At least a half dozen supporters of Sammamish Council Member Ramiro Valderrama who lent their names to his Endorsements page on his campaign website have been pressured and intimidated to remove their names, eliminate references to their titles and affiliations and in some cases, drop their endorsement of Valderrama and endorse his opponent, Hank Klein, a Sammamish Comment investigation has shown.
In addition, efforts are underway by Valderrama’s opponents to dig up “dirt” to make allegations of impropriety in the closing weeks of the campaign, it has been learned.
The pressure and intimidation have been traced to some members of the so-called Gang of 4, the ruling majority of the Sammamish City Council, according to interviews.
Disappointment with and pressure on endorsers is routine politics, from the national to the local level. Retaliation is also not unknown at all levels. But in Sammamish, such tactics and the intensity of pressure and intimidation has been unknown or rare and low key until this election.
Most people declined to speak for the record in order to avoid additional pressure. Some have told Council candidate Tom Hornish they won’t endorse him because they were pressured and intimidated for their endorsements of Valderrama.
Valderrama is vehemently opposed for reelection by Mayor Tom Vance, Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and Council Member Tom Odell, all members of the Gang of 4.
Klein was recruited by members of the Gang to run against Valderrama, but two months later dropped out for “personal reasons.” He never explained what these were. By the time Klein decided to drop out, it was too late to remove his name from the ballot, thus officially Valderrama continues to face Klein in the Nov. 3 election.
Valderrama’s strong opposition to how the leadership of the City Council (Vance and Huckabay) runs the Council and controls the agenda, and his bull dog-like tactics in pursuing his role, as he defines it, as the Council’s “citizen advocate” has earned Valderrama deep antipathy from the “Core 3,” Vance, Huckabay and Odell. During Council Meetings, Odell’s negative reaction to Valderrama’s advocacy and challenges to decisions emanating from the leadership sometimes can barely be contained.
Huckabay is cagier. While she remains more stone-faced during Council meetings, Huckabay’s behind-the-scenes actions remain out of public view but not without leaving the proverbial fingerprints. Vance follows the Huckabay pattern but leaves the heavy lifting to Odell and Huckabay.
The pressure and intimidation first emerged when Bob Toomey and Deb Sogge endorsed Valderrama. Toomey confirmed to Sammamish Comment that Huckabay called him to object to Toomey and Sogge being identified as President and staff Director of the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce on Valderrama’s endorsement list. Toomey asked Valderrama to remove the affiliations, but the names remained.
Toomey conceded to Sammamish Comment that per the bylaws of the Chamber, the affiliation should not have been listed with the personal endorsements.
Erica Tiliacos, president of Save Lake Sammamish and Friends of Pine Lake, likewise was pressured over her endorsement of Valderrama, according to people familiar with the situation. Both entities are 501 (c) 3 non-profit groups. Initially Valderrama listed her affiliations, but after Tiliacos was pressured, these were removed. Tiliacos’ past service on the Sammamish Planning Commission remained on the Valderrama endorsement.
Larry Crandall, a sitting Planning Commission, acknowledged to Sammamish Comment he received pressure to withdraw his endorsement of Valderrama. When he refused, he was pressured to provide a co-endorsement of Klein, Valderrama says. Crandall complained to Deputy City Manager Lyman Howard and considered filing a formal complaint with the City, according to a person familiar with the situation. Crandall has consistently refused to specifically identify who was behind the pressure. He has since endorsed Vance for reelection and Mark Cross, a close ally of Vance, for election.
Doug Eglington, a sitting Parks Commissioner, was an early endorser of Valderrama. Two people familiar with the situation say Eglington received multiple calls to un-endorse Valderrama and was warned that Valderrama was going to come under attack later in the campaign for something having to do with Republic Services, the refuse and recycling collector in most of Sammamish. Eglington would not want his name associated with Valderrama when that happened, the two sources quote Eglington as saying.
Eglington told them he had never before been subjected to such pressure as he was in this case, even during his long tenure as a member of the Lake Washington School Board.
Eglington asked Valderrama to remove his name as an endorser, Valderrama said.
About a month later, Eglington re-endorsed Valderrama for posting on his website.
Eglington told Sammamish Comment that his endorsement, withdrawal and re-endorsement was not one of his finest moments, acknowledged that pressure had been applied but declined to go into detail.
Several more instances of pressure and intimidation of Valderrama endorsers have been similarly identified.
Digging for dirt for last minute hit
As reported above, Republic Services, the trash/recycling collector, was specifically mentioned as a prospective scandal facing Valderrama in the closing weeks of the campaign.
We previously reported in a passing reference that Valderrama had been hit with a Public Records Request (PRR) for all his 2014 emails from his City and personal accounts. The Sammamish Review carried a more explicit article.
The email request, from a Redmond resident by the name of Stephanie Megan Pipes, specifically referenced Republic Services. Pipes also filed a PRR, though limited to Republic, for Council Member Nancy Whitten emails, who at the time of the request hadn’t decided whether she would seek reelection. She since decided not to seek a fourth term.
Eglington said he was told specifically that Republic Services was the topic that would be used against Valderrama later in the campaign, according to two people familiar with the situation, and that he wouldn’t want his name associated with Valderrama.
Council Members Odell and Huckabay, in their own emails to City Staff, inquired several times during the collection period when they were going to see the Valderrama emails delivered to Pipes. These inquiries were revealed in Sammamish Comment’s own Public Records Request seeking the emails of Huckabay, Odell and Vance in connection with this investigation.
Nothing has surfaced from the emails that supported the idea a Valderrama-Republic scandal exists.
After the City fulfilled Pipes’ request, Huckabay also submitted her own PRR seeking additional emails from Valderrama in 2015. In her PRR, Huckabay also wanted all emails for which Pipes “changed her mind” and those that had corrupted files and for which the City didn’t deliver to Pipes—who didn’t pursue them once informed of the technical issue.
Valderrama expects some attempt will be made to discredit him before the election, despite the fact his opponent, Klein, dropped out of the race.