FERNDALE, Wash. — Ferndale City Administrator Jori Burnett led a series of apologies given during yesterday’s Finance and Administration City Council Committee meeting. Burnett apologized to the council members and to the community for a hidden message that was in a city council resolution denouncing white supremacy that was approved by the council at the August 19th regular City Council meeting.
Burnett read a note he said had been placed in his personnel file by his request.
“The City of Ferndale entrusts its professional staff to communicate with elected officials and the public in an open, honest and transparent manner. This is a significant responsibility and the public relies on honest and open communications as a basis for its trust in local government. Resolution 19-08-19-C, adopted by the City Council on August 19th, included a hidden message that implied a profanity and this hidden message was not disclosed to the full city council prior to the council’s vote. The subsequent release of the hidden message via a major news organization detracted from the City’s intent and message and harmed the City’s image. As City Administrator, I am responsible for reviewing all formal communication from the City for content, tone and message. The audience is not just the city council but also the 14,000 plus residents of the city of Ferndale as well as those previous residents who still call it their home town. We must always remember that what may seem to some a clever play on words may not be interpreted as such by everyone.”
City of Ferndale Communications Officer Riley Sweeney followed by saying,
I really apologize for any embarrassment I may have caused the council and the City from this effort. If I had to do it again, would not have unfolded in the way that I wanted it. I am truly sorry for any embarrassment this may have caused. Although I agree with the sentiment but not the manner in which it was delivered. I also have a nearly identical letter in my file as well.
Councilmember Rebecca Xczar and candidate for Whatcom County Assessor also apologized to the committee for the situation, that other council members felt deceived and that it detracted from the message.
Ferndale Mayor Jon Mutchler told the committee he signed the resolution but, “I was uncomfortable to sign it the way it was so I added a footnote.” The footnote comment added by Mutchler was “Please no more hidden messages.”
Councilmember Carol Bersch asked if the resolution could be rewritten without the hidden message and resubmitted to the council during a regular meeting for approval. Committee members agreed with this course of action.
Burnett said a rewritten resolution would be on the meeting agenda for the next regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 2nd.