Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier says an attempt to oust him from office via a recall effort is “lacking in substance and facts.”
The recall is spearheaded by resident Geralding Iverson, and references a 2019 assault charge against the mayor, the city’s recent loss of of $270,000 to fraudsters and other allegations, including that the mayor failed to file his oath of office and intended on illegally gifting funds.
Fournier called some charges — including the allegation that his oath of office is not properly filed — “kind of silly,” and “easy to disprove.”
“It’s unfortunate that this person doesn’t just have a candid conversation, and wants to go about it in this way instead,” he said Friday. “But that’s the way it is.”
At least one charge — that Fournier passed a “tax levy” of 14.8% at a November city council meeting last year — is a simple misunderstanding, Fournier said.
The recall letter contends that the tax hike was approved since “there are three Council members that say yes to most anything the Mayor requests, even if it is a violation of law.”
However, Fournier says the increase was in tax revenue, not taxes, meaning more funds funneled into the city due to new homes and increased property values.
“There’s a big difference, and this person does not understand that,” Fournier said. “I can’t just wave my hand and taxes are increased. So the charges are things that are physically and legally impossible.”
Fournier also refuted Iverson’s charge that he asked the city council to “forgive the utility bills of three individuals in Tenino who did not qualify for the COVID-19 relief grant.”
“This was a gift of City public funds to someone other than the poor or inferm that did not qualify financially by the Mayor’s own statements that they did not meet the Federal Poverty Criteria…” the letter states. “He felt they deserved forgiveness of the debt to the City for utilities merely because they had not paid their bills.”
At the meeting in question, on Aug. 11 of last year, the council did discuss the rise of “delinquent utility accounts.” But city records confirm what Fournier says about the meeting — that he wasn’t present.
“The allegation is that I orchestrated some kind of conspiracy — when I wasn’t even there — to get my friends’ utilities paid,” Fournier said. “It was a discussion. You can have a discussion about anything. What ended up happening is that the city did nothing other than letting these people know that they were late to pay their bills.”
The recall letter touches on more high-profile incidents as well, including the city’s recent loss of $270,000 to scammers claiming to be from Washington Municipal Clerks Association. The funds have yet to be recovered as city attorneys battle it out with its insurance company, which originally denied Tenino’s attempt to recoup their losses. Months passed before Fournier spoke publicly about the incident, after coming under fire by former mayors D. Jean Pettit and Mike Brown.
In her letter, Iverson said the original approval to send money to the scammers “was beyond negligent, it was reckless, and it harmed the citizens of Tenino.”
“Many citizens have lost confidence in the Mayor as the Mayor’s public statements are not consistent with the evidence that has since been uncovered,” the letter reads.
In the 2019 assault case referenced in the letter, a drunken Fournier was ejected from the Tenino Eagles club, reportedly yelling “Do you know who I am? … I’m the f—— mayor of Tenino!”
In her letter, Iverson argues that the incident represents a misuse of public office.
“Whether he was convicted of the charge of assault 4 or not, he demanded preferential treatment that night, not because he was Wayne Fournier, but because he was the Mayor,” the letter reads.
Per state law, the recall letter will be analyzed by the Thurston County prosecutor, who is responsible for writing a synopsis of the charges. The synopsis then heads to Thurston County Superior Court, which determines if the recall can go forward.