Monty Mahan Responds to Story on Audit of Pierce County Conservation District

Monty Mahan is a South Kitsap resident who ran for South Kitsap Commissioner in 2008 but was bumped out of the race in the primary. His father, Bill Mahan, is a Port of Bremerton Commissioner. Mahan is director of the Pierce Conservation District, an audit of which is the subject of a Tacoma News Tribune article to run in tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun.

I spoke to Mahan and asked him to elaborate on responses he made in the article.

Brian Sonntag’s office, in a review of the district’s 2007 finances, said it “did not have adequate internal review over purchasing and disbursements.” Although the auditor’s office completed its report in November, 2008, the district did not receive its exit interview until some time in 2009, Mahan said. The audit was part of a discussion Monday between Mahan, speaking on behalf of the district, and the Pierce County Council, which is reviewing an $5-per-parcel property tax assessment that provides $1.2 million of the district’s annual $1.6 million budget. The assessment, approved in 2003, is scheduled to expire at the end of 2009.

Mahan said the auditor’s citations referred to accounting and administrative practices that were “almost entirely minor items” and easily fixable. In the past, he said the auditor’s office gave immediate feedback on anything they found out of line, so that the district could amend them on the spot. Now, because of the lag in time, those practices also will appear in the district’s 2008 audit.

In one example, the New Tribune article states, the auditor found the district had “issued checks of more than $10,000 at least four times – for a total of $265,768 – without the (conservation district) board’s approval as required by policy between Sept. 25, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2007. The audit also identified 95 smaller checks totaling $150,020 that weren’t approved properly.”

Mahan asserted that the board had approved the expenditures in the district’s budget and had approved the contracts for the work. The practice had been OK’d in earlier audits, and Mahan said other conservation districts in the state continue it. His office changed the practice to comply with the auditor’s recommendation as soon as they received the report.

Mahan said he feels his office is being singled out by the auditor. He added that the lag in reporting time makes it hard to respond to findings in a timely way. Up until a couple years ago, the district would be audited in June or July and receive its exit interview in August.

“This practice has not raised any red flags for them before. I would have been nice if they would have told us in advance,” Mahan said. “I don’t know why my district is being singled out, and I don’t know why they’ve changed the philosophy in the way they deal with us.”

“We take the audit seriously, and we’ve addressed just about all the things they have a problem with. It’s just the report tends to inflate the seriousness of the issues, and the reports come late. So I’m trying to fix things that happened over a year ago.”

Mahan is confident the County Council will renew the $5 assessment. The district helps landowners conserve resources and farmers preserve their way of life. It recently helped fund a mobile meat processing unit that will benefit Kitsap County.

“There’s a large network of organizations that rely on this funding. A lot of good comes of it,” Mahan said.
Here are the auditor’s report:

39 thoughts on “Monty Mahan Responds to Story on Audit of Pierce County Conservation District

  1. Monty has done amazing work on behalf of the farmers and others in Pierce County. Right about now, he and his staff are working with farmers to package up surplus produce and get it into the hands of needy, low income residents throughout the County.

    Why Chris would you find it necessary to pull up an audit from the TNT and make an issue of it?

    We could use the efforts of a Monty in our community. Are you aware that SK Helpline sent out an e-mail to the school district and others telling them that the shelves are low in food? The food bank is in trouble again.

    You could promote the big food drive/fitness challenge. I am surprised that the Mayor could issue a proclamation and it gets no press. How many communities are working on fitness issues, a key piece of our healthcare debate?

    As always, the ugly stuff gets notice and all the good people do is swept under the carpet.

    I remember when the Sun was a respectable newspaper, reporting on more than just 911 calls and perceived scandals.

  2. Printing the news is one thing,printing only one side of the news is another.Mahan has given alot of time and effort out side of his official duties to help the farmers and tax payers of Pierce County.
    I think some of Sonntag’s people are to self serving and looking for atta boys at others expense.

  3. Mary – The TNT story is newsworthy in that it involves a government entity’s management of public funds, and it pertains to Kitsap in that Monty Mahan is a well-known South Kitsap resident.

    The other Kitsap connection, which I mentioned, is the mobile meat processing unit funded by the conservation district for use in Pierce and surrounding counties, including Kitsap.

    My intent in doing the blog post was to give Monty a chance to elaborate on his responses in the story.

    As for the Fit City Challenge, it is incorrect to say it got “no press.” We noted it shortly after I received your first e-mail on “The Rail,” where we post small feature items. I also posted it on the blog last week.

    We are notified of many worthy causes in any given week, and we strive to make sure none are missed. We do not do a front page feature on every one. A proclamation of support from local government is seldom a trigger for deeper coverage. And our inclination to cover an event or initiative is typically in inverse proportion to the shrill self-promotion with which it is pitched.

    Not everyone agrees with our assessment of what is newsworthy, and all are welcome to submit their opinions in a letter to the editor (200 words max).

