By Miki Mullor
As the tragic accidental overdose death of a local student unfolded last week, two politically-linked citizens mounted a smear campaign against Mayor Christie Malchow, who is seeking re-election.
This is an unusually long report. Its importance is in the proof of a disinformation campaign waged against Malchow on social media–and the evidence dispelling the false narrative.
A vote misrepresented – the “March 5 Vote”
When Malchow posted on social media information about drug overdoses, Amy Ritchie, Council Member Jason Ritchie’s wife, began attacking her on her posts on Facebook.
Amy Ritchie claimed Malchow is hypocritical on human issues, focusing on a Council meeting vote that took place on March 5:
Ritchie misrepresented the public record that took place on March 5. The plan in question, “Human Services Strategic Plan,” was voted 5-2 to be discussed a week later.
“You and Tom [Council Member Tom Hornish] said you would bring it back up for discussion the next week, but you never did.” (emphasis added)– Amy Ritchie, Facebook Comment
But the record shows that it was in fact Interim City Manager Larry Patterson that took it upon staff to bring back the plan the next week.
“So the motion is that we table this and Mr. City Manager, then, if assuming this passes, then we’ll probably need to get this on a study session I would suggest.”
Interim City Manager Larry Patterson:
“…and we may let me get together we’ll take a look at those questions I may have some calls that we need to talk with some of you about and we may have that back to you next Tuesday.”
(the video of the exchange can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/qc1QasJ6eQ4?t=6340)
Amy Ritchie accused Malchow of hypocrisy:
“So while you write platitudes about the horrors that are happening to our youths you actively voted against a plan that helps our youth and our community at large” (emphasis added).
But the plan had not been voted on yet.
As the minutes show, the vote was to “return at March 12 meeting, one week after:”
In reality, the City Manager and Staff failed to bring back the plan to the March 12 study session as directed by the City Council.
Human Commission funding misrepresentation
Amy Ritchie continued the accusation that the city underfunds human services, tying the alleged lack of funding to the vote on the “Humans Services Strategic Plan:”
But the Human Services Commission is funded.
On Oct. 2, 2018, the City Council voted 6-1 to fully approve the funding recommendations of the Human Services Commission, that included an increase from the previous year:
The record shows that Malchow voted for the grants funding.
No pending actions to vote on
The City, through its Communications Manager Sharon Gavin, confirmed there are no pending funding requests:
“The two-year grant cycle aligns with the City’s biennial budget cycle. Grant funding for 2019-2020 was approved by Council on October 2, 2018. This was the most recent cycle; there are no pending funding requests.
The next grant cycle will be for 2021-2022. The Human Services Commission will review applications and develop their recommendation in 2020.”– Sharon Gavin, Communications Manager, City of Sammamish
Mayoral powers misrepresented
Lastly, Amy Ritchie put follow up responsibility squarely on Malchow, claiming that as Mayor, Malchow was the only one who could bring back the plan to discussion:
“You have the unilateral right as the mayor to put items on the agenda, and the fact is you chose not to. That wasn’t the staff’s choice, the City Manager’s choice, or other council members’ choice. It was yours.”– Amy Ritchie
Sammamish is a “weak Mayor” city. Unlike Redmond or Issaquah, the Sammamish Mayor is largely a ceremonial role. The Mayor has no control over staff more than any other council member.
Council rules state clearly, contradicting Ritchie, that other than the mayor, also the City Manager or three council members can place items on the agenda for discussion:
Ritchie called out by a citizen
Last Friday, a citizen, Stephanie Rudat, posted a rebuke of Ritchie’s comments on Facebook’s “Sammamish, WA” group (a group that has more than 9,000 members):
“I think we need to confront disinformation as a whole, but especially as it’s being propagated in the wake of a tragedy in our community, so that we can collectively say ‘no thanks for the vitriol,’ and focus on doing well for our community.
