By Miki Mullor
Three candidates for the Sammamish City Council have withdrawn from the Oct. 7 Chamber of Commerce forum.
One has to attend to a gravely ill family member and two cite bias by the Chamber for withdrawing.
This morning, Ken Gamblin and Kent Treen announced they will not participate in an Oct. 7 forum organized by the Chamber. Mayor Christie Malchow will be out of town on that day, caring for her gravely ill mother in Colorado.
Last week, we reported on Klahanie’s HOA candidate forum that only invited three candidates, the opponents to Malchow, Treen and Gamblin. Within 24 hours after we published the story, Klahanie’s HOA invited them, citing “oversight.” All six candidates have now confirmed attendance.
The Klahanie forum is scheduled for Oct. 9 at 6:30 PM at Challenger Elementary. While it is Klahanie-focused, the broad public is welcome to attend but questions will not be fielded from the attendees.
Decline over bias
Gamblin and Treen posted on their Facebook pages a letter to Deb Sogge, CEO of the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, withdrawing from the Chamber forum.
In their letter, the two list concerns with the planned forum:
“You fail to recognize our concerns in providing a fair and neutral venue as evidenced below:
- The President of the Chamber is a candidate, therefore inherently biased.
- The selected moderator is a member of the Chamber Board and has donated to the President of the Chamber’s campaign.
- Both the CEO and Vice President of the Chamber are actively campaigning for our opponents.
- The Chamber Board, chaired by the President/Candidate, will be selecting the questions for the forum.
Despite requests multiple times by us, you have failed to cure the above listed biases and thus we can not attend this forum” (bullets added for readability)
McKnight is the President of the Chamber.
The Chamber is indeed in control of the questions:
“Choice of questions submitted to candidates at time of forum shall be up to the discretion of the SCC officials and given to the moderator to be read that evening.”(https://sammamishchamber.org/events-list/#!event/2019/10/7/scc-candidate-forum)
Among the Chamber’s officials is also Council Member Jason Ritchie, who is also a member of the Chamber’s communication team. Ritchie donated to McKnight’s campaign and opposes Malchow’s reelection.
We first reported about the Chamber’s candidate forum and the concerns of bias June 20:
On Sept. 6 we reported on the Chamber’s VP, Julio Richburg’s, public statement and warned this increases the appearance of bias:
“A lot really depends on the upcoming election. It is critical that residents of Sammamish really investigate the candidates on these issues and vote accordingly. If we continue the same course, I believe the situation will only get worse.”Julio Richburg, VP Sammamish Chamber of Commerce
Joint forum offer declined
The Sammamish Comment has offered the Chamber to jointly host a forum as a way to neutralize the perception of bias.
On July 10, this author wrote to Sogge:
“We’ve been watching the brewing controversy around your forum in the public eye. Optics matter.
The Sammamish Comment would like to propose that we co-host a candidate forum jointly. We’ve been talking to other organizations so it may end up being more than just The Comment and the Chamber.
A joint forum, moderated by an out-of-town neutral moderator, will have a broader appeal to the public and will remove any perceived optics issues.
The Comment will share costs with the Chamber. “Miki Mullor, Editor, the Sammamish Comment
In a July 15 email, Sogge declined the suggestion:
“After careful thought, I think I will keep it the same as the SCC doing this forum alone. Thank you though!!”Deb Sogge, CEO, Sammamish Chamber of Commerce
Malchow out of town
In a Sept. 28 letter to the Chamber, Malchow notified Sogge she will not attend the Chamber’s candidate forum.
“I apologize for the late notice on your forum, but I am now going to have to go back to Colorado again to tend to my gravely ill mother who is being discharged from a rehab facility and either bring her home here to Sammamish, or put care in place in Denver.”Christie Malchow, City Council Candidate
Malchow further asked whether the Chamber will allow a proxy to be present to deliver an opening and closing statement on her behalf.
The Chamber refused Malchow’s request for a proxy, an email from Sogge shows.