    I would be happy to do a follow-up blog post on Fit City Challenge, noting at the end of the campaign how many people signed up and how much food was donated. I’d also be happy to forward the information for publication under our “Good For You” heading on The Rail.

    Chris Henry, South Kitsap/government reporter

  4. Be fair. Reporters report. If the person involved was less known than Monty Mahan, would the same folks complain that Chris reported it?
    Sharon O’Hara

  5. My point is fairness. This has nothing to do with who’s involved for me.

    A decision to report news shouldn’t be based on how put off a reporter is – or an entire paper if one is to assume what “our” means – by how “shrill” or “self-promoting” the pitch is to cover a story.

    Indeed, there are some who strive to be front page news daily. There are some who are regularly in stories (without trying) when there are many other things of community value to report but aren’t covered (perhaps why some urgings become shrill). If there’s space to run them and the issue matters, “gotcha” inclinations shouldn’t be playing any role in a professional’s decision to report the news. Otherwise, it doesn’t become too much of a stretch to refuse to run stories about people or organisations a reporter doesn’t like, which compromises the objectivity and credibility of both journalist and periodical.

  6. Well said, Registered Voter. As always.

    Once again, the SK Helpline food bank is low in food. Promoting the needs of the community shouldn’t be subject to how well you like or don’t like the individual asking.

    I wrote for the Sun back when JoAnn Marez was editor of the Neighbors, right along with you, Chris. When exclusivity contracts were put into place, I decided to write for the Port Orchard Independent. In both instances, with JoAnn and the POI, I would be handed a story where I had preconceived notions of the business, organization or individual. Without exception I would find that my notions were wrong and that there was so much more to the person, business or organization.

    Pre-judging a story based on the messenger is always wrong. You miss so much that way, so very much.

    But, I’ll remember your prejudice in the future.

  7. Chris, after some thought, I wonder if you would explain “shrill self-promotion” and how you believe that I benefit personally, financially or professionally from a story on a weightloss challenge tied to food bank donations.

    I have given it thought myself. I do not benefit personally or professionally from contributions to the food bank. I am not an employee of the SK Helpline, nor a board member.

    I am not an owner or part owner in any of the check-in sites. I do not own any shares in Sugardaddy’s Salon, Wisteria Lane or any of the fitness centers that are participating and collecting food.

    I am not in the military, nor recruiting for it, nor employed by DOD. So, the recruiting office’s participation in the challenge in no way benefits me.

    I am not running for a political office, nor vying for a job with the City of Port Orchard, or any of the local health, fitness or medical centers.

    My mother died in 1999 from a heart attack after surgery to correct a cataract. (The growth of cataracts is accelerated by diabetes.) I listen to my youngest son remind me on a regular basis that he never got to know his grandparents.

    Your promoting the fitness challenge, food drive does not bring my mother back.

    2,500 people die every day of heart disease. That translates to one every 35 seconds. 6 times more women die of heart disease than breast cancer. Breast cancer prevention is promoted all over the place.

    NPR ran an amazing This American Life on Saturday that explained the health care situation we have today. Employer funded health care started with a drive by Baylor University in Texas to get more people in their hospital beds. Prior to their efforts people sought a doctor’s care when they needed it. Prior to that time people took greater responsibility for their own health.

    My parents were of that generation, but they did not heed, understand or have access to the research that shows most diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and several cancers are preventable through our life style choices.

    I wasn’t asking to be personally promoted through this challenge. I just wanted to see if we could get our town moving in a new and more positive direction.

    You could have linked the story to the efforts of Jim Freeman and his colleagues at the Kitsap Ag. Alliance to promote sustainable agriculture and increase access to healthy food. You could have researched the work of Will Allen, MacArthur Genius Fellow for 2008, who runs ‘Growing Power’ and who sees the limits that inner city people have in regards to access to healthy foods as “a social justice issue.”

    Inner city residents, including people of color, have such limited access. African Americans have siginficantly higher rates of diabetes and heart disease.

    We could go back to discussing Monty Mahan here, because like Will Allen, the work that Monty does you can only describe as “beautiful.” He negotiates with farmers throughout Pierce County to buy their produce. Often the big chains will not buy from local farmers and so some of their crop gets wasted. Monty is determined to stop that and to get this wonderful food to people who need it.

    The work is grueling. He and his employees take a huge flat bed truck filled with boxes of produce to inner city senior centers, food banks, including the one on the US Army base, and other organizations that serve needy people.

    He does amazing work. He spearheads these efforts, finding grants to cover the cost of the produce for the farmers.

    If you didn’t want to give me any credit and I didn’t ask for any, you could have gotten the extraordinary Eugenie Jones’ take on the need to increase our personal fitness.

    She could have told you that the viseral fat that most Americans (66% of us are overweight, including 9.2 Million of our children) carry is dangerous and contributes to a wide range of health problems.

    As far as I see it, you could have had a wonderful story, tying all these pieces together.

