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Several apologize for hidden message in recent Ferndale City Council resolution

Draft of City of Ferndale resolution denouncing white supremacists.

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,

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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.


  1. Karen Joseph August 29, 2019

    Don’t apologize! No seriously don’t. What you did was AMAZING. Super hero level amazing. The hidden message was actually the message the legal document was trying to send and honestly I hope goes into the history books as an example of good American’s fighting against hatred! While some people find the “hidden profanity” as unprofessional, I find the fact that in this day and age this proclomation is needed to be the real problem here.

    Whoever wrote the orignal – my family will happily buy you dinner!

    All our respect,
    Karen Joseph

  2. Tamira Use August 29, 2019

    Thank you. City of Ferndale, makes me feel proud that I am living here. No apologies needed.

  3. Lloyd Zimmerman August 29, 2019

    Who really cares about the fine print ? Create solutions to city traffic .be clever where it counts real time and money .

  4. Evan August 30, 2019

    I, for one, would appreciate it if our government would stop sucking tax payer dollars to sit in meetings, writing documents to suck up to current social standards. Society will take care of ostracizing these people by itself, and do a far better job of it. I would rather government do it’s job, like improve roads and increase police presence on them. Roads are nasty around Ferndale. And the driving is far worse. Government can not and must not meddle in societal standards. This is what introduced Jim Crow laws back in the 1900s by Democrats. Didn’t do any one any good.

  5. Teressa kandianis August 31, 2019

    Sophomoric, non professional, inappropriate.

  6. Arnold Evanson August 31, 2019

    Who actually took the time to read the resolution while simultaneously looking for and deciphering hidden codes? I would’ve never have even noticed it!

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