The June 16 meeting of the White Salmon City Council was about to wrap up as Mayor David Poucher made the final call for public comments. Then Poucher said he had an issue he wanted to bring up, and began reading a prepared statement.
"I am going to take the opportunity to speak on an issue that, at first, I thought was not true and could not be happening here in White Salmon," Poucher began. "It is now clear that it is happening and must be addressed."
Poucher alleged that beginning in January, he felt there had been pressure on him to remove Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Bruce Brending from his position.
"After my refusal to do so, the open and direct communication among some council members and me deteriorated," Poucher said. "Personal agendas have no place in council chambers. Personal agendas do not build this city, but can destroy it."
Poucher publicly recounted a conversation he'd had with City Council member Bob Landgren after a hearing to discuss the purchase of new police cars for the Police Department.
"We had two public hearings and the citizens came out in large numbers to support the police -- yet three of you voted against their (the public) wishes," Poucher explained. "Bob, when you said to me after the hearing `I should never have asked for a public hearing,' I asked you why and you said, `Because I did not get the answer I wanted.' Personally, I believe the question we should be asking ourselves is always, `is this going to help the citizens of White Salmon' -- not does this vote align with my personal agenda."
The three council members who voted against purchasing the cars were Bob Landgren, Mark Peppel, and Richard Marx.
Poucher added that he believes he has been falsely accused by council members.
"You accused me of making a statement on the radio that you said harmed the city," Poucher continued. "I told you that your information was wrong and I gave you all a copy of the interview so you could hear for yourselves what I did say ... did you come to me and say, `sorry about that'? The fact is, Bob, you have continued to try and find any tiny mistake I make -- and I do make them -- to further your personal agenda. I have reached out to you, but I have been unable to generate any meaningful conversation with you."
In his statement, Poucher added that he believes the mayor and council members need to work together to boost the city, and not engage in bickering.
"Each of us has been elected by the people of White Salmon to do their business, and we all owe them our best joint effort," Poucher said. "Going forward from tonight, I would like our focus to be on the difficult budget and water issues facing White Salmon. It is only by working together, that we can solve these problems and make the best decisions for White Salmon's future."
White Salmon resident Clyde Knowles, who was at the council meeting, questioned the fairness of Poucher's statement during the public comment period.
"After listening to your dissertation, what you say is true: We elected everybody," Knowles said. "No one person has the final vote. Do you have the full support of the council?"
Immediately after the meeting, Landgren and Poucher engaged in a heated discussion in a corner of the council chambers.
On Thursday, Poucher defended going public with his concerns, saying he believed it was vital to bring the issue into the open.
"My objective was to get this out in the open, and hopefully get us to work together for the good of the community; to look forward, not backwards," Poucher explained.
Council members Bob Landgren and Mark Peppel were in attendance at the council meeting. Peppel declined to comment on the mayor's allegations.
Landgren said he also did not want to comment, but pointed out that he was caught by surprise by the mayor's statement.
"I don't know if responding gains the city anything," Landgren said.