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Warning! Only happy news acceptable in Port Orchard

He warned me.

That’s what Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes, who obviously holds a grudge, replied when I asked if he had a few minutes to talk with me.

Our brief face-to-face encounter at City Hall reminded me that this mayor prefers not to face certain things — reality, truth, pesky reporters — that he finds unpleasant and threatening.

He walked past me with his fingers in his ears singing “la-la-la, I can’t hear you!” OK, not really, but that was essentially the attitude expressed by the mayor, who coincidentally just recently decided that public relations training would be a good idea for city staff.

I wanted to ask him some questions about that mandatory training, and about the thousands of dollars it will cost the city, and about the seemingly unqualified guy the mayor hired to lead the training.

But he was having none of that. Matthes reminded me that late last year, when I was still editor of the Port Orchard Independent and he was mayor-elect but hadn’t taken office yet, he had “warned” me that he didn’t like how I was reporting the news and what I was writing in the paper. Moreover, he warned that if it (journalism, I guess?) continued, there would be consequences — he wouldn’t talk to me anymore. And then, of course, I failed to heed his warning and indeed “did it again” the next week, the mayor recalled.

So, an interview? Fuhgeddaboudit.

But hey, no big deal. This is not about me.

It is, however, about the right of people who live, work and operate businesses in the city to know how their tax dollars are being spent.

The mayor is holding a town hall meeting Sept. 13, and that seems like a fine time for concerned citizens to ask him to explain this PR thing.

Feel free to pose any of these questions to the guy who said during his campaign last year that city government needed more transparency:

  • Why do you think public relations training is necessary for all city staff, and what do you think it will accomplish? Did any of the department heads you are requiring to take this training (the police chief, public works director, treasurer, community development director, human resources coordinator, or city clerk) request or recommend this training?
  • Have there been specific instances of negative publicity for the city and its officials or employees that prompted your decision to require this PR training? Does it have anything to do with you attempting to intervene in police investigations? (I believe transparency should compel His Honor to answer “yes” to that one, but don’t hold your breath.)
  • As mayor, you frequently gush in public about the wonderful job city employees do in providing service to citizens, so how is that you regard the entire city staff as lacking PR skills?
  • How do you justify the expense of several thousand dollars — including considerable overtime costs to arrange for police officers to attend these sessions — for public relations training when the city is still in a budget squeeze? And how do you reconcile this expenditure with your recent haggling with the City Council over $20 reimbursements for members attending functions held by regional economic development partners? On a related note, why didn’t you inform the City Council about your plan for PR training and discuss it with them, or invite them to take part?
  • Why did you hire Frank Reed and pay him $3,000 to conduct the PR training? What are his qualifications, experience or expertise in this area?

Reed is a self-employed financial adviser in Bremerton and since 2006 has owned a business called Judah Investments. His website, BottomLineMinistries.com, trumpets the message “Debt Is NOT Your Destiny!” and his mission statement is: “To save the lost through the teaching and preaching of the Word; to destroy the works of the Devil through the power of the Word; and to teach people how to have life abundantly through obedience to the Word.”

So he’s big on the Word, although there’s nary a word on his website about any PR work he’s ever done, nor about any specific company he’s worked for or jobs he’s held, or colleges he attended or professional certifications he holds.

But he does tout his book, “In God We Trust, Dollars & $ense,” which was published in 2009 and is available on Amazon.com. There are no reader-posted reviews on Amazon and zero clicks of the “Like” icon for Reed’s book, summarized as an “easy-to-read resource on the biblical teachings about money.”

Speaking of money, according to Reed’s website his fees start at $5,000 for a three-hour workshop, so that brings up another question for the mayor.

  • How did you get a break on the fee paid to Reed for training your folks in public relations? Is he a friend of yours? (Reed’s website says he has experience building aircraft carriers, and Matthes had a career working in the shipyard, so are there possibly some dots that connect here? Or maybe Matthes just found him by doing a Google search for “Financial adviser who peddles Scripture-based guidance and can teach PR.”)
  • Why didn’t you participate in the PR training that you required for the professionals in charge of Port Orchard’s law enforcement, finance, community development and public works?

And as Columbo would say, “Oh, just one more thing…”

  • Does the savvy PR guy you hired for this training recommend a strategy of refusing to talk to any reporter who writes something you don’t like, after you’ve warned him to back off?

Tim Kelly is editor of the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.

 
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