I caught a few comments on Facebook over the past 18 hours that encouraged me to speak up. If we don’t call out the disinformation, it has the potential to take on a life as something believable and invested in by our neighbors. We cannot allow disinformation to taint our community. In this case, the disinformation involves falsifying public record.
In Klahanie’s FB Group, Amy Ritchie misrepresented the public record to try to paint Mayor Christie Malchow as if she doesn’t care about Human Services and, therefore, does not genuinely care about the drug problem affecting residents. In a comment on Christie Malchow’s Facebook page, she accused Mayor Malchow of voting against funding human services.
Opinions are one thing but facts are another. Falsifying facts is consequential.”– Stephanie Rudat, Sammamish WA Facbook Group
Rudat included evidence from the public record consistent with the record detailed in this story.
Ritchie did not comment on the post on Facebook nor responded to a request for comments to this story.
A second citizen brings up the “March 5 Vote”
In what appeared to be an orchestrated smear campaign about Malchow, another citizen posted a similar narrative related to the March 5 vote on the “Vote Sammamish” Facebook group, charging that the “Human Services Commission seems to have pretty much given up on the council.”
In reality, the “Human Services Strategic Plan” is developed by staff (through a consultant), not the Commission. After several Vote Sammamish readers corrected the false information in the post, it was quickly deleted by the original poster.
The Human Services Commission continued to meet throughout the year. No one seemed to “have given up on this council,” as the citizen suggested in the post:
The “Kimsey letter”
Sara Hawes Kimsey is a former city contractor who was handling social media for the city of Sammamish for 12 years, according to her LinkedIn profile.
On Oct 8, Kimsey sent City Council a scathing email repeating the narrative advanced by Amy Ritchie. The letter is full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations, detailed below.
The letter has since been widely publicized by Kimsey on social media. Kimsey also claimed on Facebook that she sent her letter to the Seattle Times.
Similar to the false claims by Ritchie and the other poster mentioned, Kimsey incorrectly tied the 2018 Humans Needs Assessment to the “Human Services Strategic Plan” and blamed the Council for inaction. Kimsey also repeated the false claim that the Mayor is the only council member who can add agenda items:
“You have a responsibility to address the well-being of our residents and you are failing. You have had in your possession the Healthy Youth Survey data which is published every year, you’ve paid for a comprehensive human needs assessment which was completed in 2018, and in early March of this year, you had the Human Services Strategic Plan presented to you. This plan you quickly tabled and have completely forgotten to bring back to the agenda to adopt. Since we haven’t had a City Manager for most of the year, you can’t blame the staff. The responsibility for adding to this back to the agenda falls squarely on the Mayor’s shoulders who is the only councilmember who can add agenda items.
“I am TIRED of your excuses.” (Emphasis added.)– Sarah Kimsey
Action WAS taken on “needs assessment”
The public record shows that the City in fact did act on the 2018 Human Needs Assessment, debunking Kimsey’s false and misplaced accusations.
In his Oct. 2, 2018, Grant Recommendation memo to City Council, Tom Ehlers, Human Services Commission Chair, stated:
“We feel the breadth of knowledge and diverse viewpoints of the seven commissioners, combined with the Health and Human Services Needs Assessment, contributed greatly to a successful grant review process.” (Emphasis added.)– Tom Ehlers, Chair, Human Services Commission, City of Sammamish
As reported above, the Council approved the Commission’s recommendation as is:
Kimsey then compares Sammamish to Issaquah and brings examples of service providers Issaquah supports to argue that Sammamish is not even “trying”.
“We aren’t a direct service provider.” (Hornish at the March 5th at the City Council meeting and Malchow multiple times on Facebook.) Issaquah is also not a direct service provider and just LOOK at all of their amazing programs and services they’ve cultivated, such as Influence the Choice, the Teen Garage, the Food and Clothing Bank, and Friends of Youth just to list a few. None of these are provided directly by the City of Issaquah. They spend two and a half times what we spend ($13.3 per capita vs. $5.1 per capita). Has it solved all their problems? No. Are they actually trying? Yes.” (Emphasis added.)– Sarah Kimsey
Facts show that Sammamish does support some the providers Kimsey listed. Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank and Friends of Youth were on the list of approved grants. The Teen Garage and “Influence the Choice” did not apply for Sammamish grants.