    If you didn’t want to mention me, you didn’t have to. Danny Brown, president of the SK Helpline food bank board mentioned at a Rotary meeting that the food bank is low in food. I called Jeff Rhodes before his Wednesday deadline and asked him if he could run a story. He said that he’d call Jennifer Hardison, the food bank director.

    When the story hit the paper, it read, “Sally Santana, advocate for the homeless, stresses that the food bank shelves are low….”

    Jeff sees my role, as do I, as the messenger. Nothing more.

    I am sorry that you can’t see the benefits of a story that takes Weight Watcher’s wonderful Lose for Good concept and attempts to see if a community would consider getting fit, while helping others with limited access to good food.

    It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Of course, the community garden idea sounded good, too, and I consider that a failure.

  8. The Pierce County Conservation District story had a strong local connection… Monty Mahan… who ran for Kitsap County Commissioner a year ago.

    As for Chris’s “shrill” comment, I can certainly understand her point. Some individuals consider their own special interests to be the most important no matter what other stories might be out there. The Kitsap Sun isn’t the only one that gets frustrated with the “shrill” and the Kitsap Sun is smart enough to know that they alienate their readership by patronizing the “shrill” instead of working for balance.

    Some of us wish that some in the community would leave the marketing of South Kitsap Helpline to Jennifer Hardison instead of usurping authority and undermining the cause. The notion that “any press is good press” doesn’t work well for non-profits.

    It is Combined Federal Campaign time. I will renew my CFC contribution this year to SK Helpline and encourage my peers at work to do the same. However, it has been sorely tempting to pull that support because of the “shrill” and vitriole from one who regularly invokes the SK Helpline name for their own agenda instead of SK Helpline’s stated mission.

    Kathryn Simpson

  9. Wow, Kathryn, that’s ugly. Very, very ugly. You really feel you have a right to say that I am “usurping authority and undermining the cause.”

    What cause, Kathryn? The cause of pulling into donations of food and money?

    The cause of building a sustainable food bank.

    For the record, I have written numerous columns promoting food bank fundraisers, from the October 2007 auction to the classic car fundraiser to two different fashion shows, as well as the program that Suanne Martin-Smith spearheaded. I have copies of all of these. Jennifer had no problems when I promoted any and all of her programs.

    Last fall, Suanne came to me, as did a food bank board member. They told me that morale was low at the foodbank and there was much infighting. They stressed that before the foodbank was considering closing its doors before the month was up. I did not share thas difficult information, but wrote a column alerting the community to the grave need faced by the food bank. I can link the column here.

    I talked to Mallory Jackson down at the Frame Shop. She was heading up the Pirate Mystery weekend. She got the word out to the Kitsap Sun and they ran a story. It came out before my column did, due to timing. Together we got the chamber involved and set up a collection point for food as part of the weekend. I drove down to the food bank and arranged for bins to be placed in several downtown stores.

    I spoke to several friends. Delilah went down and donated $10,000 on the spot. Another friend went down and donated $1,000.

    Donations surged from all corners of the community resulting in an increase from $54,000 in donations from the previous year to $128,000 (if my memory serves me right.)

    When Moondogs Too hosted the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for a dollar, I helped Mr. Baldwin, PO Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year for his contributions to the community, alert the papers.

    I peeled hundreds of apples for the pies and hundreds of potatoes for the specialty mashed potatoes. My hands were stained for weeks, but I wanted to help the cause.

    This year in response to the chronic need for food, I worked with a band of volunteers to start a community garden. We found a site and have donated several hundred pounds of produce. My volunteer crew dwindled from a dozen people to about four. I am not sure it is the best way to get produce to people. I favor people being more involved in the production.

    One of my neighbors had an asian pear that was producing in abundance. After she had taken everything she needed, I asked her if I could harvest the rest for the food bank. She agreed. Another neighbor, who is around 75 or so, came and held the ladder while I reached for the pears. Each one would retail for about $2 to $3. They were that big and that beautiful.

    In early spring, one of my garden volunteers went to pick up six trees that I bought thinking that we could put them in a community garden somewhere. I had collected $40 or so from the 26th Dems, who fully supported the work. She mentioned that the PO Nursery was for sale and said “we should buy it.” I wasn’t sure how she meant that “we” our little band of twelve could buy such a property. But, when I hung up the phone I thought on it and called Kareen Stockton, another volunteer to discuss the idea of working to create a sustainable food bank.

    We pitched the idea to Jennifer Hardison, who is very creative and proactive. She asked us to pitch the idea to the board. Loretta Fritz joined us. I lead the presentation, but Kareen and Loretta added vital pieces. We felt charged and energized when we left. Our friends on the board, including Jennifer said that it went very well.

    We attended a few other board meetings with Jennifer and got permission to move ahead with finding grants. Jennifer mentioned one with the Seattle Foundation. I had never written a grant before.

