The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Group seeking to sway elections stirs controversy


A coterie of persons around Klickitat County is quietly but passionately driving for political outcomes in the November election, often using controversial approaches.

The group seems invested in supporting candidates Mike Richards, Lori Hoctor, Darlene Johnson, and Marc Boardman. Its members shift in and out of visibility; particular names are conspicuous: Raymond Clough, Eddy Cole, Ken Burrill, Jerry Smith, Tom Reynolds. Not all these individuals have been involved in direct politicking that has produced controversy, but some observers in the county note that, off and on, they move in concentric circles. Presently there is no evidence that the candidates themselves have taken part in or approved the actions of these supporters.

In one instance a member of the group directed his communication to The Sentinel. Reynolds sent a letter and documents to the newspaper filled with his findings ostensibly as Precinct Committee Officer in Trout Lake on the vetting of Bob Songer as a candidate for sheriff. Included in it were mentions of a suit filed against Songer in Elko, Nev .; a charge of excessive force against him in Clark County; and an alleged suit against him by a woman some 35 years ago. As well, Reynolds stated that some of the people involved in these cases were reached by phone and questioned.

On the latter case and under a heading reading “Assault charge and award (1976-77),” Reynolds wrote that a woman named Terri Brooks left a comment on an online blog story in the Vancouver Columbian about Songer; according to Reynolds the comment said, “I remember I sued and won because [Songer] attacked me after I yelled at him.” Reynolds included the web link to the Columbian blog. The comment was not there when The Sentinel checked it and remained absent as of press time. Reynolds added that Brooks had been located and talked with twice and confirmed she had been physically assaulted by Songer and won a judgment against him in civil court. But Brooks provided him no documentation on the case, and when asked if he’d undertaken efforts to corroborate the story, Reynolds said he did not. Attempts to find details of the case by The Sentinel turned up nothing. Asked if he considered it appropriate to vet a candidate on a matter that constituted hearsay in the absence of corroboration, Reynolds stood by his remarks.

“The information on [Songer’s] legal problems was found on the public domain internet using Google,” Reynolds wrote in his letter to The Sentinel. “These are a matter of public record and speak for themselves.” Despite his statement, this did not apply to the alleged Brooks matter.

In a direct exhortation to The Sentinel, Reynolds ended his missive by writing, “In America, the press has often been described as an unofficial ‘fourth branch of government’ that serves as a check on the other three, traditionally providing the information necessary for an informed electorate to assure that our democracy functions. As responsible citizens, we have done our part. It is now your responsibility to assure that this tradition continues.” He signed it “On behalf of the Concerned Citizens Committee” without identifying that organization.

Songer says another example of the group’s approach is a letter to the editor by Eddy Cole that ran in The Sentinel and The White Salmon Enterprise last week. In it Cole states he’d been a long-time supporter of Songer until he learned of a legal case against him when he was police chief in Elko, Nev. In that case, Songer was sued for wrongful termination of employees. A judgment was obtained against him in the amount of $88,000. The information has been proffered as proof of Songer’s disqualifications.

“In regard to the Elko situation,” Songer says, “I’d like to first state that Eddy Cole has never, ever been a supporter of mine. He’s my opponent’s supporter, and I think what he’s trying to do here is say that he used to be a supporter of me and now he wants people to think he’s changing his view on who should be sheriff.”

Songer acknowledges the law suit. “It did occur,” he states. “When I was police chief in Elko, a complaint had come to me by one of the employees, a dispatcher, and I did an investigation. The dispatcher was under my responsibility as police chief. It was an ongoing complaint with four people involved who were supposed to be harassing another dispatcher. I called the four dispatchers in and advised them that we were investigating the situation. I gave them a direct order not to discuss the case with other witnesses involved in the investigation until it was completed. They stated they understood. That very evening they went out and talked to those witnesses. So I had direct insubordination, which was a serious matter—more serious than the original complaint.”

Songer says he discussed the matter with the city manager, the city attorney, and the mayor. “It was agreed that termination was appropriate,” he says. “I terminated the four employees. They filed a law suit for wrongful termination, violation of First Amendment rights, and sexual discrimination. At the time all the dispatchers were female except for one; there was no sexual discrimination. The management pool of a city, when a case is filed, meets to consider whether or not it’s worth spending the money to fight it or settle. The city of Elko brought in a labor attorney out of Reno; he reviewed the case for the city and said, ‘No, don’t settle, let’s go to court.’ The city felt it had a strong case. Three of the dispatchers settled out of court. Fast forward, it goes to court, a jury trial. The jury finds for the dispatcher against us. She got a settlement, they got a judgment against me for $88,000. The court found that I acted in the scope of my duties, so I was not liable for the $88,000; it was paid by the city’s insurance.”

Asked if he looked into this case beyond the public domain court decision, Reynolds responded, “The court filings of the decision and awards were sufficient for me. The fact that a charge was filed by a federal prosecutor in a federal court, and the case heard in open court, and the judge’s ruling was sufficient for my needs.”

The excessive force charge against Songer in Clark County arose from a well-documented incident in which Songer and another Clark County Sheriff’s deputy were attempting to dislodge concealed balloons of cocaine from a suspect’s mouth under a search warrant issued that included body-cavity search.

Another anti-Songer letter was brought to The Sentinel last week by hand. It was written by Jerry Smith, who worried about Songer’s campaign statement that he would not have an undersheriff if he were elected. It was brought in to The Sentinel office and handed to the editor by Darlene Johnson, the County Assessor.

Undersheriff Marc Boardman says he was not aware of Reynolds’ letter. “But I definitely feel that if a matter doesn’t have any corroboration, it shouldn’t be raised as an issue,” he said Tuesday. “I want this campaign to be about my qualifications, not about what’s wrong with the other guy.”


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