Underfunding insinuated – and rebuked
Kimsey used Malchow’s statement on Facebook to imply City Council is avoiding funding Human Services programs.
“We don’t have the same revenue streams as Issaquah and Redmond; we don’t have Costco or Microsoft.” (Malchow multiple times on Facebook)” Good news! We DO HAVE a projected surplus of 38 million dollars next year, so don’t tell me we can’t toss at least another million at services and grants and possibly another full-time human services staff. We wouldn’t even need to raise taxes! You don’t even have to wait for a budget cycle, you can do a funding request.– Sarah Kimsey
But the record shows City Council granted 100% of what was requested by the Human Services Commission. There was no need to “toss at least another million”, per Kimsey assertion.
The records show that on Oct. 2, 2018, City Council approved $325,445 in grants to 49 providers upon the recommendation of the Human Services Commission.
City Communications Manager Gavin explained in detail the funding process for Human Services programs:
- Providers apply for grant funding through Share1app in the Spring of every even year.
Share1app is the online portal for the Human Services Funding Collaborative. It allows providers to apply to any city in the Collaborative using one application. The participating cities include Auburn, Bellevue, Bothell, Burien, Covington, Des Moines, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Kirkland, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, SeaTac, Shoreline, and Tukwila.
- The Sammamish Human Services Commission reviews applications using a scoring rubric that is closely aligned with the Health and Human Services Needs Assessment. The Needs Assessment identified five priority needs in the community – basic needs, cultural inclusion, domestic violence, mental wellness and seniors. Each application is discussed publicly and voted on for inclusion into a recommendation to Council.
- Chair and Vice Chair of the Commission present the recommendation to Council.
- The Council-approved, two-year funding amount is included in the upcoming budget.
- The City executes contracts with the funded providers.
- Providers are reimbursed quarterly pending completion of their service units (deliverables).
CrossPath as an example – good or bad?
Kimsey brings up “CrossPath”, a youth counseling service, as an example for the City’s alleged inaction, alleging CrossPath is “so booked out we clearly need more providers.”:
“In addition, we could be finding space for more mental health providers to provide counseling services outside of school hours (since CrossPath is so booked out we clearly need more providers). There’s plenty of space within the city (such as the Boys and Girls Club and CWU) that could be allocated for such services….
What is does take is intention and initiative and I have seen none of that from the council.
Please take your focus from development and traffic for just a minute and turn your attention to your residents and their mental health and well-being. I ask that you all show some accountability, action, initiative, and intention.” (Emphasis added.)– Sarah Kimsey
In an online exchange on Kimsey’s Facebook page, CrossPath disputed Kimsey’s allegations of unavailability:
The City of Sammamish has been providing rent-free space to CrossPath on City property since 2009.
As CrossPath told the Council in December 2018:
“By providing the Sween house as a facility, the City of Sammamish has helped meet one of the community’s foundational human service needs” (Emphasis added.)Patti Skelton-McGougan, CEO, Youth Eastside Services
Sarah Dochow, Director, CrossPath
Terry Pottmeyer, President and CEO, Friends of Youth
Kimsey did not respond to a request for a comment on this story.
Hornish and Malchow behind focus on Human Services
Reached for comments, Council Member Tom Hornish added his historical perspective:
“In 2016 as the two new council members Christie [Malchow] and I initiated a focus on human services which resulted in forming a task force that eventually became the commission and increased funding significantly. “– Council Member Tom Hornish
- March 5 Vote: https://youtu.be/qc1QasJ6eQ4?t=6340
- Rudat’s rebuke of Amy Ritchie
- Human Services Strategic Plan
- 2018 Human Services Commission Grant Recommendations
- Sarah Kimsey’s letter