    But, one of garden meetings turned out differently than we planned. Kareen and I presented the nursery concept. Two members were not in favor. They had many strong things to say. I found those things troubling, as did Kareen and the rest of our group.

    That evening I stayed up until 2:30 thinking of the value of a sustainable food bank. I pulled up the grant application and wrote out the vision for the nursery as the food bank site.

    I sent it to Jennifer and we met several times discussing the possibilities. She was incredibly excited. At a board meeting, she told the board that what I gave her was so clear and so impressive that she had to do very little to add to it. She added important and vital financial figures. We went back and forth over it to ensure there were no errors anywhere and she drove it to Seattle on the day it was due.

    That was March 16th.

    Jennifer called me screaming in excitement when she got word that the foundation board loved the concept and asked for a site visit.

    I met the representatives from the foundation on the day of the site visit at the food bank and we all went to the nursery.

    It was an amazing day. May 10th I believe.

    I flew to my daughter’s graduation in mid-May and Jennifer called me on that Friday after attending a funders’ forum. She said that she was so excited to share that the project was well received by all.

    We met to plan fundraisers. I sought out an artist who could create a “giving tree,” when I went to Leavenworth for a book signing/author visit.

    A friend recommended that I contact Delona Kent to see if she could help get Ciscoe Morris here. I had met him in February and he said that he would come, but it is hard to get through to him to set up a time. I spoke to Ms. Kent at a chamber meeting and she worked with us to get Ciscoe to be a featured speaker on July 5th, when we would start the capital campaign.

    That fundraiser went very well.

    The only thing that didn’t go well, was a miscommunication. I had assumed we were on the same page as far as the needs of the homeless went. I had missed the board meeting where Danny Brown announced that we would not be considering setting up a hygiene station at the nursery site.

    When I gave tours of the property, I mentioned that it was a possibility for the future.

    That lead to some conflict with the board, or certain members.

    If you or Chris or anyone can tell me how I personally have benefited from my efforts or contributions, please tell me. My signifant other keeps asking for that information.

    His refrain is always, “And, how does that pay your mortgage or electric bill?”

    I am left wondering if putting yourself out in this way always garners this type of abuse.

    I think of the 51 columns I wrote over the years promoting school programs at SKSD. I made $25/column and spent more than that in tickets to events and in time spent interviewing kids and researching programs. Currently, I don’t get paid for columns at all. I spent two hours interviewing the senior class president yesterday for a column.

    So, please tell me. I need to know. How do any of these things personally benefit me?

    As far as I can see, they don’t and haven’t. I gave a presentation to two marketing classes at SKHS this past week and I told them both that in nine years and 51 columns promoting school programs, only one teacher ever said thank you. My children’s principals at Sunnyslope did, but that’s because I regarded them as friends and vice versa.

    So, even thank yous are few and far between, let alone any other form of compensation.

    Maybe in final analysis, this form of charity and sharing of gifts doesn’t work.

    If you can tell me how I have profited, please do. Maybe it will help me understand whether it is worth it or not.

  10. As far as an agenda goes, I have none. I have a Masters in Horticulture with a background in international agricultural development and nutrition. I have a Masters in Education. I have designed gardens across America and have created curriculum in nutrition education. When Jennifer and I originally spoke, I had hoped I could help set up the training curriculum for the nursery and set up the program. We were told by many that we could create a program that could be a national model.

    That all changed over that miscommunication regarding the hygiene station. Danny Brown said that I am on Step 5 of the vision while the board is on Step 1.

    I am a global thinker and can easily see the big picture of any situation. However, I recognize that more is needed to bring this project to fruition, including project management skills. I recognize that what Danny said is true.

    Yet, there is always need for big picture thinkers who can capture visions on paper and get others excited about them. I did that here. I am proud of that.

    In the past two years, I have met Joel Saladin, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters and Will Allen. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to talk to each, one on one, about the future of food. Will calls it a food revolution, not a movement.

    For the record, I did not speak to them about the nursery project, but about my efforts elsewhere. They offered very supportive encouragement. Alice Waters wrote: “to Mary, in hopefullness,” when I shared a concept and personal struggles with her.

    Once again, if you can show me where I have benefited professionally or personally from my efforts with the food bank, please tell me.

    From my angle I see someone who has offered their skills, expertise, training, time and personal funds (I spent from $80 to $100 on posters and gas for the fitness challenge).

    If there is a return on this investment in the community that you can see, please share it with me. Because it is invisible to me.

  11. I can understand the desire to pull support from an organization because of someone you consider “shrill.” I have already pulled my support from SKSD because of “vitriole from one who regularly invokes” the SKSD “name for their own agenda instead of…the stated mission.”

    Unfortunately, that only hurts the people involved. I don’t write columns about the school district anymore, because of you, Kathryn.

    I struggle with whether that is fair or not.

