doug Streeter and get the password “because I’m not leaving without my stuff.”
Streeter reportedly responded a few minutes later by phone with, “So Brett told me you’re having issues.” (Guess not everyone got that “People are just giddy” memo?) Anthony said, “I want my stuff and I want it now.” Streeter responded that he was out of town.
Aw, shucks. Dontcha hate it when that happens?
Streeter, the Savior of Montesano, reportedly denied accessing Anthony’s computer. Anthony, the city’s IT back-up, wasn’t buying it. She said the access page indicated otherwise. Anthony said, “’I know computers. I’m not an idiot.’ Doug said, ‘I don’t know what notes you’re talking about.’ I said, ‘The notes on my desk that were stolen.’”
She said “Doug offered to schedule a time for me to come in” or get her data on a flash drive. “I said, ‘The only way I’m coming back into city hall again is to get my job back.’” Anthony added, “They changed the password to my email as of May 9.”
Wrinkle: Even though she’s technically a city employee until May 20, Anthony’s been locked out of her city email as of May 9th. “Technically, they can’t lay me off wile I’m out on sick leave,” she said.
Hark! Doth something stinketh in yon Vini Village? Like:
When asked what she thinks motivated Mayor Samuel to lay her off, Anthony’s response was immediate and unequivocal:
“It’s political. Because we (Anthony and fellow deputy clerk Ashlee Sund) got along with Kristy (former City Administrator Kristy Powell) and Mayor Estes. She (Samuel) told the Public Works crew everything she did from here on out (after getting elected) would be politically-driven. This simple fact that she knew this (Anthony’s surgery) was coming, she could’ve told me before my surgery. It’s been really rough.”
You didn’t’ really swallow that “healing the town” claptrap, did you?
One other thing you may want to know. According to Anthony, Vini buddy Debbie Wisdom, who currently does ambulance billing for the city, is sitting in the cat bird seat, courtesy of The Vinster. ( I’m shocked, too.) Anthony handled Accounts Payable, Purchasing, Cross Connection – a state-mandated program for water systems – helped with water bills, and served as assistant payroll clerk.
Said Anthony, “They’re cutting my job and the police clerk’s job and bringing Debbie Wisdom up into my job. I asked Vini, ‘So you’re going to bring Debbie up here to do half my job when she can’t even do hers?'” (Reliable sources tell Conservelocity that Wisdom started in the clerk’s office and was then moved to the fire department because she “was six months behind in ambulance billing.” Meow, meow.)
Another interesting wrinkle: Wisdom was on the Planning Commission with Samuel’s campaign manager Candi Bachtell, and reportedly spent hours complaining about taking things back to the old days. Is Bachtell, part of the We Hate The Estes Administration Apple Dumpling Gang, now advising Vini?
Nothing to see here, people. Move along. Move along.
Continues Anthony, “Since the General Fund is in such deficit and me and Ashlee are getting cut, our salaries are only 10% out of the General Fund. But the city parking clerk is paid 100% out of the General Fund. She doesn’t bring in in ticket revenue what they pay her in wages and benefits. She’s three-quarters time and still gets benefits.”
Well, shoot. Does this mean the mayor only “loves” select parts of Montesano?
Don’t worry. Help is on the way. A Recall Vini effort is being launched. For info., contact Derek Hamblin at: DHamblin30@gmail.com Or: RecallVini@gmail.com
For more fun, take a gander at: A Closer Look at Montesano’s Mayor. (Not my page, but I like their style!)
Image credit: Wikimedia