The Kittitas County Board of Commissioners is having issues with effectively communicating among itself.

According to a public records request filed by the Daily Record, the board signed a professional services agreement on May 16 with Marilyn McCabe-Love, owner of Leading Dynamics. Her website describes her as a speaker, mediator, adjunct professor, trainer and facilitator with over 20 years of experience with training, project management and strategic planning.

The agreement originally appropriated $5,000 for what was described as providing guidance toward better communication skills and decision making. McCabe-Love was to conduct diagnostic interviews with the board and employees they supervise. After analyzing the results of the interviews, McCabe was to produce a written report containing the next steps which could include corrective actions, training or additional work performed by her. The contract agreement was amended in September to reflect the total cost of the services at $6,642.85.

On Sept. 24, the board signed a professional services agreement with Wallace Wilkins, Ph.D. Wilkins, a member of the University of Washington’s University Consulting Alliance is contracted for services totaling $10,000 for two days of consulting services to include individual and group meetings, wrap up and planning discussions scheduled to take place on Oct. 30 and 31. According to Wilkins’ philosophy statement on his UW website, he provides optimal development for individuals, teams and organizations through a two-pronged strategy. The two prongs are to increase the constructive workplace attributes of productivity, resilience, positive communication and collegial relationships, and to reduce or eliminate the negative workplace attributes of stress, conflict, perfectionism, procrastination anger and worry.

EXECUTIVE SESSION CONFLICT

On Aug. 21, Commissioner Laura Osiadacz filed a written statement to the county’s human relations office regarding a verbal altercation that took place in executive session that day. Members present were Commissioners Osiadacz, Brett Wachsmith and Cory Wright, as well as Public Works Director Mark Cook. The meeting was held to discuss possible lease/real estate options the county might have regarding a parcel of county-owned land, the specific piece being redacted from a public records request filed by the Daily Record.

In her statement, Osiadacz said Commissioner Wright was visibly angry during the meeting. She said she asked him if everything was OK, after which Wright changed his demeanor to what she described as going from anger to aggressive and menacing.

“He then started yelling at me,” Osiadacz said in the statement. “He had a wild look in his eyes and postured himself in a threatening manner which has left me fearing for my safety. While in the meeting, I was completely terrified and was scared he was going to attack me from across the table.”

Osiadacz continued to say that she regularly deals with stressful situations in both her positions as a county commissioner and volunteer firefighter, but she felt like there was no reasoning with Wright during this situation.

“I believed the only way to get out of this situation without continued escalation was to submit to his aggressive behavior,” Osiadacz said. “All I could do was sit there, begin shaking, and cry.”

During the altercation Osiadacz said Wright made a statement that he feels he is always walking a tightrope while working with her and Commissioner Wachsmith and that they are working behind his back to plot against him.

“I honestly do not know why he feels this way, as I have never acted to work against anyone,” Osiadacz said. “I cannot own Commissioner Wright’s thoughts and beliefs. I find his accusations against me to be disturbing and worry for his mental well-being.”

COMMISSIONER WACHSMITH

In an Aug. 22 email to County Prosecutor Greg Zempel, Commissioner Wachsmith characterized Commissioner Wright’s appearance as agitated from the beginning of the meeting, and said his temper escalated from there. Wachsmith said Wright’s actions were hostile and that he had what Wachsmith described as a violent verbal outburst towards Commissioner Osiadacz.

“Where he jumped out of his seat, got in her face and yelled at her while slamming his fist down on the table,” Wachsmith said in the email. “We were all shaken, and I did not want to engage because I did not want to make the situation worse.”

In the email, Wachsmith said he had spoken with Lisa Young in Human Resources and that she indicated that she would confer with Zempel on the matter. He said he had seen outbursts from Wright at prior meetings, recalling an instance where one occurred during a meeting with Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Neil Caulkins.

“We need to get him help to ensure this does not happen in the future,” Wachsmith said in the email.

RESPONSE FROM WRIGHT

In a response sent to the Daily Record, Commissioner Wright said he has brought the same level of focus and desire for solutions to the Board of Commissioners that made his 20-year career in the private level successful.

“My commitment to the citizens of Kittitas County pushes me daily to find long-term solutions for the issues we face,” Wright said in the statement. “I am a passionate believer that our future lies in collaboration and thoughtful discussion with the stakeholders interested in solving these same issues.”

While Wright said he could not legally discuss the content of the executive session, he said the conversations that day brought his passion to the surface.

“I was concerned that instead of collaboration, others were intentionally excluding me and colluding for a certain outcome and I could not stand for that,” he said. “While the letters attempt to paint a picture of my actions and demeanor, I vehemently dispute the severity of the situation that they describe. Had the events occurred as depicted, I feel it would have compelled either Commissioner Wachsmith or Director Cook to intervene and neither did so.”

Wright pointed out that the statements made by Commissioners Osiadacz and Wachsmith did not describe an apology he said was made immediately after the incident, nor did they outline a commitment he gave that he would never again reach that level.

“Every one of us has found ourselves in the midst of emotional displays for which we were regretful after, and I am no different,” he said. “In the end, the person I was most upset with that day was me. In that moment I committed to, when necessary, disagreeing without being disagreeable.”

Although he did not want to speak for the other commissioners (Commissioner Wachsmith did not respond for a request for comment as of deadline and Commissioner Osiadacz declined to comment on the issue), Wright said he believes the commissioners have worked together since the incident with a better understanding because of what he described as underlying issues coming to light.

“I look forward to continuing our work together for the people of Kittitas County in spite of this unfortunate incident,” he said. “I believe the voters of our county not only know my commitment to this job but can also relate to the powerful emotions that arise from the issues we deal with. I am hopeful this campaign can continue to be about the important challenges and opportunities our county faces.”

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