  12. Thanks to Chris Henry for posting this issue. It doesn’t seem to me that Chris has done any disservice at all to Monty or the issue. I appreciated being able to view the auditors reports. After reading them it doesn’t appear that the audit exceptions reveal any dirt worth worrying about. Monty and the PCD have taken some leading positions in regard to building local food networks, particularly the funding of the mobile meat trailer for the Puget Sound Meat Producers Co-op. That expenditure should be considered an investment by the PCD and it is already paying off in increased access to markets for local meat producers and has stimulated the Kitsap Community and Agricultural Alliance to make an effort to raise private capital to support the PSMPC. The auditors reports look sensational for headlines but appear to be easily resolved.

  13. Jim,

    I had the same impression from the Auditor’s report. Being familiar with the reports that happen annually for SKSD, it isn’t unusual for recommendations to come from the Auditors on better business and accounting practices. That is part of why these audits are considered by responsible entities to be valuable.

    Monty and his team seemed to be genuinely interested in improving and that is excellent. Media reports often focus on the 1% that was a “finding” in an audit and barely recognize that the other 99% was demonstrating good business and accounting practices. Sometimes the real ‘story’ is how an entity responds to audit findings and the media attention it brings. Do they disregard them or do they take them seriously? Sounds like the PCD took them seriously.

    Kathryn Simpson

  14. You are so funny, Kathryn. When you are wrong and proven wrong in so many ways, instead of apologizing, you change the subject. As if that takes away the need for the apology. I guess you are pretending that you are really focused on the issue and if you go back to it, maybe we will all forget your past behavior.

    Some day someone will sue you for that behavior. Maybe we will all get together and sue you in a one huge class action lawsuit. That would be fun and maybe Chris would find that worthy of a story.

    Back to Monty, he is an honorable man, who has worked hard on behalf of farmers and the community in Pierce County.

    I don’t need to read the audit to know that. But, I’ll let you pretend Kathryn that the audit is what lead you to this stream.

  15. If the school district had these same audit findings, I highly doubt you would have any objection to a story about it, Mary. In fact, I am confident you would be leading the parade to say that whatever would be written wouldn’t be harsh enough.

    Your prejudices are obvious and noted.
    Kathryn Simpson

  16. Colleen – Do you mean the part where Mary says, “Some day someone will sue you for that behavior. Maybe we will all get together and sue you in a one huge class action lawsuit.”

    I’m sure she meant hypothetically speaking, even so, it is a little borderline.

    I’ll let it stand with your comment noted and request that everyone tone down the conversation a notch.

    Thanks, Chris Henry

  17. Yes. That is what I meant. Heated, uncomfortable discussions are one thing, I have engaged in plenty here, but there is a line when it comes to threatening any kind of harm. On the actual stories, there is the ability to flag items for review. The blogs have no such feature and the only alternative is to do exactly what I did.

    Thanks for taking a look Chris.

  18. Too much information! And I’m not talking about what you said about me. Please consider the feelings of those people whose names that you use! Most of those folks probably have ABSOLUTELY no desire to have their names so profusely garnishing your blog posts.

    I’m in the public arena by choice. Say what you want about me. Just don’t lie about me or threaten to harm my family or me. But all those other people you name haven’t chosen to be in the public arena. You invoke names and businesses that don’t necessarily care to have their names attached to your opinions or your personal agenda! PLEASE learn to at least be respectful of them.

    That was my point in post #10. But, alas, apparently you don’t get it.

    As for my ‘invoking the name of SKSD’, do I need to point out that I was elected to serve on the South Kitsap School Board and earned that privilege at the ballot box? And until I either resign, am recalled, or another individual is elected to replace me, I will ‘invoke’ that voice as my discretion dictates because the citizens of South Kitsap elected me and entrusted me with that stewardship. But even that doesn’t give me license to invoke the names of friends, businesses, or staff at my whim and pleasure. They have a right to be autonomous and even anonymous. It would be utterly presumptuous of me to copiously use their names without their permission or at least citing their own prior published statements of a similar nature. Especially when asserting opinions instead of facts.

    You criticize the media when those that you like are the subject of scrutiny and yet you gloat when those that you don’t like are subjected to scrutiny. Fine, have it both ways. It is easy for folks to see and evaluate that as it happens. But attaching so many other people/businesses/charities to your posts is a violation of their rights to privacy and autonomy. Let what you have to say stand on your reputation, without misappropriating the reputation of others.

    Does the first Amendment really give you the right to infuse and weave so many innocent bystanders into your personal agendas?

    Kathryn Simpson

  19. Because there are undertones in this discussion well beyond the basis for my position, I reiterate that my comments have nothing to do with Monty or anyone else, but instead, the principle behind how media reports the news.

    The point isn’t whether or not Chris has understandable sentiments, it is the degree to which they might impact what should be objective journalistic decisions. I wasn’t advocating the Kitsap Sun dispense with balance and report on a single issue, person or entity ad nauseum. But I was noting the danger in taking a personal position to the degree where it compromises the integrity of both writer and periodical. When I initially read Chris’s comment, my instinct was to ask Charles Horton or Scripps HQ if it was their policy. Something tells me they’d say no.

    As for the whole Simpson/Colborn drama: tiresome and silly. But any warnings issued should be to both parties. Kathryn’s comments that Mary is “usurping authority and undermining the cause” are just as potentially harmful as Mary’s wishful thinking about a lawsuit against Kathryn.

  20. One of the fundamental freedoms of this country is freedom of speech. That is an individual freedom. It does not give carte blanche to usurping the reputations of others to lend credibility to one’s agenda.

    It was specious to have invoked the food bank into this discussion at all. It’s only intent was diversion, subterfuge, and pulling at heart strings to avoid the facts presented in the article. Same with the other dozens of names of individuals and businesses in the later posts. Playing fast and loose with other people’s names and reputations is a dangerous game/methodology. Especially when facts are few and conjecture so rampant.

    My comments have everything to do with the topic of Chris’s story. Monty Mahan took a responsible position to demonstrate willingness to discuss anyone’s concerns about the audit finding. He didn’t name off fifty seven other people to talk to or about in order to change the subject. He posted his email address and invited dialog about the audit findings. He took personal responsibility for his venue of responsibility.

    Your point was fairness. So was mine. Except I’m talking about fairness to the people/businesses/organizations that didn’t ask to be a part of an activist’s agenda du jour. They have a right to be left out of public discussions that they don’t want to engage in. We should all be screaming about how inappropriate this is because if that is ‘fair game’, then any citizen/business/organization is ‘fair game’. Frankly, that scares the heck out of me!

    I stepped into the public arena. I accept the consequences of that. And lucky me gets to keep a trusty dusty notebook these days to be able to defend myself on when is my personal time, my school board time, and my work time. But do we really want to erode the rights of ordinary citizens/businesses/organizations, who haven’t stepped intentionally into the public arena to decide for themselves what venues they choose to take a stand in and in what venues they choose to be left alone? Or do we just give that carte blanche, without consequence, to anyone and everyone to invoke another’s name and infer whatever they want at their whim and pleasure???

    I fear for the fundamental rights of ordinary citizens to be “secure in their persons” from those that do not have right or warrant to usurp their most prized possessions… their own autonomy.

    Kathryn Simpson

    (P.S. Another uncanny coincidence in the “Captcha” word challenge “THE facade”.)

  21. “Kathryn’s comments that Mary is “usurping authority and undermining the cause” are just as potentially harmful as Mary’s wishful thinking about a lawsuit against Kathryn.”

    That was my thought as well, Registered Voter. While Kathryn attacks me for mentioning the people I have worked for and with (with integrity and comradeship), in the entry you quoted, from her words it appears that she has interjected herself into my life in a very insidious way. Not only that, she writes as if she has inside information and can say with authority that I have “usurped authority” and worked to “undermine a cause.” I was puzzled that she felt that she needed to interject anything into this conversation. It didn’t involve her or the school district. It leads me to believe that she takes far too great of an interest in my life.

    I find that disturbing and if not harassment, it certainly borders on it.

    The reason I mentioned the lawsuit was based on witnessing and experiencing this type of behavior over the years. For some reason, Kathryn singles me out as a target.

    I asked both her and Chris to explain their comments – how they believe I have undermined the food bank’s mission. I find accusations like this disturbing at best. I listed the ways that I have supported the food bank and the school district. I puzzled that a private citizen, a lowly volunteer can be treated in this manner. I don’t wear the cloak of an elected official.

    Like I mentioned to Chris, I am not running for office, taking a salary or receiving any compensation for my good works. Why should I be criticized by Kathryn or anyone for them. I really found her comments slanderous and hurtful, but I figured that was her intent. I didn’t understand why they were necessary.

    Kathryn’s comments regarding her perceiptions of my prejudice against the district are demeaning, dismissive and untrue. I am not sure the school district administration and personnel would be all that pleased to know that she attacks a former school volunteer in this manner. I don’t believe I need to list all the ways I have supported the district over the past sixteen years. I have many awards and honors and many friends amongst teachers and administrators. In addition, the district can claim my three children as success stories. I worked hard with teachers and administrators to provide the best education for my children and others. I have supported dozens of school programs, giving them press when no one else was or would, including the Sun. While I am doing that here, I don’t need to prove my dedication to the district. It’s obvious to anyone who knows me or my children. And, while this is usually confidential information that doesn’t need to be shared, I have voted for every school levy without exception, if my memory serves me right.

    I found Chris’ comments unprofessional at best. I explained how she could have given the fitness challenge promotion coverage, without invoking personal prejudice against me or any other messenger of news.

    I will ignore Colleen’s and Kathryn’s attempts to steer the conversation to an arena that gives them false power.

    The truth is that I have given time, energy, talent and goodwill to both SK Helpline and the SKSD. I have no regrets over my contributions and believe that they have had considerable value and have made significant impact.

    It is the weirdest thing to have contributed so significantly over the years and to have to experience this type of criticism at the hands of an elected official for the district. It’s surreal to me.

  22. Maybe the Sun should limit the comments to a certain amount of characters so we don’t have to watch the Simpson/Colborn saga anymore.

    Neither of you women inspire me, I can only wonder how the rest of the world thinks of you–not that perception should matter, as long as someone can sling mud at the other (or take them to court as Ms. Simpson did).

    But you both don’t care much about that, do you?

    Keep on trying to be relevant

  23. Registered Voter – Regarding how the media reports the news, I’m sure you’re well aware that in any given day we have limited resources and have to prioritize our time and energy. My comment indicating that, on some days, a degree of subjectivity may creep into our work is a reflection of the fact that we’re human. If it seemed unnecessarily snarky, I apologize to all who may have been offended.

    We are committed to prioritizing our coverage to the best of our ability so that no balls get dropped and everything worthy of mention gets at least that. We can’t always give as much coverage to an issue as everyone would like. I heartily encourage people who are unhappy with our coverage to submit letters to the editor. For anyone with a further need to air complaints, feel free to call or e-mail me at (360) 792-9219 or You can call Publisher Charles Horton, but a better first step would be to call or e-mail our local news editor David Nelson, (360) 415-2679,

    I am open to hearing more about Fit City Challenge, how many people signed up, how much food has been donated to the food bank, how people who participated felt about the experience. Anyone involved, including Mary, is welcome to e-mail me or submit comments on the post related to Fit City Challenge, here:

    I reserve the right (along with my editors) to determine the extent and nature of any follow up coverage.

    Let me point out that what began as a conversation about Monty Mahan has gone way far afield.

    STN says he or she is not interested in the personal mud-slinging. Neither am I. To clarify, RV, when I called for a toning down of the conversation, I was not just singling out Mary. Ladies, please take your personal spat elsewhere and stick to the issue, which, if I remember correctly is whether the story on the Pierce County Conservation district’s audit report was pertinent to the Kitsap Sun’s readership.

    Respectfully, Chris Henry, reporter

  24. Pierce County seems to be having a significant number of issues with its elected leadership lately. Dale Washam the Assessor is under fire for multiple complaints against him by employees and now Tim Farrell is stepping down as the Port of Tacoma Executive Director who has been heavily criticized for his handling of Port Development projects. Wow that one sounds rather familiar.

    Back to the Pierce Conservation District. I am from Puyallup. I grew up there and graduated from High School there. My father instilled in me a sense of community service and volunteerism by example as he served for 26 years as a Volunteer Fire Fighter for what was the North Puyallup VFD. I grew up on a farm and my neighborhood was surrounded by farms. Most of friends were from families with farms. Members of my family still live in the area and many of my friends do as well.

    Nothing is ever supposed to stay the same, but almost all of the farms I grew up with are gone now. From Sumner to Fife some of the most fertile growing soil in the United States has been covered up with mostly empty industrial parks and out of business or relocated car dealerships. I have watched for several decades now, how increased extensive and expensive conservation rules and mandates have contributed to many of the areas farmers, struggling financially for years to comply and then just deciding to give up the farming profession as a whole and sell their large tracts of land to industrial developers. I have seen exactly what conservation has done to my friend’s families and to their farms.

    So yes, I guess conservation as a whole has accomplished some of what it has set out to do with is improve water and resource management and quality but the un-intended consequence of this has been a reduction in the amount of farms and the volume of fresh food grown locally and an increase in a concrete empty wasteland. The raspberries I eat now come from South America instead of Puyallup. That is very sad and as a region we will someday regret that a better balance was not achieved and that more farms are not still in existence and producing locally grown fresh food.

  25. Chris, I know that Angela Dice has spent a lot of time on more than one occasion gathering information and suggestions from bloggers and commentators here on what we want to see on story coverage as a whole and what controls, if any, we want to see on participation.

    I have noticed that a few things that were discussed during the “We Want To Hear From You” opportunities have been implemented over the past year, but much of it has not. One of the items that was implemented was that you guys (reporters) would interact with us more and I sincerely do appreciate that you have been engaging us more. In the last couple of weeks you have not been the only reporter who has been questioned on story coverage or the decision making behind the coverage. Has the Sun as a whole still been taking into consideration any of the suggestions or ideas submitted by your readers to Angela? Maybe it is time to revisit that as an organization. Just one suggestion.

  26. When I started this thread, it was to praise the work of Monty Mahan and to ask Chris why she didn’t report more positive stories, like the work Monty does on behalf of farmers and the community in Pierce County. I mentioned the need for someone like him in SK and mentioned the fact that the food bank was low in food. All of this is true.

    In addition, I asked Chris why she wasn’t doing more to promote the latest food drive. I didn’t mean for the question to be snarky. However, Chris’ response, “And our inclination to cover an event or initiative is typically in inverse proportion to the shrill self-promotion with which it is pitched,” had an angry edge to it.

    In response, I asked for clarification as to how my efforts running a food drive, which is common practice, could be construed as self-promoting.

    That’s when Kathryn jumped in. Again for the record, I did not lure, bait, entice or otherwise invite her into this discussion. Nor did I lure, bait, entice or otherwise invite Colleen Schmidt or Registered Voter in, although I respect their comments. I did not set out to have a debate over the state of the food bank in Port Orchard nor my past and present work on its behalf.

    I just asked a question regarding the coverage of vital and relevant issues and events.

    But, when accusations started flying, I shared in detail the work that I have done and requested an explanation for how this work can be considered either self-promoting or “usurping and undermining the mission of the food bank.” I found both those comments demeaning and degradatory and believed that was their intent.

    Once again, I am proud of the work that I have done. I don’t need to strive to be relevant. The work is relevant and significant. No comments by either Chris Henry or Kathryn Simpson diminishes that fact. Nor any comments from the unknown STN, who felt the need to get in a jab of his or her own.

    For the record, a source shared that the food bank is experiencing a significant increase in demand while the shelves are nearly bare. Like I said in the beginning, SK could use a Monty Mahan.

  27. Kathryn,

    As we all know, freedom of speech is not absolute. And while sidebar topics about the food bank were not on point, many of these blog threads similarly go astray.

    The fundamental right of ordinary citizens to be “secure in their persons” is not achieved with accusations in a public forum that a person is “usurping authority and undermining the cause”….any more than they are with Mary’s public comments about you in response.

    Many in these forums have mentioned their involvements, conversations, and feedback – naming individuals and groups they’ve been involved with on a number of initiatives or issues. Few, if any, accused them of untoward motive. Jake and Colleen come to mind. The right to be treated equally applies whether or not we like the person(s) involved.

    Your “Captcha” word challenge was not uncanny. The world is filled with those who wave the flag for freedoms and rights whilst encroaching on those same rights for another.

    I agree that the conversation about Monty Mahan has gone far afield. Mine were on topic. Or at least, in response to comments first made by you.

    You were not singling out Mary when you called for a toning down of the conversation, but you were when conducting your exchange with Colleen as if Mary’s comments were the only harmful ones worth noting. Add me to the list of those neither interested in the personal mud-slinging between Mary and Kathryn, nor those who support one without calling out the other.

    A high, inclusive, and objective standard of news reporting can occur whilst prioritising and dealing with limited resources. Publishers ensure their periodical meets this objective, and your editors determine the nature of news follow up or coverage in partnership with reporters (as employees).

    As Colleen noted, the increased interaction from reporters is sincerely appreciated. That’s why I chose to address your comment where you made it – here. We know you’re human. So are federal and state officials protecting rights and principles, which, at the end of the day, constituents want to know will be upheld. Your apology was gracious and appreciated as a step in that direction.


  28. Colleen, We are working on more participation. I’ve encouraged our reporters to respond, but adding that into their day while writing stories is a process and a habit that takes time to develop. We put the reader moderators idea on hold for now while we focus on our redesign, which will launch in November. That will included the ability for users to hide comments on stories, reply to specific comments, easier banning and tracking of problem trolls and a few other changes.

    Please be patient with us. We still are working on it.

    – Angela Dice

  29. RV, I always appreciate your comments. However, I did not engage in “mud-slinging” with Kathryn in the manner insinuated by so many here. I listed my efforts and accomplishments on behalf of both the food bank and the school district. I asked quite pointedly for an explanation of how these efforts could be construed as “shrill self-promotion” or “usurping authority and underminding the cause.”

    I gave hard data and facts and did not receive any response. Many of the blog entries were full of insults.

    Those did not come from me.

    My only comment that could be construed as “mud-slinging” was when I called Kathryn on her behavior. If that qualifies as mud-slinging than what Colleen, you, Chris and STN exhibited was also mud-slinging.

  30. Thanks for the update Angela. I know you guys are stretched at times. I just wanted to hear that much of what was submitted, by the readers in the way of ideas and suggestions, was still being looked at and considered.

    Your update here has only wetted my apatite even more for the November Redesign Launch.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond back to me and to others who are interested in this evolving process as well.

  31. Maybe this post and thread are just a big red herring to cover up the fact that the Sun has yet to write a story about the SKSD Board of Director’s election. One contested race, one uncontested race.

  32. Karen – The schedule has been changed. The South Kitsap School Board position 3 story (Lemke-Polen)is set to run Saturday. I should mention that we are not running any stories on unchallenged races. Readers can find information on all candidates and their views on the issues at the Kitsap Sun’s election guide. Here are some links:

    Naomi Polen

    Chris Lemke

    Kathryn Simpson

    I recognize this thread has again gotten off track from the original topic, but I felt obliged to answer Karen’s inquiry and give links so readers can get more information.

    Chris Henry, reporter

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