By Miki Mullor
The City Plaza in front of the Sammamish City Hall was closed off on Sunday, Sep 15, for a private event hosted by Sammamish Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by STCA, the Town Center apartments developer (also known as Innovation Realty).
Closing a public plaza for a private event is unusual. In the past, events in the plaza have been open to anyone (such as the Farmer’s Market) or paid-entry events, such as when wine tasting is part of the action.
Sammamish Comment’s photographer was barred from entry by a uniformed security guard.
Local politicians, Chamber of Commerce officials and real estate developers gathered for a private exclusive event featuring dinner catered by famous Seattle chef Tom Douglas.
“The Sammamish Chamber of Commerce invites you and a guest to experience Taste of the Town – an engaging evening of fine dining under the stars and exciting announcements about the future of the Town Center,” reads the invitation that was sent privately and was deemed “non-transferable.” Sharon Gavin, Communication Manager for the City of Sammamish who attended said no announcements about the Town Center were made.
Initially named “Dinner under the Stars,” the event was titled “Taste of the Town” and featured King County Executive Dow Constantine. STCA owner, Matt Samwick, an Oregon resident, donated $750 to Constantine’s 2021 campaign on May 15.
The Sammamish Comment confirmed attendance by current council members Jason Ritchie and Pam Stuart. Also in attendance were city council candidates Karen McKnight and Karen Howe. McKnight is the President of the Chamber.
Former Mayor Don Gerend, who is suing the city to undo its new concurrency rules, was also in attendance along with former council member Kathy Huckabay and former mayor Bob Keller.
All council members were invited but the majority of them did not attend. Candidates Kent Treen and Ken Gamblin were not invited. Also invited was City Manager, Rick Rudometkin, who chose not to attend.
This is the first known time the city has allowed a private event to take place on City Plaza– and free of charge. Gavin confirmed the city did not charge for use of the Plaza. Emails obtained from a public records request show that initially, the event was planned to take place in Council Chambers at City Hall but by a request of the sponsor was moved outside.
The Comment confirmed that during the time of the party dinner, Mayor Christie Malchow, Deputy Mayor Karen Moran, Council Members Chris Ross and candidates Treen and Gamblin all attended a campaign fundraising event at a Sammamish resident’s home.
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