Fundraiser brings in $6,500 despite discrimination claim

State agency unable to locate Suits and a Keg complainant

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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It got loads of media attention. It drew a potentially false claim of gender discrimination. It got a former mayor to show up in a dress.

In the end, Suits and a Keg also brought in just over $6,500 for the Fort Vancouver National Site.

“The event was very successful,” Executive Director Elson Strahan wrote in an email Thursday.

The event wasn’t among the top-tier events that raise money for the site — Strahan called it a “friend-raiser” as opposed to a serious fundraiser.

“Our objective was to attract attendees that may not have been involved with us or the site before, and to simply have a great time mixing with some of our established supporters, so it was more a friend-raiser,” he said. “Accordingly, it certainly accomplished our primary goal.”

But the run up to last Friday’s event wasn’t so smooth: A Vancouver woman filed a complaint to the Washington State Human Rights commission against the event and one of its organizers, saying she was told it was for “men only” and that neither she nor her nursing infant could attend.

Suits and a Keg featured beer, whiskey and cigars.

The woman who filed the complaint, listed as Rebecca Pulliam, gave an address to an apartment at 516 Main St. that a neighbor said actually belongs to Vancouver Voice freelance writer Marcus Griffith. Griffith is listed as a witness in Pulliam’s complaint.

Pulliam, the neighbor added, is the last name of her ex-boyfriend, who until recently lived in the building. She did not know of any Rebecca in her ex’s family.

Griffith claimed that Rebecca Pulliam is in fact a relative of the Pulliam who formerly lived in the building.

Rebecca Pulliam has not returned emails — the only form of contact listed on the state complaint, because she claimed to be deaf — from both The Columbian and state investigators.

State Human Rights Commission Executive Director Sharon Ortiz said this week that her department is still looking into the case and also trying to determine if there was a Rebecca Pulliam who sent the complaint.

After the hullaballoo about the event, former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard arrived at the event in a dress and pearls, going by “Joyce.” A total of 120 people turned up to the event, just over their goal of 100, Strahan said.

He said he wasn’t sure if the media coverage helped or hurt attendance, but he said he’d have rather have not had the whole issue arise.

“I don’t subscribe to the idea that any publicity is good publicity,” Strahan said.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall.