Opinion: Accusations about billing issue with town unfounded

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It saddened me to read the editorial about Yogi’s written by Councilmember Peter Paul in the last edition of the Dispatch. It is sad that Councilmember Paul did not have an in-depth conversation with me about the Yogi’s billing issue prior to writing the column that had the clear intent of portraying me in a bad light. It is sad that he chose to ignore and not mention the positive actions I have taken to try and rectify the situation, which he was fully aware of as I personally gave him every piece of documentation I have on the subject, and he did a Freedom of Information Act request to the town.

I am fully transparent on this issue, just as I am on all public issues. It saddens me that the answers he wants me to provide in a public forum will cast the past administration in a negative light, which my administration tries to avoid.  

A few things Councilmember Paul neglected to mention:

1. He brought the Yogi’s billing issue up at council meetings several times. I personally thanked him for addressing the issue as I wanted the problem to be resolved, as well. In order to protect the integrity of the process, as well as my own personal integrity, I can’t be involved in the resolution process, which has been in the hands of the town administrator and the town attorney since June of last year.

2. This issue is not a Yogi’s issue, even though Councilmember Paul has tried to portray it as such. Town of Eatonville planning department billing and code interpretation issues during the last administration drove multiple investors to question and not pay their invoices.

3. I sent a letter to the town on June 22, 2022, asking staff to review the issues caused by how the code was interpreted by the last administration’s planning department. In that letter, I very clearly stated: “If you feel the past administration’s planning department did everything correctly as per code, I will pay all amounts due.”

4.  As Councilmember Paul submitted a Freedom of Information request prior to writing his column, he knew that I received my Certificate of Occupancy permit on Oct. 18, 2021, and my business license on July 22, 2020, long before I was mayor. And yet, he mentioned twice that I opened Yogi’s in early January, “mere days” after becoming mayor. His insinuation is that I used my position to open Yogi’s when he knew that I had received all the documentation I needed to open long before then. It is shameful that he chose to mislead the residents of the town, or at the very least insinuate something without doing the research to verify if his insinuations were true or not.

I could point out and discuss all the inaccurate statements Councilmember Paul made in his piece, but the truth is, what he has tried to portray as a simple issue is, in reality, an extremely complicated issue. I have a box full of documents that testify to that. I will respond to one of the inaccuracies in the column — Councilmember Paul’s accusation that I have used my mayoral position to avoid paying monies owed to the town. This would be unethical, as well as unlawful, and is not true. It is unethical of Councilmember Paul to accuse me of such a thing in a newspaper column with no proof to back up such a statement. Planning department billing issues and code interpretation issues have been contested by me and other investors for years. The Town Council, as well as the last administration, were fully aware of these issues, with no actions ever taken.

Attacking me personally in a public forum is one thing, but to attack one of the town’s employees is quite another. Town Administrator Seth Boettcher is completely buried in work. He is managing over $12 million in capital projects in 2023, alone. The previous administration handled less than $5 million in capital projects in total across eight years. Mr. Boettcher is also overseeing all town operations and is in charge of all grant applications. This administration has requested an assistant for Mr. Boettcher multiple times over the last year, and the council has consistently denied the request. I applaud Mr. Boettcher for prioritizing multi-million-dollar projects that benefit all town residents over a $2,000-billing issue. This is a lack of available manpower issue, not an incompetence or favoritism issue. It is sad that Councilmember Paul would make such an unfounded accusation in a public piece.

The current administration’s goal is, and always will be, to be 100 percent transparent on all public issues. I am willing to have a face-to-face discussion with anyone who would like to understand this situation in its entirety. Please plan on it taking a significant amount of time, as planning department problems have been going on for quite a few years. It is a priority of my administration to develop a planning department that is as investor-friendly as it can possibly be.

My email is mayor@eatonville-wa.gov. If there are any issues you would like to discuss, please email me and we can get together.  I will gladly give you the whole story on any issue that interests you — the good, as well as the bad. I have nothing to hide.

David Baublits is the mayor of Eatonville


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